It is important that when you are making kites you are as accurate and as careful as possible. The plans in this section are all simple to follow, and the kites are simple to fly. If you heed help, the accompanying video will give you additional tips on making these kites.
I encourage you to try out your ideas about ways of improving the designs, but I would suggest that you make at least one kite made exactly as specified in the plan. This will give you something to compare any other variations with while flying your creations.
If you are planning on making a large number of the same kite it is a good idea to make a template. A cardboard template, cut to the dimensions on the plan, will allow you to trace as many kites of this style as you like, without having to measure each of them. This means that each kite should be of exactly the same dimensions, giving you greater accuracy in experiments regarding length of tail, diameter of spars, and so on.
Fibreglass is a potentially dangerous material to work with, and should be handled carefully. Fibreglass spars are quite flexible, and students could easily poke someone in the eye if care is not taken when carrying the spars around the workroom.
Tyvek can be drawn on with pens, textas, crayons and pastels. It can also be painted with water based acrylic paints. Thin plastic, such as garbage bags could be used for the sled or the diamond, but I recommend tyvek if you can get it.
There are a number of books available on kites and kite making. Many of these will be available in your local or school library. The Dewey numbers for books about kites are 629.13332, 796.15, and 745.592. For more information, look in the bibliography.
To make this kite you will need;
- A tyvek kite skin cut to the dimensions on the diagram above.
- Two 6mm dowel spars. One 90 cm long and one 80 cm long.
- A piece of string at least 30 cm long.
- Two pieces of plastic or tyvek, four metres long and 5 cm wide, to use as a tail.
- Bookbinding tape.
- A pair of scissors
- A hole puncher
- A large, flat table to work on.
To fly this kite use a line with a breaking strain of 15 kilograms or higher. Thin lines are better than thick lines because they have less drag. Do not use fishing line, as it can cut into skin very easily when under tension.
A fishing hand caster makes an excellent reel for winding the flying line on to.
1. Punch holes in one end of both pieces of the material you are using for the tail of the kite. Push one end of the long piece of dowel through both holes.
2. Lay out the kite skin on the table. If you have decorated the kite, put the decorated side face down. Cut a piece of tape ten centimeters long, and put it half under the top corner of the kite. Cut another piece of tape ten centimeters long, and do the same at the bottom of the kite.
3. Lay the long dowel with the tail attached to it along the kite from top to bottom, making sure that the ends of the stick are exactly in the top and bottom corners of the kite. Fold the tape over at the top corner so that is sticks to the dowel and to the back of the kite. Do the same at the bottom of the kite.
4. Cut another piece of tape ten centimeters long and put it half under one of the wingtips. Cut another piece of tape the same length and do the same at the other wingtip. Lay the other dowel across the kite from wingtip to wingtip, and fold the tape over at each wingtip so that it sticks to the wood and the back of the kite.
5. Make sure that the tail is pulled down to the bottom of the kite. Then use the scissors to poke a hole through the kite skin at the point where the two dowels cross over each other.
6. Loop one end of the string around the two sticks and tie the two sticks together, using four knots. Push the other end of the string through the hole in the kite skin. Turn the kite over and pull the string through as far as it will go. Tie a loop in the end of the line. Your kite is now ready to fly.
To fly your kite attach a flying line to the loop in the string on the front of the kite. Have someone hold the kite for you while you walk back into the wind, letting out fifteen to twenty metres of string.
Make sure that they are not standing on the tail of the kite. When you are ready, run a few metres into the wind, pulling the kite out of the hands of the person holding it up for you. If there is enough wind the kite will keep on flying, even after you have stopped running.
Suggestions for further investigations
After you have made and flown the diamond kite shown in the plans, you might like to investigate some of the problems listed below.
1. What are the best proportions for a diamond-shaped kite? Is there any special relationship between the length of the spine and the length of the cross-spar? Make a number of kites using spines of the same lengths, but with differing widths. Compare how they fly with how the standard kite flies. Describe the differences in how they fly.
2. Do wider or narrower kites need longer or shorter tails? Do they fly further towards vertical, or closer to the ground? Compare them with the standard design, and describe the differences.
3. How important is the point where the cross-spar crosses the spine? The distance from the top of the kite to the point where these two spars cross over can be expressed as a percentage of the length of the spine.
The kite in the plan has a cross-spar that crosses over the spine at a point 27% from the top of the kite. What effect would moving this point? Make some diamond shaped kites that have cross over points which vary from 20% from the top to 40% from the top. Compare their flight to the standard kite. Which point seems the best? Describe the flying characteristics of the various kites.
- To make this kite you will need;
- A plastic kite skin cut to the dimensions on the diagram above.
- Two spars 75 cm long, of either 3.5 mm fibreglass or 6mm dowel.
- A piece of string 170 cm long.
- Bookbinding tape (if you are using wooden spars) or 12 mm filament tape.
- A hole punch
- A large, flat table to work on.
To fly this kite use a line with a breaking strain of 15 kilograms or higher. Thin lines are better than thick lines because they have less drag. Do not use fishing line, as it can cut into skin very easily when under tension. A fishing hand caster makes an excellent reel for winding the flying line on to.
1. Lay the kite skin out on the table. Cut four pieces of tape ten centimeters long. Put a piece of tape half underneath one of the corners at the top of the kite. Place another piece of tape half underneath the other top corner of the kite. Do the same for the two corners at the bottom of the kite.
2. Lay one of the spars along the kite from one the top corners of the kite to the bottom corner on the same side of the kite. Fold the tape over at the corners so that the tape sticks to the spar and to the surface of the kite. Do the same with the other spar on the opposite side of the kite.
3. Cut two pieces of tape five centimeters long and place them half under the wingtips of the kite. Fold the other half of the tape over onto the front of the kite. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the wingtips where the tape is reinforcing the plastic.
4. Tie one end of the bridle through the hole in one of the wingtips, using four knots. Do the same with the other end of the bridle through the hole in the other wingtip.
5. Fold the kite exactly in half and pull the bridle tight in order to find its centre. Tie a loop in the line at this point. Your kite is now ready to fly.
To fly your kite attach a flying line to the loop in the bridle. The spars of this kite should be on the side of the kite that you will be able to see when the kite is flying.. Have someone hold the kite up for you, making sure that the kite is held so that the holes in the kite are at the bottom.
Walk backwards into the wind, letting out fifteen to twenty metres of line. Run a few metres into the wind, pulling the kite out of the hands of the person holding it for you. This kite acts like a parachute, and relies on the wind to hold the kite open, so don’t try running forward, or letting out lots of line quickly, or the kite will collapse and start falling.
Sleds develop a lot of lift, and pull very hard in strong winds, so care needs to be taken when flying this kite.
Suggestions for further investigations
After you have made and flown the sled shown in the plans, you might like to investigate the purpose of the vents at the bottom of the kite. What do the vents cut in the skin of the kites actually do? Do they have to be this size, and in this location?
Try different sizes and shapes for the vents. Try cutting the vents in different locations. Fly these experimental versions while also flying the standard sled. Are there any differences in flight characteristics?
Do they pull harder or lighter? Do they need more or less wind to fly? Write a report on your findings.
Sleds are very strong pulling kites. A large version will be able to pull you along on a skate board or a billy cart quite easily. As the size of the kite increases it will be necessary to use stronger materials, but this will also increase the weight of the kite. Try building a kite three times the size of the one in the plans and using it to tow you across your school’s oval. Can you work out how fast you are able to travel?
What is the maximum speed you reach? You might find that you will move faster if you don’t point directly downwind. Why do you think this might be so? Try steering yourself at a variety of angles and record the speeds you reach. What is the best angle to travel downwind at the fastest speed?
Can you work out a way of steering a sled in the sky? If the kite can be made to turn to one side or the other, it should be possible to make your kite and cart behave very much like a sailboat, and you should be able to steer yourself at right angles to the wind at least.
Indian Fighting Kite
To make this kite you will need;
- A Tyvek kite skin, cut to the dimensions on the diagram above.
- Four 2 mm fibreglass spars, one 56 cm, one 82.5 cm, and two 10 cm long.
- A piece of string 80 cm long.
- 12 mm filament tape.
- One piece of tyvek, 3cm wide and 150 cm long, to use as a tail.
- A large, flat table to work on.
This kite is traditionally flown with button thread as the flying line. Any cotton thread will do, but the stronger the thread the better. A fishing hand caster works well as a kite reel.
It is suggested that this kite is made with the assistance of another person. This way the fibreglass can be held in the right shape while the other person is taping it in place. It is recommended that at least one of the other kites is made before this one is attempted, as accuracy is extremely important in the construction of this kite, and the skills needed for making the Indian Fighter can be gained by making one of the simpler kites in this kit first.
1. Lay the kite skin on the table. If you have decorated the kite, put the decorated side face down. Cut a piece of tape five centimeters long and put it half under the top corner of the kite. Cut another piece of tape five centimeters long and put it half under the bottom corner of the kite. Lay the 56 cm long piece of fibreglass on the kite, with the tips of the spar in the top and bottom corners of the kite. The spar should lie directly over the top of the two holes cut in the kite skin. This spar is called the spine.
2. Fold the tape over at the top of the kite so that it sticks to the spar and the back of the kite. Do the same to the bottom of the kite. Cut another piece of tape and stick it over the middle of the spar and onto the kite to prevent the spar moving.
3. Take the 82.5 cm piece of fibreglass and slide it across the kite, in between the kite skin and the spine. This spar is called the cross-spar. Cut two pieces of tape, both five centimeters long, and put them half under the kite at the wing tips.
4. Bend the cross-spar into the wingtip and fold the tape over so that it sticks to the fibreglass as well as the back of the kite. Do the same at the other wingtip. Allow the cross-spar to bend into an arc, and it and the spine should directly over the top hole cut in the kite. Cut two more pieces of tape, both five centimeters long.
Put one of them half under the leading edge of the kite fifteen centimeters toward the top of the kite from the wingtip. Do the same on the other leading edge. Fold the tape over so that it sticks to the fibreglass and the back of the kite.
5. Cut two pieces of tape ten centimeters long and tape the two remaining pieces of fibreglass onto the tail fin of the kite. Cut one piece of tape five centimeters long and use it to tape the tail onto the kite at the bottom of the spine.
6. Loop one end of the bridle around the lower section of the spine and tie four knots in it. Poke the other end of the bridle through the hole near the bottom of the kite and then bring it back in through the hole near the top of the kite. Loop this end of the bridle around the spine and the cross-spar and tie the two spars together using four knots.
7. Turn the kite over so that the spars are in contact with the table. Pull the bridle through the two holes as far as it will come. Find the point on the bridle where the top and the bottom of the kite lift away from the table at the same time when you lift the kite up by its bridle. Tie a loop in the line at this point. Your Indian Fighter is now ready to fly.
Indian fighters are great fun to fly. They are very responsive and can be made to move all over the sky. Have someone hold the kite for you while you walk back into the wind, letting out ten metres of line. When you are ready run back a few metres, pulling the kite out of the hands of the person holding it up for you. If you let out line quickly you will notice that this kite will start to tumble. When it is pointing in the direction you want it to go start pulling in line and the kite will start moving rapidly in the direction it is pointing.
Suggestions for further investigation
1. Try making another Indian fighter, using the same plans, but increasing the diameter of the cross-spar. How does this affect the flying characteristics of the kite?
2. The traditional Indian fighter is made using bamboo and tissue paper. Try making a fighter using tyvek and bamboo. Is the bamboo as good as fibreglass, or is it better?
3. Try making a wider version of the Indian fighter. Does it turn faster, or more slowly? Does it need more wind, or less? Does it need a tail? Does the bridling point need to be located differently?
4. There are lots of other designs of fighting kites from countries all over the world. See if you can find plans for some of them, and try making them from fibreglass and tyvek. Make a display of different fighting kites, decorated in their traditional designs.
A portrait of Lawrence Hargrave can be seen on one side of Australia’s old twenty dollar note. Who was he? Why is he honoured in this way? What impact has he had on history?
- Write a short biography on Lawrence Hargrave. Include information about where he was born, his career, and his interests.
- List and describe the inventions that Hargrave experimented with and wrote about during his life.
- Try making a box kite, or a model of one, based on Hargrave’s plan. Plans for this kite can be found in The Penguin Book of Kites, by David Pelham.
Kites have been flown on lines made from a variety of materials. Some lines are said to be better than others, and some lines are regarded as the only line suitable for certain types of kite flying.
Write a report about the sorts of kite flying lines that have been used throughout history.
- Find out what sort of line is used when flying Indian fighting kites. What is it called, and how is it made? Describe how the line is used during a kite fight.
- What makes a good flying line for normal kite flying? Test a number of different materials as a flying line for the same kite. Do not use anything which contains metal. Report on the benefits and problems associated with each of the that lines you tested.
Kites have been decorated in numerous ways. Malaysian kites are commonly decorated with layers of cut paper stencils, while Japanese kites are painted, using broad brush strokes. Many modern kites are decorated with appliqué designs.
- Make a number of kites from different countries. Decorate them in the styles traditionally used in these countries. Display all of your kites somewhere in your school. Perhaps the library or the art room would be good locations. Include a sheet on each kite, giving information about the kite design and the decoration style used.
- Make a kite using sailcloth for the kite skin. Use appliqué techniques to decorate it. You might like to enter your kite in one of the kite competitions which are regularly held.