MBK Kite Construction

Materials & Methods Overview

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!

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 e-book! 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 two.)
  • 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 there!)
  • 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.)


The BIG MBK E-book Bundle!

On this site, there's more kite-making info than you can poke a stick at :-)

Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads  printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.


Kite Construction Materials

The dowel diameter of 5 mm (3/16 in.) was selected for just enough stiffness in flight. The first Dowel Diamond used 6 mm (1/4 in.) 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-materials.

Single-ply garden-bag plastic hardly weighs anything! I wouldn't be surprised if an untaped 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 12 mm (1/2 in.) tape seems OK for these Dowel Series 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. That's using the same line for all the kited 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. That's 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 shoelaces as ties to attach dowel spars at their crossing points! Shoelaces are designed to be done up and undone easily and yet hold securely. That's 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 centerline 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 shoelace 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 handy.

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 Series kites, this info might help smooth out out the kite construction process a bit. Have fun out there in the park or on the beach!



As mentioned earlier, there's more kite making on this site than you can poke a stick at :-)

Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads — printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.