Introduction: Matchbox Scale Microkite - Just a Square Inch

Kites are cool. They have a long, long history, employ ancient crafts, and feature in many cultures around the world, yet can be made with modern materials to match the most extreme of sports.

A branch of the hobby that is often neglected is the microkite - kites as small as your hand, or even smaller.

The size and fragility of microkites means they often cannot be flown outdoors, but they can be flown in unusual locations, such as train corridors, aeroplane aisles or anywhere else you have room to swing a cat.

I decided to go the whole hog, and made a kite that is only a square inch in size.

This is not the world's smallest kite, but it's close, and it is a tiny fraction of the size of the kites you may find being sold in the street or on Ebay under the title of "World's Smallest Kite". They are usually about 4 inches long by 3.5 inches wide, more than seven times the area of the one I'm making here.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

This microkite is made from aluminium-coated Mylar film, usually encountered as shiny gift-wrap or, in this case, the inner wrapper of a bar of posh chocolate.

You also need:
  • Thin sewing thread, embroidery "floss" or other twisted line.
  • Scotch tape
  • Sharp knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Cutting mat
  • Ceramic or glass cutting surface. I used a spare wall tile.
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A note on thread:

The thread you use needs to be as light as possible.  If you can, untwist the the thread and separate it into two or more thinner strands.  Cotton sewing threads tend to come apart when untwisted, but synthetic threads are often made with longer fibres.  If you have some spare Dacron kite line, that untwists very well.

Step 2: Creases

Unlike the vast majority of "flat" kites, this one has no actual spars or longerons.

Instead, the aerodynamic shape is maintained by creasing the Mylar.

Start by creasing the Mylar. You need a really straight, sharp crease, so run your thumbnail along it a few times, pressing hard.

Measure a line 19mm long, at right angles to the crease. This line marks where the "cross spar" crease will be.

You then need to mark the spine of the kite along the crease.  The whole kite is 35mm long, with 7mm in front of the line, and 28mm behind.

By my calculations, being 35mm long, and 38mm wide makes this kite exactly one square inch.

(The lines drawn in my photos are horrible and thick because I used a dry-wipe pen to show the outline. I don't normally draw the outline, usually going straight for the cutting.)

Step 3: Cutting

Time to cut the kite out.

Press down hard with the metal ruler, and cut the kite out. You need to be very, very careful to stop the Mylar slipping while you cut through the two layers, because tiny faults are magnified by the small size.

If you marked in the various lines in step 2, it doesn't matter if they get wiped off now, because you don't need them again.

Step 4: The Second Crease

To hold the proper shape, you need a second crease.

Left-to-right, point-to-point across the kite, you need to fold it the same way as the original spine crease.  If you lay the kite down on the cutting mat, all the creases should form ridges, not troughs.

Remember that the crease needs to be sharp.

Step 5: Scotch Tape.

The tail and flying line are held on with tape.

The best choice is Scotch brand tape, because it is clear, colourless, and stickier than most similar tapes.

Tear off a piece of the tape and stick it to the tile.

With your sharp knife, cut across the tape in both directions to make rectangular pieces about 2mm x 5mm.

They can be lifted back off the tile with the tip of your knife.

Step 6: Tail.

Take a piece of your thread, about 15-20cm long, and use one of the pieces of tape to anchor it to the back of the kite, in the trough of the crease.

Be aware, this can be very fiddly.

It will probably be easiest to place the tape with the tip of your knife, laying it across the thread.  If the thread is not in the right place, a bit of gentle pressure can make persuade it to slide through the tape.

Step 7: Flying Line

The flying line gets attached immediately behind the point where the creases cross.

Use another piece of tape, but attach the line to the front of the kite, on top of the crease, with the line going towards the front of the kite.

If you're not clear, have a look at the photo and the sketch I drew (not to scale).

Step 8: Flying the Kite

As an indoor kite, you can't just hold the kite out in the breeze.  You need to wave your hand side-to-side, in a sort of horizontal figure-eight pattern.  This stops the flying line twisting up and crashing the kite.

You also need to hold your hand away from your body, to cut down on turbulence.

The second still was taken with my kite flying machine.

You can try tying the fling line to a length of garden cane, or a fast-food-joint balloon stick, to cut down turbulence even more. I used a very long straw.



Don't bother using a desk fan as a make-shift wind-tunnel, because the turbulence from the spinning blades will just set your kite spinning out of control.  Those posh Dyson fans are supposed to be less turbulent, but I've never played with one. If you do, maybe you can let me know what the results are like?

Taking a picture or video of the kite actually flying is incredibly, incredibly awkward and frustrating. All I really managed was to get was so dizzy that I fell over and landed on Conker-X.

Step 9: Storage

The title isn't a joke - this kite really does fit in a matchbox!

To stop the flying line tangling, wrap it around a small stick, such s a match or a short piece of bamboo.

You may want to lay some small scraps of tissue paper in with the kite, to stop things bouncing around and tangling lines, but otherwise you can just drop the kite in your pocket.

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You can use this method to make a larger kite, but I've never been able to get one smaller to actually fly. Smaller kites made like this are just too small to lift flying lines made of sewing thread.  You may be able to fly a smaller kite if you can source a lighter thread for the tail and flying line.

Comments

author
Stan1y made it!(author)2013-12-31

could you use mono filament fishing line for the line

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-12-31

If it is *very* fine, possibly, but I normally use unravelled thread, so fine it can break easily.

author
Atom+6 made it!(author)2013-12-30

COOL!!!!!!!:)

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-12-30

Thank you!!!!!!!

author
MechanicallyDeclined made it!(author)2013-10-21

I'm gonna miniaturize myself, and make me a hang glider!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-10-21

Oh... you could twist a tuft of cotton wool into the shape of a person, and twist its hands around the flying line...!

author
OjoeMDC made it!(author)2013-09-17

what could i use as spars

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-18

You could try the bristles from a broom.

author
GrantLevy made it!(author)2013-09-14

For a smaller kite you could try using human hair for kite line.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-15

I thought of that, but we're a short-haired family, and asking strangers for a lock of their hair is the sort of thing that lands on the front page of the Daily Mail.

author
machonurin made it!(author)2013-09-12

Wow. Shades of Bill Bigge :D

author
macrumpton made it!(author)2013-09-13

I never saw any of Bill's tiny kites in person, but I went to a workshop he did on glider kites that was loads of fun, making 8" glider kites from ultra thin sliced foam and bamboo slivers split from kebab skewers.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-14

Sounds fascinating!

author
macrumpton made it!(author)2013-09-14

It was back in the last century, so I doubt I have any photos, but maybe I can see if I can remember enough to do a tutorial.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-14

Cool!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-13

Oh, thank you!

author
hazlett made it!(author)2013-09-13

I made similar kites, years ago, and they flew quite well. I used a delta shape and only paper for the kite. So simple to make. I had one that flew overnight after I tired of holding the string and tied it to our fence !!!!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-14

You should post one!

author
OjoeMDC made it!(author)2013-09-12

or could you use a rice krispie treat bag?

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-13

Probably.

author
OjoeMDC made it!(author)2013-09-12

is there any chance you could use a 5 brand gum wrapper or too small?

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-13

If you could find something to act as spars...

author
Kasm279 made it!(author)2013-09-12

Too heavy and too flexible

author
confu made it!(author)2013-09-12

I built one in this size from 36 µ PET film and used the plastic bristles of a broom as support. Worked fine, too.
Too bad I can´t find it anywhere to take a picture.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

Like this?

author
confu made it!(author)2013-09-12

LOL
Exactly. Was wondering all the time where I got the idea from, there it is!
I´m becoming senile ;)
Did that about 2-3 years ago when I was bored at work. Fun project!
Later I attached it to my fan at home, where it had great times circling around during hot summerdays. But now it seems to have flown away, maybe it got dizzy too often.
Voted, thanks for the nice Ibles :)

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

And thank you for the vote!

author
sumers made it!(author)2013-09-12

Now this is something that I'd love to try.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

Go for it!

author
Bowtie41 made it!(author)2013-09-12

I dunno,if I had room to swing a cat,I'd rather do that,lol.Just kidding.Ours is on my lap right now,soaking up ear rubs.Nice I'ble.Good luck in the contest,You've made several fine candidates!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

Thank you.

author
sup_b made it!(author)2013-09-12

If this is a stupid question, then pls pardon the stupidity. I haven't flown a kite since my dad's arms were around me doing most of the work. Would you possibly be able to use a ceiling fan? I have 2 fans - 1 in the living room, 1 in the family room. The rooms adjoin and the entire space is open. The fans are fairly close together - 24' apart. Have any thoughts on what would happen if you stood between them & tried to fly the kite?

I voted for you too. ;)

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

I predict one of two things: either a kite on the floor, or a kite tangled around the fans!

author
sup_b made it!(author)2013-09-12

Haha. Well, they say the only dumb answer is the one you don't ask, right? That looks rly cool. I'm more into deconstructed clothes, sewing & making jewelry from recycled objects. But your mylar & matchsticks may have just given me an idea. (If anything comes of it, I will def give u a shout-out)

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

Cool.

author
OjoeMDC made it!(author)2013-09-12

I voted for you, so cool!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-12

Thank you!

author
Zaid+Bin+Talib made it!(author)2013-09-11

Dear Mr. Kiteman,
Very nice work and a great Microkite; voted for you.

Kind regards,

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-11

Thank you!

author
Zaid+Bin+Talib made it!(author)2013-09-12

Dear Mr. Kiteman,
It's my great pleasure; you are welcome.

Kind regards,

author
ASCAS made it!(author)2013-09-11

That's awesome! I can't wait to see it fly :)) You got my vote, cheers!

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-11

You can now - video added.

author
ASCAS made it!(author)2013-09-11

It's a beauty! BTW, try Japanese paper, it works for me.

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-11

Washi? That would be fun, but it would need spars, probably shaved bamboo.

author
ASCAS made it!(author)2013-09-12

Yup, exactly, washi. Shaved bamboo would do. I used a small fraction of a plastic bendy-straw for my spars.

author
iceng made it!(author)2013-09-11

A great big miniature kudos and voted for you !

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-11

Thank you!

author
ThePuzzler made it!(author)2013-09-10

This is really cool, thanks for posting it. I voted for you :)

author
Kiteman made it!(author)2013-09-11

Thank you!

author
RossTheGreat made it!(author)2013-09-10

Could u use a Pop tart wrapper

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Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
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