Instructables

Bell Tetrahedral Kite

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Alexander Graham Bell used tetrahedral kites in the early 1900s to disprove the theory that size detrimentally effected a flying machine's ability to get off the ground. This Instructable will show you how to make your own tetrahedral kite using bendable drinking straws and Tyvek. It's similar in its design to other kites shown here, but this kite uses less material and is guaranteed to get off the ground in very little wind.

The kite shown in this Instructable was awarded 2nd place in the 2009 Fly NY kite competition in NYC. Not too shabby for a first attempt at kite design! Visit Haptic Lab for more information about the project.
 
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Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
You will need the following items:

1. bendable drinking straws (a pack of 200 works great)
2. craft or floral wire cut into 3" lengths
3. small pliers for bending and cutting ties
4. transparent tape
5. sail material: about 2 yards of tyvek, tissue paper, or mylar
6. craft glue
7. thin wood dowels (4 or 5 total)

This project shouldn't cost you more than $10.

Step 2: Straw Triangles

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A tetrahedron is the simplest Platonic solid: a triangle with 4 faces. To build the individual tetrahedral cells that make up the kite, start with three straws. Flatten the long end of each straw and insert it into the short end of another straw. Make a triangle.


Step 3: Making Wings

Picture of Making Wings
Unlike other drinking straw "tetras", this kite only needs two straw-triangles per cell. By using less material, your kite will fly better and at lower wind speeds. To make a cell, simply tape two straw-triangles together. Angle the wings slightly as shown, but don't worry about making an exact 105-degree angle: the bend in the corners will flex for you.

Step 4: Making Connections

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Make the bottom of the kite first. Connect several tetra cells together by twisting 3" bits of wire. Clip the twisted ends off; you'll get poked later on if you don't. Keep connecting, making a larger triangle out of the small cells. I recommend using 3 or 4 rows as shown.
bucklipe4 years ago
One of the pictures I'm looking for is the middle picture on the last step. That shows the edge view from one axis. If we could get the 2 other axis views that would help. Also is the optimum "wing angle" 105 degrees? I found some wing fabric in the paint department of Wal Mart. It is a two layer drop cloth. It is paper on one side with a thin plastic bonded to it. The paper side will facilitate gluing. The plastic side will shed the air smoothly. It is 4X10 feet and costs $3.77. Not bad...

sounds good, but it also sounds heavy. i made mine out of a fireblanket from the camping department. the shiny metal blankets. it's actualy a polyester plastic, and paper thin. but it's also sturdy, and hotglue sticks to it like crazy

badideasrus13 days ago

mrraaaaa! nuuuuu! someone else did it first! dang you pinkdolphi! daaang you! :P

i am literaly building mine right now, out of mylar. lol. yours looks really good though

pinkdolphi made it!14 days ago

shiny mylar! Great instructions, thanks :)

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adeptzero5 months ago
i made one by following your instructions on how to do it but i used different materials.. instead of straws, i used broomsticks tied together to make a triangle so it's not collapsible and i only made four triangles.. i spent like less than a dollar not including the kite string.. very cheap but the straw is easier to do..
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articice4 years ago
why do girls like kites so much?? :^) :)
 Who doesn't like kites so much?
the kite won't care the gender of the person flying it
It might care about the age though, a four year old might drool on it
i can't think of a 4 year old who flys kites. and if it was up in the air the 4 year old wouldn't b able 2 drool on it.
If the 4 year old is carying it to the park maybe
u got me there
yeah
buckaru3 years ago
ingredient? =materials
Juananz4 years ago
Definitely: shoving a 3D environment into pictures won't help at all in understanding the design, specially if you only upload one of the finished thing. I remark it would be useful if you uploaded many more pictures from the previous step and this one...
It's not that difficult of a design. If you're actually making this, lay your first flat of half pyramids out in a triangle form. If you have a base of four half pyramids then ultimately you will need 10 half pyramids to complete the triangle. After wiring these together at the vertices that are adjacent to one another, you should end up with a "sheet" of half pyramids. Create one more of these "sheets" the same size. Once you have done that, lay one sheet on top of the other such that the upper vertices of the bottom sheet (the ones that are pointing up) are touching the bottom vertices (the ones that are flat or horizontal). You should end up with a top sheet that is slightly staggered to the left or right, but forms a level bottom with the other sheet. Wire the vertices at which the two sheets touch. Repeat as desired. Or, you could just hold your first "sheet" up to the computer screen and orient it to be the same as the photograph... "I remark" that anyone with a bit of spatial awareness and a passing mark in Geometry should be able to figure it out.
I'm not sure if shops and groceries over in Europe use plastic bags for their goods (I've heard paper is the standard), but plastic bags make great sail material as well.
kh0annguyen3 years ago
I love your design and am trying to make this kite but I agree with everyone else that these instructions/diagrams make it impossible to follow. Please upload more pics if you can.
jgeekw4 years ago
Would only tying two "legs" of nylon line to the outside of each end, then tying those two "legs" to two separate handles allow for aerial acrobatics?
emilyfis (author)  jgeekw4 years ago
Nope, this won't work as a stunt kite. (The sails have to have a constant angle to the wind if the kite is going to stay in the air)
geoper24 years ago
wow nice kite !! great project thanks
kevinhannan4 years ago
 What a super-cool project!

thanks for sharing!
cchamlin4 years ago
The word you want here is "tetrahedron", "tetrahedral" is its adjective form. And it's a pyramid with 4 triangular faces. A triangle is a 2-d area, while a pyramid is 3-d solid. sorry to nitpick, but when you're featured, you gotta get this stuff right.
emilyfis (author)  cchamlin4 years ago
tetrahedral (modifer) kite (noun)...
 Sorry, cchamlin, but she's right :-)
 Boom.  Go, Emily.
emilyfis (author) 4 years ago
hi cavalaxis- i don't have this particular kite around anymore (it sold at a charity auction)... in the next few months i will be teaching a kite-making class, so I can add photos then. in the meantime- i suggest just trying to make the kite! it really is easy once you start (i'm a hands-on learner myself). best,
cavalaxis4 years ago
Maybe a pic with red lines drawn over the top of the 3D formation, to help illustrate how to do the 4 & 8 point connection?

I'd really like to try this project for our camping trip this summer, but this step has got me all confused.
MY4 years ago
Very nice instructable.  Clear, concise, and fun.   Thank you for taking the time to post!
Juananz4 years ago
I don't get a thing about these pictures. Please upload more detailed ones.
bucklipe4 years ago
Does it seem that this Instructable is dead? Everyone has moved on...
emilyfis (author)  bucklipe4 years ago
Hey there bucklipe... I can post some more pics for you if you'd find them helpful... though it sounds like you've got it figured out. the structure of the kite is quite simple once you start assembling.
Looking forward to the three axis photos...
emilyfis (author)  bucklipe4 years ago
easy there, tiger. here's pics from another tetrahedral I finished for a boutique in Soho- it shows every angle. if you need further diagrams, check out this site: http://www.cit.gu.edu.au/~anthony/kites/tetra/ it's a great resource.

good luck!
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I didn't want to be a pest about it, but I'm going to visit the grand kids in NC. I have all the 'wings' made for a bigger kite than I tried before (somewhat of a pyramid shape and unstable) and I need to see the structure for the one you put together. Could I get a picture straight through the side please? I'm pretty sure I've got it but a picture would be fabulous for anyone just building one. Thanks for the help...
emilyfis (author)  bucklipe4 years ago
Here's a few pics of just the skeleton... the kite is collapsed in the side view.
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Thank you very bunches, you are sweet to update the post for me. My grandkids will be impressed, I'm sure. I'll show them where I got the idea...
I have put together a kite. It is somewhat unstable. Pictures from the X, Y and Z axis would help get the structure down pat. With the picture through the three sides we could see the layout. The picture on the last page with the kite laying on the sidewalk gets the view through one side. I've tried to interpret the views that are off angle but the repeating nature of the straws make it tough to get it. Thanks in advance for the pictures.
bucklipe4 years ago
I agree, we need more pictures that illustrate the structure. The pictures need to be from the top, and two other sides. It would also be good to have some description that says something like: The largest layer is made up of a grid that is 6 X 10. The next layer is 5 X 9, etc. When you have 4(?) layers you have enough...
bucklipe4 years ago
I used a low temperature hot glue gun to attach the sails. At first I used a high temp glue gun but liquid napalm oozing out and getting on your finger will deter your enthusiasm for kite assembly...
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