Dowel Kite Posts—Sled

(Oak Dowel Spars)

It's an archive of sorts, although there are no dates and times. Kite flying is timeless, don't you agree?

I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform, and often entertain!

These short flight reports once appeared as posts in the site-blog page, although that page is no longer present on this site. Below, the latest posts come first. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

Multi-Dowel Sled Kite

Fat Sled on Thin Line

But it was OK. Yesterday the big wide Multi-Dowel Sled was flying in light conditions, though gusts were well into the gentle range.

The MBK Multi-Dowel Sled kite in flight.MBK Multi-Dowel Sled

Being in a bit of a hurry, the 200-pound line on its garden-hose reel was left behind. The big blue monster would have to heave away on a 100-pound line instead! But on parking the car at the reserve, the treetops were hardly moving. Perhaps the wind had lightened right off, as is common in the late afternoon.

However, while walking to a suitable launch spot, there were promising signs of breeze. The Multi-Dowel Sled doesn't need much wind speed so it was clear the kite would fly after all.

It turned out to be a matter of waiting for a gust before the sail would even stay open. But after a few attempts, the long bridle lines were out and the large three-sticker rose slowly as line was let out equally slowly.

There was quite some flopping about and the two leading edges would alternately fold over before flipping open again. But this kite is wonderfully reliable when left to its own devices. It wasn't long before the kite had clawed up to a steep angle on just under 15 meters (50 feet) of braided Dacron line. A short length of edge tape was separated from the sail, near one of the towing points, but the kite seemed unaffected. There's a small repair job for later.

Four white corellas flew past in formation. The birds would beat their wings several times before holding them steady, the cycle starting and stopping in unison as they cruised downwind.

Even in the light conditions, the big kite would pile on line tension very suddenly as gusts came through. This was not hard to notice with a couple of wraps of lighter-than-usual line wrapped around my hand! And then, while taking some video, it was convenient to take a single wrap around my shoe. That was enough for today but in slightly higher winds the big sled would probably need two wraps at least! I sometimes refer to this kite as "The Horse" ;-)

After several minutes of surging around and near collapses during almost-calm periods, it started to become difficult to keep the kite up there. It would have been much easier on say 200 feet of line. A small grove of trees right in the middle of the field had me playing safe on just 30 meters (100 feet).

Not long before leaving, I tested the breeze with my hand-held meter. The reading was 9 kph gusting to 15 kph after a couple of minutes at shoulder height.

So it was a somewhat nostalgic short outing with the hard-pulling Multi-Dowel Sled kite. The beast hadn't been flown for many months.

On this site, there's more kite-making info 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.

Huge Sled Just Hangs On

This was at the Adelaide Kite Festival, although today's official flying came to a premature end due to insufficient wind. The breeze did pick up a little later.

Despite the struggles with low wind, the huge Multi-Dowel Sled kite ended up having a great flight. At first, a couple of hand launches proved fruitless in the almost non-existent breeze down low.

The next step was to drag out 10 or 20 meters (70 feet) of line and try again. The result was ... a short flight! Again, more line was laid out, and I initially hovered the kite over a patch of sand near the dunes. All the while, I quickly backed away, lengthening the flying portion of the line. This flight was much longer, with plenty of working the line and moving around on the sand to try and keep the kite up. "Gust" isn't really the right word when the wind speed changes by just 1 or 2 kph!

Toward the end of this flight there were now signs of the tiny extra amount of breeze required to keep the kite up. Another attempt resulted in the the big blue three-stick sled just holding its own and even climbing slowly on its own from time to time. We were away!

Having passed the reel to a kite-club member eager to fly it, I retreated to the south side of the jetty for a while. This was to see how the other two members of my family were getting on. About the only action visible from there was two light-wind stunt kites plus a large white parafoil and my sled which was up at about 300 feet altitude.

Much of the time the sled sagged to much less than its usual flying angle, with a thoroughly uncharacteristic amount of sag in the 200-pound braided Dacron line!

After perhaps half an hour of air time, we started pulling the big sled down. I pulled line onto the sand while my young boy carefully reeled it up. This avoided an excessive crushing force on the hub of the reel! It was a garden-hose reel actually, although the welded-wire type don't seem to be sold any more.

Sled Kite KAP at the Beach

Yesterday we headed up to Fort Glanville, just south of Semaphore. No AKFA kites were in the air as we arrived but it turned out to be perfect for the big Multi-Dowel Sled. The Dowel Box and Dowel Rokkaku were also in the car for very fresh or light conditions respectively! Just in case.

KAP had never been done under the sled but I had a feeling today might be the day. And so it was, with the huge sled behaving very sedately and hence safely in the fairly smooth air coming off the ocean. From a south-south-west direction, it was coming almost straight up the coast actually.

Two new things were being tried with the bamboo KAP rig today. First, pointing the camera downwind and second, using a new plastic sleeve which orients the camera correctly for video.

Setting up and launching the big sled was as easy as it gets. Soon the kite was flying steadily at around a 60-degree line angle. With 105 meters of line out this put the kite at just under 300 feet off the sand—legal enough!

Occasionally the breeze dropped by a few kph and the kite would settle out much lower for a short while, before slowly rising back up again. 

First up was the interval-shot sequence before changing over to video for another flight. Takeoff and landing of the bamboo tetrahedral cage was very easy and smooth in both cases.

Why isn't this a full-blown KAP report? Well, silly me, I missed setting the camera to infinity focus, so all the stills are blurred. For some reason, the constant motion prevents the autofocus of the Pentax Optio GW-2 from locking on. The entire video was good, though, since I had focused on the horizon at the start.

The sound track captured the toots and clickety-clack of the miniature steam engine and carriages returning to Semaphore. Just before I started bringing the kite down, the train came into view on the video. 

Just before putting up the kite, the wind meter recorded an average of 11.5 kph with gusts to around 15.5 kph.

Not Quite the Full KAP Session

But a few days after the event I'm doing a short-format report on it anyway. After all, KAP involves flying a kite by definition. On this occasion the lifting vehicle of choice was the ponderous Multi-Dowel Sled. It would be even more sedate with both drogues attached, to maximize safety for the camera cradle.

Aren had been down to Hallet Cove Conservation Park for an excursion just a few days before our short KAP trip. From Aren's description it sounded like a great place to do KAP. However, there was no direct sunshine until quite late in the day. That's also not to mention the very light wind, which lightened even more as the sun approached the horizon. Hence it was a struggle to get the rig over 100 feet above the sand.

The 2.4 m (8 ft.) tall sled kite had to be towed to attain the 100-foot camera height on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. The kite barely made 30 degrees of elevation for the best shots, looking south down the beach. The KAP rig was hanging 30 meters (100 feet) from the kite. The Pentax Optio ended up giving itself 1/250th sec exposures, which resulted in a few blurred shots from camera swing. Most shots were also from fairly low perspectives, which limited the view of the very hilly terrain.

What needs to be done here is a series of nice high shots to three directions—north, east (looking inland), and south. It'll happen one day, possibly via the VPK (Video Platform Kite) which is slowly coming along as a low-priority project.

Huge Sled Kite in Smooth Brisk Air

The second Sunday of the month rolled by again, and the weather was reasonable. Hence we stopped off for a while at Glanville. This time, the official monthly event of the Adelaide Kite Flyers Association (AKFA) was more of a show with a variety of kites up in the light-to-gentle northerly.

The Multi-Dowel Barn Door and the Multi-Dowel Sled kite were with us in the car.

I was curious to see how the sled would handle winds with a much higher average speed than the kite had seen on previous flights. It's normally flown in very light conditions, inland.

After a quick rig, the huge blue monster was up and away. It was gingerly being let out with an eye on the surrounding kites and their flying lines. Above 50 feet or so, the wind speed was stronger and a slight lean to the left started to develop. Funny, that's never happened before.

This kite has experienced quite strong gusts in thermals, but they are short-lived and the kite soon settles back into its previous behavior. Down at the beach, things were different.

Not being overly concerned about a little bit of lean in a big stable kite, I continued to let out line. Quite a wind gradient was working, it was clear, because yet again the tension built up further in the flying line. And that lean was starting to be a bit of a worry!

A keel-less delta loomed to the left as the Multi-Dowel Sled ended up way over on its left side. I was getting looks from other kite flyers. Eeerm, time to get this thing down perhaps!

All the other kites were indicating the true wind direction, while the sled was hanging about 30 degrees off to the left. It was still at a respectable line-angle though, because it is a very efficient historic design.

With the help of an AKFA member we eventually got the errant sled back on the sand. The wind meter had recorded an average 6 kph gusting to over 12 (I think) but there sure was a lot more above 100 feet! A bit of fiddling with the bridle knot will be required the next time this kite goes up, to get rid of that awful lean. It will be awesome to see what this kite can do, all trimmed out in a smooth moderate breeze.

MD Sled Trimmed Straight, With a Payload

The weather outside, not to mention the nearest weather stations, indicated a good chance of flying the huge Multi-Dowel Sled at somewhat above its minimum wind-speed requirements. This would be handy for trimming out the leftwards lean which became apparent on its last outing!

Down at the reserve the low-level winds were actually pretty light. A police officer cruised slowly past, down the access road, with a mildly shocked look on his face. Did my gun-metal-colored wind meter appear to be a firearm, as I handled it? Did the rolled-up blue plastic kite look like a grenade-launcher in a weather-proof bag? After parking a safe distance away, he eventually tweaked that I was as harmless as the local field mice.

On perhaps the fourth attempt, the big blue sled stayed up for a while. In the stronger gusts, the lean was there again, so down came the kite for an adjustment. With the bridle knot several centimeters across, the kite became much more eager to soar straight up rather than curving around or leaning from time to time.

But it was time to bring the kite down anyway, for the very first weight-bearing experiment. A 2-meter line tied to a plastic bag of used batteries now swung from the flying line. The bag was about 15 meters (50 feet) from the kite, and weighed 280 grams. That was enough to simulate my Pentax Optio WG-2 in a light cage, or perhaps something lighter and cheaper.

As expected, the hard-pulling sled coped effortlessly with the weight. This was when it was soaring directly overhead in light lift, on 75 meters (250 feet) of line. At these line angles, the payload actually lightens the tension in the line, since it is acting against the lift force of the kite.

It was an interesting experience, with one or two small lessons learned along the way. 

The wind was averaging 5 kph and gusted to 12.8 kph at one point. Aloft, perhaps some gusts were close to 20 kph.

Try the Multi-Dowel Sled Kite as an Umbrella

It didn't get quite that bad actually, but at one point a fine drizzle came over the flying field. I couldn't help noticing how the huge 2.4 meter (8 feet) tall sled was easily capable of wrapping around and keeping the moisture off my head! This was during an extended session of sitting it on its tail-end tips before attempting yet another launch.

The sky was almost overcast but the sun blazed through a gap or two from time to time. The barest puffs of breeze wandered across the thinly grassed area. The direction tended to shift around quite a lot too.

Eventually, a launch was achieved and an extra few kph of average airspeed managed to boost the big kite up to a 30-degree angle. All the while, I was letting out line at every tiny opportunity. Perhaps a bit more than 60 meters (200 feet) of damp flying line was eventually to be seen disappearing into the upwind grove of trees. Yours Truly being the anchor point, amongst the foliage.

People seeing me with this kite must wonder if I am also a fan of the late Michael Jackson, going by the white calico glove on one hand!

Just a small amount of extra wind speed was available up above 100 feet of altitude. The light-blue Multi-Dowel Sled kite might have briefly made it to a 45 degree angle before lulls took their toll. The whole flight felt like a lull if you ask me!

Of course, the Windtronic meter had been installed on the ground, on its tiny tripod. The instrument reported an average wind speed of just 1.7 kph and a maximum gust to 7.3 kph. That's light-wind flying alright, right at the bottom edge of the huge sled's range.

Multi-Dowel Sled Dusted Off for a Light-Wind Scratch

The weather has been rather overcast for most of today, with light winds early and late. Hence one of the appropriate big kites to fly was the impressive 3-sparred Multi-Dowel Sled.

When we arrived at the large school oval we picked this time, the wind was so light that it was difficult to judge just what direction it was coming from! There was nothing for it but to put the kite up and see where it swung.

This is probably the easiest to rig Multi-Dowel design there will ever be. Sleds, even huge ones like this, are quite simple contraptions. So, it was soon flopping around as I vainly tried to get it airborne. After a couple of goes, it seemed a good idea to carry the kite right to the center of the grassed area. I was hoping for less turbulence and a slightly higher average wind speed!

Indeed, the kite was soon climbing away. Somewhat reluctantly, but after much tugging and walking backward it finally clawed its way into marginally stronger wind. Being at the extreme lower edge of its wind range, I was actually able to fly it comfortably one-handed—without a glove! Normally this would be unthinkable, since this design has gobs of sail area and pulls like a small horse in even 15 kph winds. I was wearing a glove on my right hand, just in case.

Another indication of the low wind speed was the kite's tendency to open and close periodically and brief leading-edge collapses on alternate sides. Also, there was a gentle rocking motion from side to side, as its natural stability struggled to kick in with such low pressures. But this kite is super stable. I have only seen it fall in a heap once, and that was in some rather full-on thermal turbulence.

The flying line went out to just over 60 meters today, and the huge blue sled struggled to maintain a 30-degree flying angle most of the time. That was purely due to low wind-speed mind you, since the kite will fly at over 60 degrees in ideal winds.

I didn't even bother to set up the wind meter on its tripod today. It would have probably averaged less than 1 kph! An old guy (well, ahem, much older than me ;-) commented "I thought you were pretty b@##%& optimistic, but there it is. There's no wind!"

Multi-Dowel Sled Sags

It sagged right down to the grass in the end.

It had been a full week since any kite of mine had flown. I was too busy working on the latest e-book you see. Anyway, today was promising to be rather light, with the small possibility of rain.

Nah, it'll be OK. Into the car were bundled the Multi-Dowel Sled and the Multi-Dowel Delta. Both kites employed 2.4 m (8 ft.) oak-dowel spars and both designs were great performers in light wind.

After several fruitless attempts to get the sled launched near the edge of the reserve, I took it way out to the middle. With the next light gust that passed through, the big sled strained upward and clawed its way above the treetop height. From there, the breeze was sufficient to propel the kite right up to a 45-degree line angle—but only just. Every now and then, the wind strength would fade and the sled would flop and wallow about, descending all the while.

For the next half an hour or so, the sled kite spent most of its time between 150 and 250 feet on a 350-foot length of line. Even with 200-pound Dacron attached, the sled usually pulls it straight. Not today!

Ignoring a tiny hint of moisture blowing around, I rigged the big delta. By this time, the sled had actually flopped to the grass. Optimistically, I continued with launching the delta. Well, after several minutes of short-line kite-handling practice in the pathetic "gusts" that came through, I gave up. I gave up, packed up, and drove off with beads of water now collecting on the windscreen. Such can be winter flying in this region.

Too Rough For KAP

But the big blue Multi-Dowel Sled kite flew anyway. The average wind speed as indicated by online weather sites seemed suitable for attempting some KAP. However, since the outing had to coincide with grocery shopping, the timing was not ideal. A couple of hours after lunch on a warm day usually means rather rough air for any kite flying.

Sure enough, on getting to the field, the breeze was gusting to almost 20 kph and changing direction every minute or two. On rigging the huge sled, it took a few attempts to get it away. There was not enough wind! So, the thermals were responsible for most of the breeze.

Finally a launch attempt coincided with a gust and up went the massive kite, straining at the leash like a mad dog.

The new Skewer KAP Rig, twice the dimensions of the original one, was sitting forlornly under a bush. It would see no action today. I am so looking forward to getting some aerial shots with the horizon in view!

Flying the kite on just 30 meters (100 feet) of line for a while required some attention. The combination of a line of tall trees upwind and thermal turbulence had the normally super-stable 3-spar sled struggling at times. A quick pull in of several meters of line was enough to reinflate the wallowing kite when the wind went out of its sails, to use a sailing expression.

OK, perhaps 60 meters (200 feet) of line would be better. And it was, but thermal gusts still tried to shoot the huge sled down a couple of times. Wasn't I glad the Pentax Optio was safely stowed in the green calico bag!

Although I didn't measure it with the spring scales this time, one huge climb under thermal power put perhaps 20 kg of tension into the line.

Finally, the sled was let out to 90 meters (300 feet) of line. Much of that time was spent vertically above the tether point! How would the KAP rig cope with excursions up to 90 degrees? Hopefully, the upwind paperclip wouldn't get jammed on the knot in the flying line. Or would the suspension line get tangled before the line angle came back down again? We'll find out one day I guess!

Super-Sized Sled Succumbs a breeze that wasn't quite there. Despite promising wind data from a not-too-distant weather station, the best light-wind kite in the back of the car just couldn't stay up.

Typically, I stayed for almost an hour making fruitless attempts to get the big Multi-Dowel Sled to hang up in the almost-no-wind-and-thermals conditions. And I don't know about the thermals either, since it just seemed to be big parcels of air very slowly shifting about in response to varying amounts of weak sunlight playing on the ground.

It wasn't long before I had more than 60 meters (200ft) of line out, in attempts to pull up the kite along most of the field's length. Again and again, I ended up with the kite flying on its long bridle lines after line had to come in to keep the sail inflated.

Persistence resulted in a couple of flights to 150 feet or so, before it seemed prudent to just give up and pack up.

Using 100-pound line might have made a tiny difference today, but I didn't think about that until arriving home. Most of the time I have to be very careful pairing 100-pound Dacron with the huge hard-pulling sled. The 2.4 m (8 ft.) tall Allison-style 3-spar design has several square meters of sail area. Each decent gust, of which there were none today, tends to stretch the line like a rubber band!

The MBK Muscle Kite

I refer, of course, to the Multi-Dowel Sled which at one point cranked the spring scales up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds) today. That doesn't compare with most multi-line parafoils during a typical workout, but it's exciting stuff for a single-line enthusiast! The wind was light and gusty, but the average strength crept up as we flew for an hour or so.

Initially, it took a few attempts to get the big sled high enough to keep going. Being in the wind shadow of a large football club building was not helpful, but the wind direction didn't allow for much choice.

At times, the sled would begin to sink out in very light wind, before surging up again in the gusts. Quite a few times, the kite made it right overhead with several kilos on the scales most of the time. One end of the scales were hooked onto the oval railing, going through a hole in a metal latch. The other end was attached to the kite. I just made a long loop of the flying line, passed it three times around and through the ring, then tied it off with two Half Hitches. This never shifted, the whole time the kite was up.

The air was very active, and for the first time ever, the huge sled needed my assistance once or twice. Any sled kite directly overhead will become a "bag of washing" if the airflow holding it up suddenly stops! Some quick pulling in of line was necessary to reinflate the kite before it lost too much height. Generally though, the Multi-Dowel Sled with its three spars is exceptionally stable and well behaved.

Toward the end of the flying session, I did a quick shoulder-high sampling of the wind speed. The meter recorded about 11 kph on average, gusting to 19 kph. Wow—this taped-up kite can cope with the lower part of the moderate wind range without tearing anything.


Dowel Sled Kite

 Big Sled, Little Rok

The MBK Dowel Sled kite in flight.MBK Dowel Sled

There was a window of only half an hour or so to get out and fly something in the late afternoon. Aren (6) actually volunteered to fly too. Although he features on a number of pages on this site, he hasn't been a keen kiter in recent times. His mum's smart phone has its attractions you see! Anyway...

Out at the school reserve, the southerly was fairly unobstructed; there were no tall trees on the upwind side of the field. This was good for the Dowel Sled, which is very picky about the air it flies in. Aren had the 2-Skewer Rokkaku on a 20-pound line, while I flew the Dowel Sled on the 50-pound line. 

Aren was soon complaining about the line pull on the rok. Although smooth, the breeze was gusting up close to moderate strength at times, up about 100 feet off the grass. This was pushing the rok fairly hard. Mind you, Aren has ample strength now to handle a kite of this size.

Meanwhile, the sled was having mixed success. Just like the redesigned 2-Skewer Sled some days ago, the wind strength was just a little too much for it while it was at its highest line angles. The bamboo skewer taped down the centerline was doing a great job preventing the leading edge from collapsing, the rest of the time.

Near the ground, the wind meter recorded an average of 4.3 kph and a maximum gust of 12.2 kph. Not much turbulence was evident, but it sure was gusty!


The story or stories above document actual flying experiences. My write-ups are definitely "warts and all" since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!


As mentioned earlier, there's more kite-making info here 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.