Most of us kite fliers think of 'real' kites as being at least a meter (3 1/2 feet) across. Flying high on hundreds of feet of line. Or perhaps, children's kites being flown down at the beach. Darting around in a stiff sea breeze. And usually on a rather short string.
The categories of miniature kites are explained further down this page.
In the U.S., and possibly other countries as well, there are even competitions held for making and flying these little masterpieces. A creation isn't a kite if it doesn't fly, so the rules are specific about the definition of a successful flight.
MBK 1-Skewer Dopero - a Magnum!
MBK 1-Skewer Dopero - a Magnum!
Having done a lot of research on kites generally, I was struck by how the whole 'mini kites' scene has so many parallels to the kiting scene in general. For example...
- As already mentioned, there are competitions.
- Some individuals market their kite-making skills.
- Published plans and instructions are widely available, free in most cases.
- Some online shops specialize in miniature kites - for marketing purposes though, with company logos printed on the kite. Some are also sold to individuals for the usual utterly non-commercial purposes.
- Great variety can be seen in the types of kites flown. Of all the major kite-types, a surprisingly big proportion have been given the 'miniature' treatment! Flat kites, cellulars, fighters, you name it.
- Miniature kite arches and trains are tackled by enthusiasts too. Fascinating!
A short time after writing this page, it dawned on me that my own MBK 1-Skewer kites were technically 'Miniatures'. That's because, at less than 30 cm (12 inches) across, they fall under the Magnum category. Giants of the miniature kite world hehe!
Oh, I haven't actually defined the size of a miniature yet. Here's a list of official sizes. Each name corresponds to a cube where each side has the dimension specified. For example, a Thumb kite must fit inside a cube that is 1.5 inches (38mm) on each side.
As already mentioned, my own MBK 1-Skewer kites actually fit
the Magnum category. Fancy making a Magnum Dopero? I can see the
original right now, on top of a book-case. A little black-sailed Dopero
with 4 bamboo BBQ skewer spars. However, most competitions exclude any
entries larger than Hand size. Oh well, back to the drawing board...
The Competition Scene
Usually, a successful competition flight involves maintaining a
minimum line angle for a minimum length of time. On this scale, an angle
of just 20 degrees is sometimes good enough for a qualifying flight.
That might be disappointing for a typical store-bought kite, but for the
smallest of miniatures, it proves that the kite is definitely flying!
Competitions have categories, such as the following...
Size. Of course! This is where fine craftsmanship and knowledge of materials pays off. Not to mention a very steady hand!
Originality. Some people just have a knack for this.
Cartoonists are supposed to be some of the most creative and original
individuals around. I wonder how many of them have found their way into
miniature kite making...
Beauty. The work of some true artists shows up here.
However, they don't always produce the best flights, since it's hard to
make something pretty and yet feather-light at the same time!
Flight. This would be my focus if I got serious about the
hobby! It's all about lightness, weight distribution, balance and
planform. Diamonds and Fighters tend to do well in this category. They
are also some of the simplest designs!
Those categories enable just about any personality type to have a shot at winning something. What's personality got to do with it? Just think about that for a while...
It's fascinating looking through photos taken at some of these
comps. Besides the more common types of flat kites such as Eddys and
Rokkakus, don't be surprised to see things like a 3-celled Box kite or a
Have you assumed to this point, that contestants roll up to a building somewhere to display and fly their creations? Not always the case!
Sometimes a postal event is held, where entires are posted
via snail mail to the judging location. It makes sense doesn't it -
communication over vast distances is so easy these days, and the kites
are so small and light. In most cases, they are very flat too, enabling transit in a 'standard letter' so no extra postage is charged.
The Drachen Foundation (a non-profit kiting organization based in
Germany) has held a number of world-wide postal competitions for
miniature kites. Not surprisingly perhaps, the Japanese featured heavily
in the results. Always the Masters Of Small Things it seems! Not just
in size, but also beauty, reflecting the centuries-old Asian traditions
of artistry in kites. The country that produced NASA did better in
Flight and Originality... Kites reflecting culture, how about that.
An amazing tiny kite made with very modern materials is the Mini-Photon featured in the photo. Follow the link for further info by a former President of our local kite flying association.
Asian Miniature Kites
Many of the Asian kite-flying cultures have produced very small kites
with great success, for centuries. Particularly in Japan, where
miniaturization of many kinds of objects has a long history.
One of the
smallest flyable kites ever made is a Japanese Sode, roughly the size of
a small fingernail!
Palm or Hand-sized kites have been around for a long time in
China. Most of the basic types of traditional kites have been attempted
on these small scales.
In India, tiny fighter kites are made and flown,
as a small part of the very popular pastime of flying the larger Patang
fighters. I saw an enthusiastic flier with one of these tiny fighter
kites at a large kite festival we went to. It had to be the tiniest thing in the air on that day!