Introduction: The Feather Kite: an Experiment in Progress.

Picture of The Feather Kite: an Experiment in Progress.

Something different from me - an unfinished Instructable.

I thought it would be interesting to document an original project as it went along, adding and editing steps as I go, maybe including suggestions or comments from the community.

There is a chance that this project will finish up in a merely decorative wall-hanging, instead of a flyable kite, but that's a risk I'll have to take.

Step 1: The Background.

Picture of The Background.

Earlier this week, I was walking across the common with my sons when we chanced upon an ex-duck. All that was left was a large pile of feathers and down, presumably after an encounter with a fox.

We collected the feathers with no real purpose in mind, just to "do something with them".

As I rifled through the feathers, laying them out to see what we had, I noticed that we had some matching pairs - feathers from opposite sides of the bird.

The pairs looked ... like ... wings ... sails ... I ought to make a kite!

Step 2: First Thoughts.

Picture of First Thoughts.

I laid the matching pairs of feathers out like a row of wings, parallel to each other, but that didn't look right. More to the point, they would have needed extra framing to hold them together. That would mean more weight on relatively small sails, plus I decided (for no real reason) to make the kite as much "feather" as possible.

I turned to the web for inspiration, and found a single page of a single website, in Italian, with some grainy photos of what we could call "native American kites". As far as know, there is no tradition of kite-flying in pre-colonial America, and the Babelfish translation made little sense, so I assume it was somebody like me, inspired by feathers. Unfortunately, his kites used lots of feathers, fastened to the frameworks I wanted to avoid.

Except for one.

It was made of a handful of feathers, arranged in a rough X shape. I couldn't see how the feathers were fastened together, but it was enough. I laid out my feathers in the pattern you see below, and I thought ... yes...

Step 3: The Problem

Picture of The Problem

How was I going to fasten the feathers together?

The arrangement I had, they barely touched each other. Several were tip-to-tip. But I had banned myself from adding a frame...

Cocktail sticks!

Snipping the tip off each feather, I found I could push a cocktail stick in to join pairs of feathers, and the join was loose enough to allow adjustment, yet stiff enough to manage without glue. Serendipity!

Step 4: Binding

Picture of Binding

I had the feathers joined tip-to tip, and they still looked right. Now I needed something to bind the feathers in their X pattern in an equally-forgiving way.

A quick scan around the shed turned up elastic bands, left over from my forcemeter Instructable. Perfect.

A few quick snips, a few knots, and she's done.

Step 5: Next...

Picture of Next...

So, that's as far as I've got.

I've tried dropping the kite in a horizontal position, and it stayed level, but spun about a vertical axis. A quick twist of the feathers cured that, just as I hoped.

I need to bridle it up. I'd really like to avoid needing a tail, so I may need to use a four-leg bridle, anchored to each point where the feathers cross. That will be a pig to balance.

Anyhoo, that's where she stands. As they say; watch this space.


Valvulin (author)2013-07-15

y como sigue le proceso..

Kiteman (author)Valvulin2013-07-16

Debo admitir que no he hecho nada con esta idea. Tengo tantos proyectos en mi lista "para hacer", algunos simplemente no se hacen.

stringstretcher (author)2011-04-15

I may have posted this link before, but here is it again. Johan Hallin's feather kites are just beautiful!

Kiteman (author)stringstretcher2011-04-15

That link is "404", but this isn't;

You're right, though - beautiful things.

Kiteman (author)2009-07-29

Oh... It's in the shed somewhere - I hope it's not mashed...

turner22 (author)2008-11-14

in 'the boy mechanic' there are instructions on how to make a glider out of 4 feathers but it never worked for me. Anybody know what im talking about?

Bramael (author)2008-09-20

How about instead of the good old glue gun using something more minimal in weight like an epoxy resin. Would be super strong and light. It may be a bit overkill, but then again why not? Just use in a vented area maybe with a respirator mask. I love this idea and the way everyone can be included with your experiment, thanks. Now I know what to do with the feathers at our local bird sanctuary wet lands.

casey321b (author)2008-09-06

I would hot glue but that might add to much weight... not rubber band. maybe run some thread through the memberaine on the inside and it would stay completely by sewing it

Kiteman (author)casey321b2008-09-06

The rubber-band was supposed to be a temporary, easily-adjustable joint. Thanks, though - you reminded me that I need to finish this!

awoodcarver (author)2007-08-24

Ok you are Daedalus and # 1 or 2 son is going to be Icarus and Lapyx idea ....since you beat me to the syringe tater shooter can I be Minos?

Kiteman (author)awoodcarver2007-08-25

You can be anything you want, old bean.

corey_caffeine (author)Kiteman2008-08-10

omg stereotypical british slang roflmao

thunk (author)2007-11-07

If I was making a bridle for this I would start with the one-legged design, as used on some Eddy kites. You may have to juggle with the shape of the whole think to get the for/aft balance right. I would also add a couple of diagonal bracing threads across the central square to help stop everything waggling about under load.

Woodenbikes (author)2007-07-29

Good idea on posting in process of making. It's a way for you to bring us along on the experiment instead of just reporting the final results (presumably of the thing that finally works). There is a sense of suspense about will it work, what will it need to work. I may try that sometime. I wonder if Daedalus started by making feather kites.

crapflinger (author)2007-07-25

nice! i know two things about making kits...jack...and squat! i know you said you'd want to avoid making a tail...but it could probably done with some of the smaller...inner feathers...not quite the down but the feathers that are almost the down feathers (those really light ones that just flutter about in the air when they fall off the bird?) could use some sturdy thread to "sew" a tail...maybe a really thin needle would be enough to thread through the shaft of each feather...making like a feather chain?....even if it doesn't fly...that would be nifty if this thing just ends up being wall art

Kiteman (author)crapflinger2007-07-25

Thanks, CF (you don't mind if I abbreviate you, do you?), I hadn't thought of threading feathers like that - I thought that, if I had to resort to a tail, I'd have to use a bunch of feathers on a length of thread as a drogue. This is why I opened this up to suggestions before it was finished! (That, and I couldn't work out how to do a collaboration)

crapflinger (author)Kiteman2007-07-26

CF is fine....the drogue would be nifty as're obviously gonna test anything and everything you think might both would probably be as nifty visually maybe you should talk to there's a but load of feathers in the toolbox at their house

Kiteman (author)crapflinger2007-07-26

Huh? There's screwdrivers and spanners in mine. And Canida's toolbox is several thousand miles from my shed. It would be nice to see other people having a go a feather-kites, though. We could start a trend.

crapflinger (author)Kiteman2007-07-26

just saying...she's probably got enough dead birds to make a kite boarding rig out of feathers

Kiteman (author)crapflinger2007-07-27

Oh, that sounds better; "Canida keeps her toolbox full of dead birds" LMAO!

royalestel (author)2007-07-25

No glue? Well, I suppose the elastic would hold it together as long as the cocktail sticks don't snap. I say, this is a nifty idear.

Kiteman (author)royalestel2007-07-26

The elastic is temporary - when the rain holds off long enough for a test-flight, I'll be trying a variety of slightly different positions and angles. When I find the "right" set-up, I intend to replace the bands with thread lashings, locked with a drop of CA glue. I don't think the cocktail sticks will snap, as most of the load should be taken by the quills, and they held up a whole duck at high speed (although "high" was still slightly slower than a fox...)

SacTownSue (author)2007-07-25

I like your design better than these. Less stem might help I don't know.

Page 6:

Is this the one you were looking at?
Looks like he was inspired and dedicating it to Native Americans?

Kiteman (author)SacTownSue2007-07-25

That's the very page - I found it, then lost it

Re: finished 'ibles - I know what you mean, but I wanted to if this would work, (and if I could get away with it, spend some of the Brownie points I've earned so far...)

The rubber bands aren't supposed to be the final fixings, just temporary to allow adjustment - there are no manuals for making this sort of kite. I was planning on using normal polycotton sewing thread and lashing knots to bind the final position - it's my material of choice for small kites - the feathers will snap before the thread gives up.

The "cup" thing you mention is what kiters call a dihedral - the bend or curve that provides stability to a single-line kite. The feathers are curved (see the first photo in step 4) and I'm exploiting that fact. I may twist the lower feathers into a more vertical pane to be stabilisers like the vertical tail of an aeroplane.

SacTownSue (author)2007-07-25

> single website, in Italian, with some grainy photos of what we could call "native American kites" I can't remember meeting a native American that spoke Italian. American, Spanish, Sioux but Italian? I was going to say something similar to the two previous posts. I've never had any luck flying a kite. I know less about kites than crapflinger. But I think the feathers would all need to be cupped, oriented the same side, etc. The general layout looks good tho. I was thinking about lashing the feathers together with thin wire, brass. Sewing Thread would probably work. Maybe heavy duty. These days common multi-purpose sewing thread is mostly synthetic. Fishing line. Probably lighter than wood. Trim off the pointy end tips of the feather to capture more air. Feathers are fairly stiff but you might be able to interweave them. I doubt you need to go through the feather to secure it. No need for a needle. I read somewhere, probably Eric's Ible on How to Write a Great Instructable, that Ible's are supposed to be finished, spell check, fotos and all, because I was thinking it might be useful for some of my projects to write what I know and get help along the way from the general population.

jtobako (author)2007-07-25

I've done airplanes with feathers-flight feathers for the wings and tail feather for the body and tail. Never had much luck with any kind of kite, though : )

About This Instructable




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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