Looking back: the first and only flight of my 8 foot Rokkaku!
by MBK Flight Reporter: Craig Ensey
(Shedd, OR, USA)
8 foot Rok at 30 feet
So, I know you Aussies and Southern hemisphere guys are enjoying your warm summer months while us here in the Shedd, Oregon, USA are going through a very intense series of winter snow and ice storms.
I’ve never seen such a harsh winter in my 28 years here on Earth. Since there is 14+ inches of snow on the ground I started reminiscing about my last kite outing in September of 2013. Has it really been that long?! I guess full time school and two kids take a toll on kite building and flying.
Last summer, I built an eight foot Rokkaku using plastic and dowels of all things! I’ve recently been toying with the idea of buying big pieces of rip-stop nylon from a parachute manufacturing plant in the UK. They sell pieces that are 10 yards for around $22.00 plus shipping. It works out to several kite sails for less than $30.00!
As for the materials for my 8 foot Rokkaku, I was still using the .7 mil painter’s drop cloth from Dollar Tree…”where everything’s a dollar!” Its cheap stuff, but surprisingly tough when you make sails with it. Unfortunately, it does stretch when it gets holes poked in it. To solve this, I normally use two sheets for any kite that’s four feet and up, but this one was just a trial to see if I wanted to spend more money and make a sail using nylon.
The spars were reincarnated from my MBK double dowel Barn Door Kite that was used for KAP last year. Each of the three spars was made using two 3/8” by 48” hardwood dowels that were spliced together using a slip joint. I was aware of the method used on MBK where six segments of dowel are taped together to form a slip joint, but I had an idea of my own. For joints, I opted to drill a 3/8” hole through three oak blocks that were roughly 1”X1”X2.” This gave me three slip joints that worked quite well When one side was glued in place. Once the glue dried it yielded a nice snug fit with very little flex in the joint. The smaller 5/16” slip joints tend to break when a kite comes down unexpectedly. On the brighter side, I would rather replace a slip joint than a whole spar.
The bridle was kind of an educated guessing game using some common sense. I based it loosely on the MBK dowel Rok dimensions, but I doubled them of course. I used split rings for all the joints because this was a larger kite and weight would not be an issue. They make the bridle very easy to adjust both up and down or right to left.
Flying line is a 1000 foot roll of 100 pound line that I purchased from Emma Kites for $14.00.
When I got to the field, it was not that windy, so I went ahead and rigged the enormous Rok for its first flight. It was trying to blow away as soon as I laid out the huge sail so I laid the spars on top of it to keep things in control.
Today turned out to be another one of those blue and grey days where one side of the sky is gorgeous, and the other is snarling dark grey. I went ahead and set up the bridle quickly before the wind got too powerful for my spars. I also attached a tail made of small flags much like the ones used in advertising. This provided much needed color and stability for the kite. As always, I had three or four kids shocked by the massive size of this Rok.
It was now or never when I let the kite go on 20 feet of flying line for some pics and to get a feel for any adjustment necessary. Right off the bat, I could tell that it needed to be adjusted to fly at a higher angle so as to grab less wind. It also needed to be adjusted to the right so I brought it down and reset the bridle to compensate for these issues.
I was able to get ten minutes of relatively stable flight before the wind got too strong for the Rok to perform well. It was acting just like my lost-and-found Dowel Rok that just got pulled downwind till it broke the line and flew away on the breeze. It was also in the same high-wind, blue & grey conditions as this report. You should read that story in Tim’s MBK flight reports, it’s pretty funny. The kite eventually got overpowered and began to spiral and dart around until it came to rest in a shallow ditch next to the flying site. One more try ended with it getting pinned on the side of a chain link backstop next to the baseball diamond.
This was the last time I successfully flew a kite last year, and it wasn’t too successful. Kite flying isn’t always a roaring success, but it is always a fun time that you can look back on and laugh - most times at yourself. I’ll get another report in when I fly the nylon Rok this spring.
As mentioned earlier, there's another alternative to towing indoor kites if it's just not possible to fly outdoors...