.. for big kites. There seem to be so many elaborate kite reels coming out of China! Perhaps it's not surprising that this has eventually happened, for 2 reasons.
As for materials, there's a lot of stainless steel. Good strong, attractive looking stuff for kite reels that doesn't look out of place in the 21st century. However, high-impact plastic and shaped, polished wood also appear in these designs. Not for the line-holding reel itself, but for the mounts and grips.
I've been using the term 'big kites'. But really, anything as big as or bigger than our MBK Dowel Series kites would be more convenient to fly on one of these reels. Wing-spans of more than 1.2 meters (4 feet) in other words.
I love my home-made winders, but a shiny wide-diameter steel contraption would certainly get a kite down quicker! Not to mention improving my image as a serious kite flier, if I was concerned about such an aspect.
All reels are on an axle, with a handle or knob(s) to wind on line. A large proportion of all these kite reels also have a lock of some sort, to prevent further rotation when you've got the kite where you want it.
Here are some other features that might be spotted on the more expensive reels...
Is your idea of a typical reel a simple drum on a stick, with a flange to hold the line in? Some of these fancy reels from China can look quite outlandish in comparison!
After looking at a whole bunch of images of these, I'll just list a few of the more intriguing ones, in the form of text descriptions...
Oh, by the way, Chinese manufacturers seem reluctant to actually give names to their kite reels! A catalog or serial number is about it, it seems. So I'll just list these as Reel 1, Reel 2 and so on. The last one, which does have a photo, is a real eye-popper!
Reel 1 A spoked, stainless steel design, mounted on a formed steel tube with padded rests. On the end of each spoke is a U-shaped piece which serves to hold the line. For rigidity, 2 thin steel rods run full circle around the perimeter of the reel, on both sides of the U shapes.
Reel 2 Gold anodized reel, or perhaps it's brass. Deep flat flanges, drilled with numerous holes to save weight. Not to mention saving money for the manufacturer! Mounted on simple steel tube, with padded rests.
Reel 3 Pure-white high-impact plastic reel, with a small number of sturdy spokes and a solid wall to hold the line in. A pistol-grip in the same plastic material holds the axle for the reel and also has a steel fitting which feeds out the line. This design appears to have a trigger built into the grip, to lock and un-lock the reel. The trigger is the same white plastic.
Reel 4 A solid circular plate has 2 shapes punched out of it, forming a hand-grip. Somehow a drum with solid walls is mounted on the hand-grip and is free to rotate around it. A very clean and compact kite reel actually! Perhaps not practical for the very biggest kites though.
Reel 5 A real mixture of wood and steel this one. Eight U-shaped pieces of steel are mounted around the perimeter of a wooden wheel, with large holes drilled in it to save weight. This composite reel is then mounted on a polished wooden pistol-grip. A small steel fitting feeds the line out. A bit bizarre really, and not what you would call a thing of beauty!
Reel 6 Another cut-out design. This time, a solid steel band rotates around the perimeter of the circular plate. On the band are mounted U-shaped pieces of steel, with 2 thin steel bars forming the 2 rims and connecting the U-shapes. OK, so a picture would be handy...
Reel 7 A rather spidery-looking reel with 10 steel spokes and a garish green plastic grip. The grip, plus the steel feed-out bit look a lot like one of those butane stove-lighters. No wheel in the middle, just the spokes attached to the axle housing. The U-shapes on the end of the spokes are quite small in this design.
Reel 8 Similar to number 7 except for a curious knobbly hub with holes in it, made of the same plastic as the pistol-grip handle. Large U-shapes on the spokes, in several different colors for reasons known only to the manufacturer!
Reel 9 This one resembles a large spider! 12 steel spokes mounted on a small metal disk, which in turn is attached via the axle to a slim polished wood handle. Rather small U-shape steel pieces on the spokes hold the flying line in place. No reinforcement around the perimeter! Just those spokes sticking out in all directions. It's different!
Reel 10 And finally, the most amazing, impressive piece of stainless steel kiting over-kill you might ever see... There it is below, complete with what looks like a disk brake like the ones on your car! When these kite reels were initially offered, they were asking for $600 each. Gulp.