How to Make a Roller Kite

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The MBK Dowel Roller

How to Make a Roller Kite

For this roller, you need long lengths of 5 mm (3/16 in.) wooden dowel. Enough for the three spars of 1.0 DL (120 cm, 48 in.) each. They are easily cut to the lengths required with a small cheap hacksaw.

The Dowel Roller - spars
  • Select the straightest piece of dowel you can find. Measure off a 1.0 DL (120 cm, 48 in.) length, mark it and saw it off at the mark. Round off the tips with a wood file. This is the vertical spar.
  • Cut off two very short 0.01 DL (1.2 cm, 1/2 in.) lengths of dowel. Round off the tips with a wood file. These will be used as the bow-line toggles. You can use thinner dowel for these if you have some lying around. I use 4 mm dowel for toggles, just to save a bit of weight.
  • Lay down some more dowel across the width of the sail, mark it at the exact width, and cut off at the mark. Also make an easily seen mark around the dowel where it touches the center crease of the sail.
  • Round off the tips with a wood file, then add a bow line so the depth of the bow is 0.06 DL (7.2 cm, 2 3/4 in.). With the kite flat on the ground, that's how far the tips should be from the grass. This is the upper horizontal spar.
  • While the glue is drying on the knots, do those previous two steps again to create a third spar. The depth of this bow should be 0.12 DL (14.4 cm, 5 3/4 in.). Now you have made the lower horizontal spar. The photo shows all three spars, with the bow lines attached on the two horizontal spars. (The amount of bow was changed after the kite was test flown, if you were wondering!)

How to Make a Roller Kite
Joining the Sails

The upper and lower sails now need to be joined in the center:

The Dowel Roller - joining the upper and lower sails
  • Lay the vertical spar down the centerline of the two sails, and line up the upper tip with the nose corner of the upper sail. Also line up the lower tip with the bottom corner of the lower sail. With all the plastic flattened against the table or floor, this shows you exactly how far apart the two sails should be!
  • Carefully remove the spar, without shifting the sails.
  • Add four strips of clear sticky tape onto the sails, as illustrated by the yellow rectangles in the photo. The order is not important. Yes, the tapes might stick a bit to the floor, between the sails.
  • Flip the sails over, and stick down another two strips of tape so they stick to the other tapes in the area between the sails. These two tapes are represented by the two thick red lines. The exact length is not important; just copy the photo.

How to Make a Roller Kite
Tabs and Spar Caps

Prepare six lengths of electrical insulation tape, each one about four times longer than it is wide. Stick them by a corner onto something handy like a table edge. You can remove them one at a time as needed.

The Dowel Roller - spar cap tape
  • Spread out the sail, with the edge tape facing upwards.
  • Lay down the upper horizontal spar over the sail, so it would bow away from the sail if you attached the toggle. With the toggle unattached, line up the tips of the spar with the upper corners of the sail.
  • Cap one tip of the spar with tape, by sticking tape down over the dowel and plastic then folding it around and under the plastic to stick on the other sidea bit tricky, so take your time! See the completed cap in the first photo.
  • Now do the other tip of the spar similarly, using another piece of tape.
  • Attach both tips of the lower horizontal spar to the sail in a similar same way, using another two pieces of tape.
  • The long tabs of the lower sail need to have a slit, to let the bow line through when the tab is folded over. Make a short vertical snip with scissors, in each tab, right down to the bow-line knot.
  • Fold down the plastic tabs over the spar and tape in place using clear sticky tape. See the second photo, which shows the center of the kite.
  • Now slip the vertical spar into place, sliding it between the horizontal spar and the sail plastic at both crossing points.
  • Cap the vertical spar with the remaining two pieces of tape, attaching it to the top corner of the upper sail and bottom corner of the lower sail.

How to Make a Roller Kite
Lashing the Spars

The two horizontal spars will now be lashed to the vertical spar. Firstly, just make sure that everything looks right, with no bunched up plastic anywhere.

After putting several turns of flying line around each crossing point, fix the joins with a generous drop of glue each. This will also prevent any shifting along the vertical spar.

How to Make a Roller Kite
Sail Ties

The Dowel Roller - close-up of sail corner tie
  • Add a short length of clear sticky tape to an upper sail corner, then add another one of the same length to the other side of the plastic. Where they stick out from the sail edge, press the two tapes together so they stick to each other. About the length of a forefinger should be sufficient, half on the sail, half off.
  • Put a Loop knot into a length of flying line, and thread the tapes through the loop, before folding the tapes over and securing them to the sail with another short length of tape.
  • As in the photo, snip off the line so you have enough length to fasten it to the lower horizontal spar with some Half Hitchs. There should be a little slack in the line.
  • Do the other sail corner exactly the same way.



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.

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