Gee, those titles could send you to sleep couldn't they... Never mind,
this discussion of kite construction the MBK way will be kept bright and
... umm breezy!
Would you find a printable step-by-step reference handy for kite-making? That's what my e-books are all about - see down there on the right... They also have flight reports, how to tie all the knots and so on.
What are the goals of making dowel-and-plastic kites this way?
- Within reach of almost anyone. (Regardless of means, situation or location)
- Quick to make. (I take a few days over it, but so would you if you
had to document everything online and in an eBook! Also, some of the
writing up and photography has to wait until a suitable flying day turns
up. Also, changes are sometimes made after a test flight or 2.)
- Very light loading. (This means super light-wind performance. You could even have some fun indoors,
although I've never tried it. Drop the kite and see how slow it drifts
to the floor. That's roughly the wind speed required to keep it up
- Transportable. (Poms on bicycles will love these kites ;-) If you
have no idea what that means, let's just say it's pretty easy to carry
one of these kites around or stow one away when it's all rolled up.)
Kite Construction Materials
The dowel diameter of 5mm (3/16") was selected for just enough
stiffness in flight. The first Dowel Diamond used 6mm (1/4") dowel, and
it was clear that it was somewhat 'over-engineered' for its purpose!
Also, multi-leg bridling helps when pushing the limits of light spar
Single-ply garden bag plastic hardly weighs anything!
I wouldn't be surprised if an un-taped sail didn't even register on a
set of kitchen scales. This stuff, while ideal for the lightest of wind
conditions, does require a little care in handling. A small price to pay
for dirt-cheap flying, if you ask me... Other alternatives are not hard
to find. For example, large garbage bags. The black ones make things
tricky since you can't easily trace with a black pen, though.
Electrical insulation tape has good properties for quickly and securely fastening dowel tips to sail plastic. This stuff is very sticky and it stretches, molding itself around the tip of the dowel. Just don't ever try edging a sail
with insulation tape! I did once, and the result was a sail that looked
a bit like those cover-sheets that go on beds. All ripples around the
edge, and a good deal less area than the intended design! It had to go
straight in the bin. A kite construction disaster.
Office-variety clear sticky tape. This stuff hardly stretches at all, so is ideal for edging the sail. Now that fragile plastic edge has no
chance of stretching in the breeze! Also, the tape edging provides
handy protection against damage by the flying line. You know what I
mean, when things are flopping and blowing about in the breeze before
launch. You need to be careful adding weight to the perimeter of a kite,
but 12mm (1/2") tape seems OK for these Dowel kites which are 1.2
meters (4 feet) across. Indian kite-makers avoid tape during their kite
construction since it adds more weight than paper paste - but their
fighter kites are much smaller.
Dacron (polyester) flying line is best for single-liners,
and becomes more economical the more kites you have and the more you fly
them. Using the same line for each kite of course! Dacron is strong for
its diameter and doesn't have a lot of stretch.
Plain old wood-working glue is widely available in nearly all cultures I would imagine. It's called Aquadhere
here in Australia. For my Dowel kite construction it's just used for
fixing knots, for example where the bridle legs attach to the spars.
Handy for not only securing the knot itself, but also for ensuring the
knot doesn't slip along the spar.
One of my happiest discoveries was using shoe-laces as ties to attach dowel spars at their crossing points! Shoe-laces are designed
to be done up and undone easily, and yet hold securely. Perfect for
kite construction, don't you think! For the size of the Dowel kites, the
small extra weight is not an issue either.
MBK Kite Construction Method
I feel another bullet list coming on here. Here it is...
- The template for one side of the sail is marked out on a
plastic bag, with a side of the bag corresponding to the center-line of
the kite. Then, the lines are traced on the other side and the bag is
opened out to reveal the complete sail outline.
- The sail is edged with clear sticky tape, for reasons already mentioned.
- The strap(s) and pocket(s) are created for the vertical spar(s)
- The dowel spars are cut to length after laying them over the sail. Hence there is no chance of getting it wrong :-)
- The shoe-lace ties are cut to length and attached to the spars.
- The dowel tips are attached to the sail with insulation tape.
- Bridle lines are cut to length, poked through holes in the sail and
tied to spars. Shiftable knots are used where adjustments might be
For some of the more complex kites such as the Roller and
Dopero, there's a bit more to it. But the above list pretty well sums up
the basic process.
So, if you're building from the Plans page for one of the Dowel
kites, this info might help smooth out out the kite construction process
Have fun out there in the park or on the beach!