How To Make A Kite
Let's Go Fly A Kite
Spring is here and what brings back more memories of Spring than flying a kite. I always got a kite for an Easter present (except for that year I got a sheriff badge and a set of six-shooters - that bombed.) The good thing that came out of it I started to make my own kites.
I tried so many different style and finally came down to one that was a sure winner and easy to make - by anyone.
I've just started this lens and plan to add to it as time rolls on and I find more interesting things. Enjoy and Comment.
List of Materials Required to Make a Simple Paper Kite - - build it with what you got...
Once I had the design of the kite I learned to make it out of different materials. I'll give you the basic simple version then suggest some differnt directions you can take it.
- Bamboo garden stakes
- tissue paper
- kite string
- white glue
- a simple snap swivel
If You've Raided the House and Came Up Empty Handed - Buy Them Here
I always raided the house for kite materials. Moms straightest garden stakes, Dad's fishing tackle - the wrapping paper hoard. Soon I collected my own stash of craft supplies on my own but in the mean time... Use what you have to start.
These are higher priced and better quality and the majority would be good enough to make a kite.
Step by step ...
each step brings you closer to flying...
It all starts with choosing the right bamboo for the structure of the kite. The number one thing to look for is it has to be straight. Don't worry if it is split or not as we will be splitting them on purpose in the next step. I used to go through the garden stakes my Mom would buy in bulk, and pick out the best ones for making kites. There was usually one or two good ones in a bundle of 25. When I started making bigger kites I went in search of better material.
One place I found was at a carpet store. I got a few large bamboo staves from them. They were used to roll carpet on when shipped and were left out back of the store as refuse. Just one bamboo staff was enough for several kites.
The bigger and thicker the bamboo is, the more you have to work it,,,
Cutting to the Chase
Caution needs to be taken here as the edges of a split bamboo are very sharp. Wear protective leather gloves.
Split the bamboo into half or quarter it, depending on how thick it is. The little green garden stakes are about 1/4 of an inch thick so split them in half. I used my trusty pocket knife but a kitchen paring knife will start a split and a simple butter knife can be used to split them down the length.
Take you knife and shave down the edges until you have a smooth section. Test as you go. Hold the strip by each tip and bend it into a smooth arc. if one side bend easier than the other then you know where to shave more down. Take your time a smooth balanced arc is what you are trying to achieve.
Cation needs to be taken here as the edges of a split bamboo are very sharp. Wear protective gloves.
Let's make a kite.
Once you have the bamboo split and shaved down, bend one into a bow and tie it off with a piece of string. Cut the other piece so it matches the length of the bowed piece. Tie the short cutoff piece at the bottom of the vertical.
Tie the bow across the upright in a position so the points make a square.
Tie a string from point to point. This string does two things. It stiffens the frame and give you something to hold the skin of the kite on.
Once the frame is made you can cover the kite with tissue paper. I use watered down white glue to glue the tissue paper over the string. Once it has dried completely you need one final step before finishing off the kite.
Take a spray bottle of water and slightly wet the paper and it will shrink as it dries, taking out the wrinkles. Once it is dry again you can optionally coat the whole thing with a 50/50 solution of water and white glue. This will toughen up the skin a bit.
I started using Christmas wrapping paper but tissue paper is much preferred. It has a special quality I discovered by building model planes.
In my day all the kite strings were made form cotton. Synthetics like nylon or polyester are fine still.
Let's String it Up
Finally the kite is made. Glue strips of tissue paper together to make about ten feet of tail and glue that to the tail stick at the bottom corner of the kite.
The bridle is just a piece of string tied halfway between the top and the cross of the bow the other tie point depends on the kite. The bridle should make a right angle triangle. Tie it to the vertical shaft through the skin, so when you are tied off and flying , you see the painted face of the kite and not the stick side.
Tie the corner point of the bridle into a small loop. This is where you tie the flight string to ( or the snap swivel so you can take the kite on and off easier.
An that's it. All you need now is a good breeze. I like this paper kite design as it need very little breeze to fly. As long as the breeze is steady you can fly in anywhere. Have fun.
You don't really need a snap swivel but I learned this trick from my fisherman father after frustrating my mother with constant cries to untangle my kite string.
Choose a field away from power lines.
Don't fly kites if there is a chance of lightning.
Don't fly kites higher than you can control safely.
Don't fly where if the kite comes down it crosses a roadway.
Some History Tibits About Kite Flying
Do you really want to know?
Well along with paper gunpowder calculators and a number of other inventions we can't live without, we can add kites. They have been a part of our lives for over 2800 years. No wonder they have become a part of our life.
They were used than much the same as they are used now: scientific calculations, warfare, teaching, fishing and fun. What a wide scope to contend with.
Today you can get kites that are still getting scientific information, weather info and the like. How cool is that. Something that simple still works today as it did back in China.
Kites were made large enough to lift a man to a height where he could spy on the enemy army. That must have been scary. I would think you'd be a target but I guess that was before the range weapons were not so sophisticated.
Polynesians used kites to fish from their dugouts. I've tried similar tasks playing games with kites as a kite using the kite and a hook on a string trying to pick up targets on the ground. It was just some of the things I did with kites when I was a kid.
Today there is para-sail kites that surfers use to pull them along the waters surface. I've seen skiers use these same kites on a field. People are inventive with the fun.
Of course there is the old story of Ben Franklin and his using a kite to prove lightning was electricity.
There is also the ceremonial kites like the Chinese dragon kites, or the Indian fighter kites that put a different spin on things. It is these two types of kite that I chose to design my kite from. I loved the Indian fighter kites from India and other middle east cultures. They were tiny diamond shaped kites that zipped and dived all over the sky and required expert skill to fly. When you stopped paying attention the kite would be on the ground. The Chinese dragon kite had a long flowing tail that made it a lot easier to fly. They were beautifully painted and were a joy to watch fly.
My design takes the best of both. Is responsive like a fighter but flows slower because of the long tail. Made from paper, it can be painted to beautiful designs. And is easier to fly.
Enjoy flying kites. Learn the history and you will enjoy it even more.
I learned some history of uses of kites that made me appreciate flying kites more. It also gave me things I could do besides standing still and gawking at the sky. Be involved.
Besides lying back on the hill and watch you kite float in the breeze, what else can you do?
- Kite Fights
I like having dog fights. Not all out war like with the Indian fighting kites where the winner gets to keep the losers kite - by cutting the others kites string. They would even go as far as gluing powdered glass to the first ten feet of kite string. As my design has a paper tail, we fight by tagging tails - or even tearing the others tail off.
- Pick Up Tricks
Another game was tying a dragline with a hook to the kite. Setting things on the ground that you can try a pick-up with the kite take a wee bit of skill but it is fun trying. Put a point value each item and you can keep score.
- High Drop
I made a little cart that would travel up the string. Once the cart got to the top where the kite was it would dump the contents. I usually filled the cart with a few plastic green army men with home-made parachutes.
- Eye In The Sky
Cameras weren't cheap when I was a kid so I never got a chance to send one up on the kites I flew then. Today cameras are cheap, small and capable of making movies. It would be easy to put an eye in the sky today.