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Kite Making


Kite flying is the most exciting pass time for people of all age. And making your own kite adds to the excitement. Building kites can be quite easy but building them with precision and attention to detail is not so easy.

Making Basic Pockets

Basic pockets are best made in batch form from rip stop nylon, for most sizes of kite the basic principle remains the same. Cut a rectangle of rip stop of the color of your choice, this rectangle should be around 11 inches or 27 cm long and about the same width, Cut the rectangle as squarely as possible and remember to keep the grain of the fabric parallel to the edges. Now fold the rectangle twice, halfing each time, so that you have a long strip of 4 thick nesses, on the next fold do not fold evenly but leave a smaller and larger side, the difference could be around 4mm, this long pocket can now be cut into smaller pockets, to do this use a smooth flat surface, preferably a piece of glass, and use a fine pointed soldering iron and a glass rule ( any small straight cut piece of glass will do ) and cut off strips of pocket from the wider strip, these will seal as you go and will be easy to sew on later. You can also use this method for small reinforcing patches.

Attaching Pockets to the kite in various positions

This Pocket is at the edge of a polyester cotton LO-DO kite, the bowing spar has been secured to the kite through the body of the pocket by melting 4 holes through the kite and the pocket, using a fine pointed soldering iron. This 12 Watt iron is inexpensive idea for the job of hot cutting.

Patches

Patches are areas which require extra strength in the main body of the sail of the kite, they are used to hold spars to the rear of the kite and to attach bridle lines.

More Pockets

This pocket shows how bow lines can be attached to a pocket simply by melting a couple of small holes through the pocket and the sail with the soldering iron, this pocket is on the corner of a LO-DO but the principle is the same on rokkakus, or anywhere else where bow lines are required.

Basics of kite flying

  • Kites fly because the forces which act on them are in equilibrium when they are in the air. In order to fly a kite three forces must be present. Gravity, tension in the string or line and Lift.

  • Lift is the upward component, which is provided by the wind hitting the face of the kite, adjusting the angle of incidence that the kite faces, will cause the kite to rise or fall, if the kite is too upright it will not deflect the air down and will pull very hard, if the kite is too flat or horizontal the kite will be less stable and the wind will spill underneath it, too much to generate lift.

  • The shape of the kite in terms of the plan i.e. square, triangle, diamond is not really important, it is the three dimensional shape which is important in this regard. The best kites are either bowed or set with dihedrals, this means that they have a sharp edge down the center which spills the wind pressure evenly over the two sides, the best shapes are USUALLY symmetrical about the vertical axis of the kite.

  • Flat kites are generally very unstable, Box kites gain stability by having additional planes to them which aid stability, they are usually good in strong winds.

  • The tail of a kite improves it stability whilst allowing the kite to be set at a lower angle, thus generating more lift. The drag induced in the trailing edge of the kite by the tail, slow it down in it's sideway movements thus presenting the face of the kite more into the wind.

Materials used

Eddy kites are easy to fly and they can fly with or without a tail. You can make this kind of kite out of any one of several different materials, depending on how serious you are or how much you want to spend. Here are a few possibilities for materials: Brown paper, Mylar, Wrapping paper, polyethylene, Rip stop nylon, Polyester cotton, Tyvek, Washi paper, etc.

Mylar

Mylar is the silver hologram paper which is quite popular as a gift wrap paper. Advantages - very light, cheap and pretty, disadvantages - easily torn.

Tyvek

Tyvek is an unusual material often used for disposable overalls, it is made of polyethylene but feels and looks like paper, it is waterproof but can be painted, the problem with tyvek is that it is hard to obtain, and it looks patchy when the light comes through it.

Ripstop Nylon

Ripstop nylon is available in many different grades and types. The only type which is suitable for kites is spinnaker nylon, which is coated, it feels and sounds crunchy or crisp in the hand, it is available in kite shops and yachting shops. The advantages are that its is available in a large no. of colours, is looks beautiful when light comes through it, it is pretty waterproof, very strong and durable, it is very fray resistant and it is lightweight. The disadvantages are that it requires sewing and some skill with a sewing machine is essential to make a neat job and it is quite expensive, although sometimes seconds or end of roll pieces are cheaper. It is also difficult to paint, although not impossible.

Brown Paper, Wrapping Paper, Washi Paper

These materials are great for cheap and cheerful kites although washi paper is not so cheap. The obvious disadvantage of paper is that if it gets even slightly wet from the dew on the grass, it starts to deteriorate quickly.

Polyester Cotton 

This is the fabric that many modern items of clothing and house hold bedding are made from, it comes in many different weights the best for kites is about the weight of lightweight household bedsheets, of mens shirt material, The advantage of polycotton is it takes paints wonderfully, so if you are thinking about painting consider it. Polycotton however must be sewn on a machine, is rather heavy and is perhaps more for the advanced kitemaker.

Polyethylene

This material is very cheap, widely available requires no sewing, but can look a little dull, and is easily torn. If you can get nice bright colours it is an excellent piece to start.
If you feel that this is all sounding complicated, then start using something that does not require sewing, this means paper, polyethylene or mylar. Whichever you chose doesn't really matter just get whichever you can in a nice big sheet.( you can even join two or three pieces together if you must but be careful about weight and symmetry).

Other Materials -- You will need in addition to your sail material, a few other things, materials and tools. here is a quick list to get together.

  1. Sticky tape ( preferably clear, best is magic invisible tape).

  2. An accurate measuring device, a ruler preferably a long one, or tape measure if you can't get a long rule.

  3. Cutting tools, good strong sharp scissors, and or a craft knife/scalpel.

  4. A ballpoint pen or pencil for marking out cutting lines.

  5. String or line for the bridles of the kite and to fly the kite on, household linen string is not really suitable for this, try to get either some proper kite line or very strong fishing line (NOT MONOFILAMENT NYLON) braided is best, or twisted pair if absolutely stuck. as a guide try to get around 50lb test (try asking at the fishing shop for dacron line).

Now to start making the kite

The Sail

Lay out you sail material on a nice clean flat surface and measure as accurately as you can, the dimensions as shown on the plan above, cut off the 4 outside triangles leaving the kite shape, cut carefully, no jagged edges, if you use polyethylene or mylar before you cut put a line of sticky tape right over the line, this will strengthen the edges thus reducing the risk of a tear. You should now have before you a limp kite shape. Put a couple of layers of sticky tape on the back side of the points marked as the bridle points, this will add strength for when the bridles are attached. Make a small hole through each bridle point, it is best to punch or cut the hole rather than poking something through, reducing the risk of tear.

The Frame

First stick down the spine with one long piece of tape then cut the single cross spar to the width of the kite, do not stick it down yet. At the ends of this cross spar, make two notches, this will enable you to attach a bowstring, attach a length of string to one end then pass the line through the notch, pull the string tight and make the spar bend slightly. Run the string to other notch and make a nice knot in the line, so that it jams in the knot, this bow should be of 4 inches or 10cm at it's maximum point ( in the center) unhitch the knot and stick the cross spar to the kite securely. When you replace the string the whole kite will bow.

The Bridles

The bridles are the lines which connect the kite to the flying line, pass a length of line approximately 1.2m or 4 foot through the holes you made earlier so that you have a single piece of line on the front of the kite tie this off at both ends to the spine at the back of the kite.

With the kite facing up lying on the floor, pick the kite up with the string, find the point on the bridles that makes the front end, lift first and reach a height of around 10cm from the floor, before the rear (bottom, tail end) of the kite starts to lift off the floor, this point on the line will be your towing point at which, you will need to make a small loop and attach the flying line.

Tails ( optional )

If you have made the kite evenly and accurately you should not need tails, some people like tails however, so to make them cut long thin strips of at least 1.5 meters of sail material, about 3 pieces looks nice, stick these with tape or tie them with line onto the bottom end of the kite

Flying

This kite should not need much wind to fly, do not go out on a very windy day, a light breeze is all you need, STRONG WINDS BREAK KITES, Do not run madly with the kite, it should fly out of your hand, be careful not to fly near any overhead power lines, or any other dangers such as roads, railway lines, airports or cliffs ! and be considerate of others when flying your kite and obey local laws regarding height, as a guide keep your kite below 200 feet / 60 meters.

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