Making and flying kites is a hobby and a tradition practiced in many countries around the world. Kites can be used for research and science as well as just a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. Kite fanciers and flyers also gather regularly for different types of events that show new kite designs, kite models, technology and even test kite flyers ( also known as pilots) abilities and style.
In the Middle East as well as in parts of the USA, kite fighting is a recognized type of competition. In these events two or more kite flyers attempt to bring down or control their opponent`s kites using a strict set of rules. These competitions are great to watch and show some extremely high levels of aerodynamics and control over the airborne kites.
However, kite flying can also be done for the sheer enjoyment of controlling the kite. Kids, adults and even seniors can enjoy a wonderful breezy day by spending time outside flying their kites. To add to this creating your own uniquely designed kite either from scratch or by a kit is a wonderful way to learn about the various types and designs of kites and how they fly. Some kites are also designed to be flown indoors, providing opportunity for year round kite flying fun.
Adding technology to kites has increased their educational and fun value as well. Small cameras can be attached to the kite to take amazing video or still pictures from the kite`s vantage over the neighborhood or area. Wider ranging shots are also available with the high altitude kites.
Last but certainly not least kites are made and flown for a variety of different cultural events and celebrations. Wonderful dragon kites, beautiful Easter kites and even kites used to lift people into the air or move them across water are also routinely seen over the summer months or on special holidays. Researching about different kite designs and motifs is an excellent way to spend cold winter months in preparation for the spring kite flying weather.
Materials and Methods Of Building Kites
Historically kites have been developed from easily available materials within a particular country there are a wide range of options for building and designing a kite. Typically and traditionally the frame is of a lightweight wood or very durable yet flexible plastic, however not all kites have a frame and some are designed without a solid frame of any kind. Now more and more kites are built of very lightweight, highly durable polymers and polyesters, making kites much more long lived even with regular use outdoors.
It is important to understand the definitions or terms used in kite building and kite flying. The following are the main components of kites, just keep in mind that not all kites have all the same components and the use of the various elements is largely dependant on the shape and design of the kite itself.
- Spine – the vertical or long backbone type of stick used in any types of kites such as diamond shaped or square shapes
- Spar – the shorter cross pieces of wood or plastic that either are horizontal or slanted into the spine
- Frame – the combination of the spine and the spars, or the shaped pieces in box types of kites
- Bridle – the strings that attach to the spine and the spars or along the frame and then connect to the flying line
- Flying line – the thin rope of string that provides contact with the reel in your hand to control the movement of the kite in the air
- Cover – the paper, cloth or plastic that covers the frame to provide wind resistance to allow the kite to fly
- Tail – may or may not be present and hangs down from the frame or spine to provide additional balance. Kites often don`t need tails but they are used to add color and movement to the kite while in the air
A simple diamond kite can be constructed using easy to find household and garden items. You will need bamboo doweling, often used as garden stakes, or flat, lightweight straight sticks that are approximately 100 cm and 85 cm in length.
The longest stick is placed flat on a surface and the shorter stick is placed perpendicular to form a cross shape. The shorter stick (the spar) can be closer to the top of the long stick (the spine) or it can be more towards the middle. It is important to make sure the spar is equally balanced on both sides of the spine to keep the frame of the kite symmetrical.
Use dab of good quality glue to keep the spine and spar in place. Use butcher cord or a very thin gardening twine to wrap the joint and keep both sticks firmly in place. Cut a notch in the end of each end of the spine and spar deep enough to allow you to stretch the twine or cord around to form the edges of the kite wings.
Starting at the top of the spin wrap the twine, make a loop out of the top and back down into the groove, then continue to one side of the spar, inserting the string through the notch. At the bottom of the spine repeat the looping process, then take the string around to the other spar and back up to the top of the spine. Wrap the string and tie securely, you should now have the full frame completed.
Place the frame on a large piece of butcher paper or moderately heavy plastic. Cut a diamond shape that is at least 3 cm larger than the string frame. Decorate the outside of the paper or fabric using markers, paint or crayons, then fold the extra edge over the string and glue into place.
Allow the kite to dry overnight and then measure a piece of twine that is 120cm in length. Fold in half and tie a small loop knot in the middle, which is where the flying line will attach. Tie each end to the loop at the ends of the spine and attach the flying line. Add a tail that is made of a length of twine with small ribbons tied on every 10-15cm. You can also use streamers or longer strips of plastic with or without the cross bows.
Another type of kite that is fun and simple to make is very traditional in Bermuda. Using a spoke like frame of thin, lightweight sticks these kites are nailed together at the center of the wheel, then string is used to create concentric circles. Colored tissue paper is glued to the string and the spokes to create hexagonal patterns of various colors. A longer stick is then attached to the center and string and tissue connects the tip of the stick to the body of the kite, forming an elongated triangle.
The tail is attached to the kite and is required in order for the kite to stay balanced and fly correctly without spinning and crashing.
Box kites are constructed with four parallel struts, which are similar to four spines forming the corners of each of the boxes. Diagonal spars are then placed at the top and bottom of the struts or spines to keep everything square and equidistant. Wide fabric, usually nylon or paper, is then wrapped around the top third and the bottom third of the frame, leaving the middle third open. The bridle is attached to the middle of the kite and tails are attached to the bottom of the box. Multi-unit box kites are known as cellular kites and can have a variety of sizes, tails and sails to help with stability and balance while in the air.
These kites are more challenging to construct since balance and dimensions are absolutely essential to creating a kite that can become airborne and stay balanced in the sky. Patterns are available online or in kite making books that provide the specific measurements of the struts and spars as well as the covered and open areas of the kite. Surprisingly these box kites are extremely effective fliers and are good in heavier winds that may be too much for the lighter and more traditional diamond shaped kites.
Trying out new types of designs and modifying existing plans is all part of the fun of building and flying your own kites. For the more elaborate types of kites such as the box kites and multi-unit kites kits are available from craft stores and hobby websites that provide you with the frames and materials necessary. Of course you can also buy kites already constructed, but most individuals that enjoy this hobby love the creative side of kite construction and decoration, not just the experience of flying the kite.
Competitions and Events Around The World
Within the USA sport kite competitions and events have become extremely popular. These events, often hosted and presented by the American Kitefliers Association, provide kite flyers, also known as pilots, the ability to try out their stunt flying skills. Unlike simpler kites the sport kites are multi-line kites that compete in aerial ballet, compulsory figures and kite flying to music. Teams of pilots compete in highly imaginative kite maneuvers, similar to what you may expect to see of planes flying in formation at an air show.
Unlike standard kites the sport kite is designed to withstand winds of up to 30 miles per hour. They are also very lightweight and some can even be flown indoors. The materials used in these kites are very high tech ranging from ripstop polyester and carbon fiber tuber for the frames. Depending on the size and style of kite these sports kites can a be a great way to learn how to very accurately control the movement of the kite using both flying lines. Very elaborate four flying line options are also available but are considerably more challenging and difficult to fly and control.
Large types of kites can also be used for kite surfing, kite landboarding and kite buggying as well as snow kiting. In these activities large kites that are typically frameless bow type kites, made from the very durable ripstop polyester fabric, are used to generate the power to pull a human on some type of wheeled frame or a flat board. The kites are controlled by flying lines at either end of the bow, allowing for turns and speed control depending on the position of the hands and the pull up or down on the flying line. The flying lines are much heavier than with a traditional kite and typically attaché to a control bar that the pilot uses to manage the speed and direction of the kite. These kites can be up to 21 square meters in size, some in recent competitions even topped those dimensions.
This type of kiting does require some additional safety equipment. Helmets and protective gear are highly recommended at all times and are mandatory in competitions. In addition each individual sport that uses kite power has different safety requirements such as lifejackets, safety hook knives to cut the lines should the pilot loose control or even an impact vest that adds additional protection to the chest and torso area of the rider.
Flying a kite is a great activity for the whole family. Not only can everyone get involved in building and decorating the kite, but they can also learn to fly and control the kite. Multi-kite or sub-kite units can be flown by more than one person, a terrific way to learn teamwork and coordination.
Safety is an important consideration for kite flying. An open field, park or beach free from any power lines or towers is absolutely essential. Avoiding crowded areas where kites can be a hazard to other visitors is also a very important consideration especially if you are kite fighting or trying out new types of kites that you may not be familiar with controlling. A kite that crashes to the ground can be dangerous to anyone watching or in the general area so always keep a close eye on your surroundings before putting your kite into the air.