MBK Dowel Roller
MBK Dowel Roller
The original Roller kite was not large, at just 1.2 x 1.2 meters (46 x 46 inches). Also it is claimed by some that this was the first well-known kite to use rip-stop nylon for sail material. I wonder if it was spinnaker fabric, as is sometimes used even today. Perhaps Pearson had sailing connections in those days.
This new design became influential and many people refer to it, or similar kites, as the Pearson Roller.
Some say that the Roller looks somewhat like a Rok with a slot
cut in it! I suppose some versions that are taller than they are wide
could remind you of a Rok, if you mentally cover over the vent between
the upper and lower sails.
Like the Rok, the Roller is a stable tail-less design.
the keel and large vent between the upper and lower sails make this
design even more stable than many other similarly-sized kites.
The nice red kite in the photo further down is a home-built Roller by Marty Groet. Image used with permission. Marty is a keen member of the Wings Across Carolina Kiting and Okra Society, in the U.S.
Some general points about Rollers...
Home-made Roller in rip-stop nylon
Home-made Roller in rip-stop nylon
- Rollers can be seen in a variety of sizes from the original dimensions through to 2 or 3 meters in height
- slight variations in the original outline are common
- wooden or carbon spars are usually used for this type of kite
- a tail is not necessary for a well-constructed Roller of at least average size
- some beautifully decorated Roller kites have been made and displayed at festivals over the years
- a 2-point bridle is often combined with small keels under the upper and/or lower sails
- for sail material, rip stop nylon is commonly used
Here's a few comments on each of the above points.
Size. Nothing to add, except that the MBK Skewer Roller is a rare miniature!
Shape. Many designers who choose to do a Roller decide to
make it taller than the span from tip to tip. This would make it
slightly more stable, an advantage for inexperienced kite fliers. The
amount of taper in the upper sail can vary from design to design. So too
can the exact shape of the triangular lower sail, with some being quite
deep compared to the original. Mind you, there's also a few examples
out there where the designer has gone far from the original design, and
it looks nothing like a Pearson Roller! For example, one is basically a
Rok with a couple of vents cut into it. Another is loosely based on the
Pearson design, but has a V-shaped trailing edge on the upper sail, and a
diamond-shaped lower sail!
Construction. This kite is traditionally made with 150
degrees of dihedral in both horizontal spars, although using a
bow-string would achieve the same stability when properly adjusted.
Wooden spars are often used, although carbon spars of slightly smaller
diameter are sometimes used instead. The spar ends are fitted into
pockets in the sail, and bands are used to tie the spars together where
they cross. Interestingly, on one big retail kite the lines connecting
the sails are adjustable at the tips, but not at the center.
Tails. As already mentioned, the Roller kite does not need
a tail. My little MBK Skewer Roller does though, because at such a
small scale it's very difficult to construct it accurately enough to fly
Decoration. There's plenty of 'canvas' on a
bigger-than-average Roller for a builder to get artistic! An excellent
example is an Australian design that has been mass produced in China for
the shops. It's a kangaroo design which features ochre colors. Browns,
reds, yellows. Brown kites haven't been seen much since the early days
of kids making diamond kites from brown paper and string!
Bridle. The original Roller had a simple 2-point bridle
with the lower point attached to a small keel. The keel itself was tied
to the lower end of the vertical spar and the mid-point of the lower
horizontal spar, through 2 eyelets. A short length of spar was also sewn
to the keel itself. Later versions of this kite often had a similar
keel at the upper bridle point as well. I personally can't see why.
Extra complexity for a dubious increase in stability I reckon! Some of
these later kites also had the keel(s) sewn directly to the sail, which
is a fairly standard practice in kite making.
Sail. The original kite apparently used Ripstop nylon, and
many versions since then would have used the same. I'm sure a range of
other modern kite sail materials have also been used since then,
particularly on the home-made versions.
Like to see a video clip? Just scroll down to near the end...
Roller Kites In Action
It seems these kites have always been 'fly-for-pleasure'. I've
corresponded with one or 2 people who have owned a quality Roller kite
in the past and loved it.
Out In The Field
Roller kite stories of my real-life flying experiences are worth checking out!
Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.
Rollers look quite different to the more common
Diamonds and Deltas, and fly at line angles somewhere between those 2
types. Mind you, a great Roller might fly higher than an average Delta!
Apparently a large Roller has only a moderate line pull, like a large
Delta. Large and artistically decorated examples of these kites have sometimes featured
at kite festivals.
I wonder when someone will put up a Rokkaku and a
Pearson Roller with a rock soundtrack blaring through the PA.
Rok'n'Roller ... get it ... never mind.
Some Roller Kite History
MBK Dowel Roller - sail is cheap garden bag plastic from China
MBK Dowel Roller
Just a few snippets of history, there's not a lot to say. A little
should be said about the old Roloplan kite, since it was the fore-runner
of the Pearson Roller, and a quick glance at the plans will confirm how
similar the 2 kite designs are.
The Roloplan was marketed by Steiff, a German toy manufacturer in
the 1930's. This kite became very popular in the U.K. for a time,
particularly in London where it coped well with small park flying. Many
people at the time thought it was actually a British design! Copying
this kite accurately would have been a tiresome chore because of the
fiddly bridling and multiple line connections between the upper and
lower sails. No wonder an Englishman decided to redesign it into a much
simpler kite, while retaining the original outline and vented sail
Pearson did such a good job, an influential kite book author
(Pelham) included it in the next edition of his book. Also, the design
was manufactured in fairly large numbers and so it blossomed in
popularity during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
After this time, the Roller found it had some stiff competition as a light-wind kite... Enter the Delta, Genki and a few others!
However, you can't keep a good kite down. All it takes is for someone to show off a particularly good example or 2 at a big kite festival, and some interest among kite-lovers can be re-ignited. An appearance here, an article there, a popular web page somewhere else... Those kind of things can be triggers for an old but good design to begin gathering a new following.
The video below shows our home-made Dowel Roller on a short line in a gusty breeze...
A good shop-bought Roller kite will set you back more than $100 U.S., and some of them take a little while to set up since they are designed to break down into a fairly small carry bag. But hey, if you want a great performing light wind kite that isn't instantly recognizable by most people - get a Roller!