Build Your Own Kite

Build Your Own Kite

Windy springtime is the perfect season for kite flying.  Whether you're an old hand with a spool or are just getting started, there's no reason not to take your adventures with kites to the next level.  This year, it's time to build your own kite!  This is a great family project, since everyone can help with both the building part and the flying of the finishes project.

All kites, whether they're box kites or traditional diamond-shaped ones, consist of the same basic parts.  They all have a spine, the rigid vertical stick that forms the center-line of the kite.  They also all have a spar, a stick (or sticks) that sits perpendicular to the spine and helps create the body of the kite.  Sometimes the spars are curved or bent, and sometimes they're straight.  When the spine and spars are joined together, they are called the frame.

Every kite begins with a frame that's then covered in some material such as paper, plastic, or cloth.  The color really makes the kite, so it's worth it to take your time picking your kite's cover.  Make sure it's something you'll be able to see from the ground and that will stand out well against a blue or gray sky.

Kites also have bridles, strings that are attached to the spine or spars that help the person on the ground control the kite.  There's a tail, a ribbon or string at the end that helps stabilize the body.  And of course there's the flying line, the string that runs from the kite's bridle to the person on the ground.  Usually the excess string is wound around a spool or reel that helps keep it from getting tangled.

The most basic kite design is the diamond shape. 
To make a diamond kite, you'll need:
scotch tape or glue
1 sheet of strong paper (40" x 40")
2 strong, straight wooden sticks of bamboo or wooden doweling 35 inches and 40 inches
markers, paint, or crayons to decorate you kite
ribbon or a strip of paper for a tail.

Get started by making a cross with the two sticks, so that the shorter stick is placed horizontally across the longer stick. Make sure that both sides of the cross piece are equal in width.

Place a daub of glue on the sticks to hold them at right angles while you tie them together with the string.

Cut a notch at each end of both sticks. Make it deep enough for your string to fit in to. Cut a piece of string long enough to stretch all around the kite frame. Make a loop in the top notch and fasten it by wrapping the string around the stick. Stretch the string through the notch at one end of the cross-piece, and make another loop at the bottom. Stretch the string through the notch at one end of the loop at the bottom. Stretch the string through the notch at the other end of the cross-piece. Finish by wrapping the string a few times around the top of the stick and cutting off what you don't need. This string frame must be taut, but not so tight that it warps the sticks.

Lay the cover material flat and place the stick frame face down on top. Cut around it, leaving about 2-3cm for a margin. Fold these edges over the string frame and glue it down so that the material is tight.

Cut a piece of string about 50 inches long. and tie one end to the loop at the other end of the string to the loop at the bottom. Tie another small loop in the string just above the intersection of the two cross pieces. This will be the kite's bridle, the string to which the flying line is attached.

Make a tail by tying your ribbon to the bottom of the kite.  Now you're ready to fly!  Keep in mind that every kite is different, so if you aren't pleased with this one, take the lessons you've learned and try again.  When you're done building a kite, hold it up by the string to see if it's balanced.  If it isn't, you can weigh down the light side by gluing on a little more paper.
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