Tiny Light Wind Newspaper Kites

by Jake
(Reserve, NM, USA)

As a child (around 6) one of my parent's friends with children near my age took us outside and taught us how to make the smallest of light-wind kites from "found materials". The only significant item to score was a spool of thread for line.

It was painfully obvious, once shown that the 25c kites I was used to saving my 5c weekly allowance up for were not necessary. Especially since kite string was another 10c! We didn't live where there was a daily or even weekly paper, but it seemed like *everybody* had some kind of newsprint lying around... the monthly regional paper or even an old catalog or phone book page. He prescribed the old school (mucilage) glue, but the modern white (Elmers) worked fine, as did the fancier "Scotch Tape". I'm guessing wheat-paste glue would have worked fine.

Instead of dowels or other "milled" lumber, the man showed us how to select a pair of green twigs (sagebrush, willow, fruit-tree, Russian olive) or slivers of kindling, and tie them (dozen cross-wraps and a drop of glue) together in a cross with the 1,2,3 ratio (top, sides, bottom). He then tied all four twig-ends together with a continuous bit of thread knotted at each twig, sometimes making 3 or 4 circuits. A tiny wedge/split in the end of the twig and a half-dozen wraps of thread after feeding through the split, eventually bonded with a drop of glue worked great...

The resulting diamond, he would then lay down on the paper (as small as 8x12") and trace the outline, then cut it out 1/2" wider. We would then smear glue around the edges, lay the frame down, and wrap the edge over the strings to make a clean, tight edge. If we left an extra bit of string on each of the horizontal and vertical spines, we could then run them to the other end of the twig and tighten the twig into a slight bow... it helped to have a split in the end of the stick, "bound" by the perimeter thread, ideally with a drop of glue to solidify it all. I don't remember his formula for placing the harness... I think it was halfway between center and top, and 2/3 from center and bottom.

His "tail" were varied but my favorite was the top-to-bottom bowline thread (often still spooling out) doubled into a >5x length of the kite with tiny twig bits tied every few inches for weight. It seems like this was one of his tweaks... start out with 3 twiglets from end to 1/3, 2/3 down the string... expecting to add maybe 2 more in between "as needed" for stability.

It seems like we could go from "Hey, wanna go fly a kite?" to actually lofting them in less than 10 minutes. Naturally, a newbie to the process might fumble a little, but with his expert help it felt like it took "no time at all". Later I adapted this technique to much larger "dry cleaner bag" kites like the ones described here by the author, sometimes requiring slightly heavier thread, but never resorting to heavy "kite string" or twine.

I was always the subject of attention on our tiny ball-field at school if I brought my spool of thread and balled up dry cleaner bag to school. I could have it up in no time in what appeared to be *no wind*, catching slight gusts and thermals or occasionally resorting to walking around at low speed to keep it aloft.

Where are my scissors and glue?

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