Instructables

Some Kiting Basics

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A bunch of useful kite-stuff I've written, gathered into one place.
 
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Step 1: Single-Line Kites: a basic glossary.


Kite flying is a popular hobby with many faces: traditional family pass-time; art form; traditional craft; science; extreme sport. Unfortunately, people new to kiting sometimes get confused by the great variety of technical terms that can be used. This article provides kite flyers with simple definitions of the main terms used when flying kites that have just one line, and with generally-accepted names for the main kinds of kite.

Parts of a Kite

Line: the string you hold when the kite is in the air.

Reel or Winder: The object that stores the flying line, similar in some ways to a fishing reel. They can be simple sticks with the flying line wrapped around, plastic handles with a pair of projecting forks to wrap the line around (the most common form), or winders that look a lot like a fishing reel. Whatever form they take, it is vital that you make sure that the end of the flying line is actually tied to the winder, or you will get to the end of your flying line and simply lose the kite to the wind.

Sail: the fabric or paper that makes up the horizontal (or nearly-horizontal) parts of the kite. Sails provide lift.

Leading Edge: The front edge of the kite sail, that hits the wind first.

Trailing Edge: The back edge of the sail.

Frame: poles, rods or sticks that hold the kite in shape. Parts of the frame have many different names, but the most common are spar (a rod that goes roughly side-to-side; longeron or spine (a rod that goes front-to-back); spreader (a rod that holds other rods apart); riser (small rod that lifts part of the kite out of the flat plane).

Bridle: the loop or loops of string that join the line to the rest of the kite. On some soft kites, the bridle can look like the complex lines of a parachute. Simple bridles control the angle the kite flies at, complex bridles also hold the kite in a certain shape. Some kites do not have bridles at all.

Tail: used to keep kites stable, pointing the right way, or just for decoration, tails are long, narrow and flexible.

Drogue or Basket: bucket or bowl-shaped objects on the end of a line behind the kite, they are sometimes used instead of a tail as they do not need to be so long.

Dihedral: a bend or curve in the kite that helps keep the kite stable.

Keel: A vertical piece of sail material beneath the kite like the keel of a boat. Keels help keep the kite stable, and provide a place to attach the flying line without a bridle.

Line Laundry: objects fastened to the flying line to look nice in the air. They could be flags, extra tails, inflatable shapes or baskets. Line laundry has no lift, and the kite itself is often just there to hold up the laundry.

Things the Kite Does

Pull: Simply, how hard the kite pulls against its anchor or the person holding it. Technically, pull is a combination of the upwards lift of the kite and the force down-wind due to the kite�??�?�¢�?�¢?�?�¬�?�¢?�?�¢s drag.

Pitch: The motion a kite makes when its nose moves up or down. The pitch of a kite can change the way it flies. A kite with too much pitch will not lift as well as it might, a kite with too little pitch will stall and nose-dive out of the sky.

Roll: A 'wiggle' along the length of the kite where the right or left sides move up and down. A slight roll will make a kite move to the side - that is how two-line kites work.

Yaw: A twisting motion made by the flat kite, where the nose of the kite turns left or right.

Put your hand flat on the table. Pretend it is a kite in the air. If you lift your fingers or the heel of your hand off the table, that is pitch. If you twist your hand flat on the table, that is yaw, and if you twist your wrist so that just your thumb or little finger lift off the table, that is roll.

Wind Words

Wind Shadow: The area behind an obstruction (such as trees or buildings) where the wind is not blowing. The wind shadow can be much longer than the height of the obstruction.

Turbulence: 'Mixed up' wind, with flows in more than one direction (sometimes even down!).

Beaufort Scale: A way of measuring wind speed.

Kinds of Kite

There are only eight basic forms of kite, although there are many variations on these themes:

Flat: Flat kites are just that, flat. The frame holds the sail completely flat, and often surrounds the edge of the sail. Popular flat kites are the three stick or barn door kite and the dragon or serpent, which incorporates a long tail as wide as the kite.

Bowed: Bowed kites have frames that cross the kite, left to right and top to bottom, but do not surround the sail. The cross-wise parts of the frame are bent or curved upwards. The bend can be built into the frame, or held in using cords that pull the frame into a curve.

Box or Cellular: Three-dimensional kites which often look like flying boxes. They are often made of a repeating shape or cell. The two most common shapes of cellular kite are rectangular boxes and tetrahedrons.

Delta: An extremely popular and useful kite, triangular in shape (hence the name). Deltas have a single spreader, a spine down the middle, and rods long the leading (front) edges of the kite. They can fly in a wide range of winds, and lend themselves to a range of variations on the theme, such as seagull or swallow shapes. Most sport stunt kites are based on the delta form.

Sled: Sled kites have little or no frame. Most kites (those mentioned above) have a dihedral that goes up at the sides, but sled kites are higher in the middle. The pressure of the wind holds the kite open, so no frame is required across the kite, and many do not have frames running up and down the kite. They can be folded up very small, so are often sold as 'Pocket Kites'. They are easy to make and fly and do not break if they crash, so they make good starter kites for children.

Foil: Foils are similar to sleds, but lack any sort of frame. They are dual skin kites - air enters between the skins at the front of the kite and inflates the kite. Careful design means that the kite then takes on a shape and profile very similar to a wing. This generates a lot more lift than a usual single-skinned kite. Most foil kites have bridles with lots of 'legs', similar to the shroud lines of a parachute. Foils are also known as parafoils and flowforms, especially if they have been designed to resemble other objects. Famous flowforms include the giant kites of New Zealander Peter Lynn. He has produced trilobites, octopi and geckos the size of trucks and houses.

Rotor: Rotor kites are rare. They do not gain lift from sails. Instead, they spin to gain lift. Typically, they will use the wind to make a horizontal rotor to spin (vaguely like the blade of an old manual lawnmower). This spin generates lift by a process known as the Magnus Effect. Some rotor kites have helicopter-style rotors and fly in the same way as a gyrocopter. Rotor kites fly better in high winds, but are often unstable.

Compound: The constant effort to create new and interesting kites often results in compund kites, that share aspects of the other seven groups. Typically compound kites include winged boxes (a box kite with delta wings) and various combinations of sled and framed kite to make interesting shapes, such as the Stingray by Adrian Conn (a delta kite with a centre section made of a parafoil).

Of course, it's not really as simple as that - there are kites with 2 lines, 4 lines or (rarely) 3 lines instead of just one, but they are still variations on the themes above.

Stunt Kites: Kites that can be steered around the sky for entertainment purposes. The majority have two lines (pull the left line to turn left, the right to turn right), but some have four lines. The second two lines allow the kite to be stopped in the air, spun on the spot or even to be flown backwards.

Power Kites: Stunt kites that are flown to experience the sheer power of the wind. Typically having two lines, they are usually foil-type kites that exploit wing-type aerodynamics to generate a lot of lift and/or drag.

Traction Kites: Large foil-type kites that are usually designed to have more drag that lift. This means they can pull the user at great speed in a buggy, on a land-board (an off-road skateboard) or on a snowbaord. There is also a whole sub-set of traction kites designed for use by surfers. These kites usually have inflatable sections so that they can be recovered and launched from the water's surface, and have a distinctive tightly-curved arch profile. Traction kites always have four or three lines to allow for braking.

Although surf kites are, technically, "foil" kites, they are different enough that some people class them as a separate, ninth form, the LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable).
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squirrelMLM2 years ago
I second the "Don't hold the line with your bare hand" rule... I learned the hard way... While flying a delta about 200 feet in the air I felt the line stretching to the point of snapping, and, not wanting to lose my $50 kite, I grabbed the string and started reeling in to relieve the pressure on the knot. A HUGE wind came on and the friction slit a rather nasty cut on my finger... ouch...
ilpug2 years ago
i havent made kites much, but i keep having these crazy ideas of getting a small sail kite and getting pulled around on rollerblades
Kiteman (author)  ilpug2 years ago
That's not a crazy idea, I've seen it done.

There are a few projects on that kind of idea (such as http://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-TapeBambooDrop-Cloth-WingKite/ ) - have a search, see which you like, give it a go.

ilpug Kiteman2 years ago
i also want to try your sand skates idea with the plastic soda bottles.
Devrimm3 years ago

I am still a child younger han my son.
I love them very much.

Thank you Kiteman ! ! !

Devrimm
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Do you use a single string or multi string kite for your fighting? If single, how do you control it reliably?
Kiteman (author)  DELETED_freewheeler7 years ago
The coated lines, those are the man-killers, aren't they?
tjd97 Kiteman6 years ago
were did you get these pics from
Manners and spell checking cost nothing =]...

And Kiteman - I've seen enough videos on YouTube with "Photos from Google" at the end for me to think there's not much need to worry.
Kiteman (author)  tjd976 years ago
A mix of places - some I took, some from the BBC version of my article, around. Why? Do I need to change them re: copyright?
Chowmix123 years ago
After reading this outstanding I'ble, i flew a Patang (Indian Fighter kite) approximately 700 feet in the air! Keep the brilliance coming Kiteman! 5/5!
Kiteman (author)  Chowmix123 years ago
Well done!
Couldn't have done it without you!
kevinhannan4 years ago
 Hey Kiteman,

Top Kudos for this brilliant 'ible...


...I look forward to more "Things to do/use your children for..." !

They're incredibly handy tools to have around the house - a bit noisy though ;-)

Kev
mrdepo964 years ago
 great ible! i just got a simple kite for $5.50 (its a big piece of paper with a tail and a frame), unfortunately i don't have any string...
zoltzerino5 years ago
At Solfest ( a music festival near the Solway firth) there are often some of those massive inflating kites (was it air form? I can't be bothered scrolling up) that have to be at least 50m in length, I've seen a panda, squid, S.C.U.B.A. diver, shark (or fish), and various other 'normal' kites. Kiteman, you should be pleased with yourself, you have reignited my love of kites (I made your pocket sized one (I used a dog poo bag)). I'm planning on making a full sized kit over the 'summer', any recommendations for a first time builder?
Kiteman (author)  zoltzerino5 years ago
Personally, I like making simple, paper and plastic kites.

However, were I to make the step into "proper" kites that I could dismantle, I migght go for a genki or a rokkaku.

A simple start, though, would be some kind of sled.
Fair enough. The rokkaku looks nice, I'd go with that. I dug out my old delta today, it had a missing pole, so I dug some more ( like going back in time through my stuff) and found a plastic pole suitable to replace the fibregalss. After whittling and cutting it to size I popped it into place, I'm just off to test it now. Will report back.
Derin5 years ago
I was expecting this :)
Kiteman (author)  Derin5 years ago
It's been published for a while...
GEEK15 years ago
great
ey nice :)
chip1236 years ago
I've just bought a 4 line traction kite (i'm now £115 poorer) and I was wandering if there were any land-boards that you could recommend?
Kiteman (author)  chip1236 years ago
£115? What did you get?

See that photo in step 6? My local beaches are all too soft for a land-board, and even for most buggies (unless they've got really fat wheels).

You should really consider where you plan to fly before you choose what to buy.

You should also picture yourself on the board - are you cruising or doing complex stunts?

Then get yourself a copy of a magazine like Powerkite (in the UK) and check the adverts for shops near you to try boards out, discuss options with the owners (some boards let you mix and match deck, trucks and wheels), before you take the plunge. If there are no stores nearby, look for clubs, or just turn up at your local flying spot and pester people. If you're buying online, phone them up to talk about what you want (if they can't help over the phone, try a different website).

If they are available in your area, get a couple of lessons as well, make sure you can go forwards, backwards and turn relatively competently before you go doing your thing solo.

I hope you enjoy your new hobby.
chip123 Kiteman5 years ago
Ok. Thanks. I got an ozone imp quattro 2.5m -- my instructor recommended it.
i was going to get that exact same one but i got the hq beamer III 3.0
ooh nice Instructable...though you should see us guys in India...we have a kite festival where we have fierce kite fighting competitions all day...it is great fun..in fact in one of our state "Gujarat" it is a public holiday every Jan 14 and virtually everyone flies kites on that day...it is a great place to be here in India if you are a kite fighting enthusiast
Kiteman (author)  violentmagician6 years ago
Oh! If you're there next January (yes, I know India is a big place), you could take photos and do a slideshow!
Yeah will do that... i am avid kite fighter myself and make it a point of being there every year!
Gavabc1236 years ago
wooooooo go new zealand (and kites)
Rishnai6 years ago
I have a kite that is about two feet high and two and a half feet long, shaped like a scale model of an old ship, with sails, a hull, and all that jazz. I never thought it would fly, but it actually flys really well in all sorts of wind (honest!). What sort of kite would this be considered?
Kiteman (author)  Rishnai6 years ago
Oh, I like those (though I don't own one).

I suppose you could call it a compound kite, since it's a set of "flat" kites on a single framework, but I don't think it really fits any of the classes. That's the trouble with trying to classify creativity - there's always somebody ready to work outside the box.
Rishnai6 years ago
One time I was at the beach in California and, being stupid and never having dealt with sea breezes before, I decided to anchor my small delta kite to my belt and proceeded to launch it. The sea breeze caught it and dragged us both across the sand (with my feet firmly planted in front of me, trying to slow me down) for about a hundred yards until I got in the wind shadow of the lifeguard's station and the kite fell out of the air. I learned a life lesson that day: don't be a dumbass.
peguiono6 years ago
after reading this i was inspired :] I went to my local hobby shop and bought a 72 inch wingspan kite. i took it to the park today and flew it for like 2 hours. My longest time with it up was about 20 mins. It was hard because the wind was changing directions all the time. but it was a lot of fun and kiting (is that how you say it?) has gone up to number 3 on my favorite hobby list :]
Kiteman (author)  peguiono6 years ago
Good man (if you want the kite to stay up longer, try tuning it, altering the bridle point or the tail).
tjd976 years ago
hi if any of you want to see kites check out http://homepage.ntlworld.com/canleo/kitecalendar/
for festivals and
http://www.peterbindon.com/Kites/Kites.htm
for kites and more websites
cooblades7 years ago
Great instructable I enjoyed reading it. When I was in Honolulu trying to fly my cheap $5 stunt kite and there was no steady wind on the south shore and I had about 20 meters of line out it was the most disappointing thing to watch the kite lift off, then float back down. It wasn't until I made it to the north shore where the winds were very strong did I have a chance to fly it.
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Kiteman (author)  DELETED_freewheeler7 years ago
I've watched people fly those little fighter kites. They're incredible. Relax the tension to spin, pull when it's flying the right way. My eldest son has a Malaysian fighter that flies in a similar way, but he hasn't mastered it yet.
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