The Feather Kite: an Experiment in Progress.





Introduction: The Feather Kite: an Experiment in Progress.

About: The answer is lasers, now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Find me on Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX

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.

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.

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

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

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...

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.



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    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?

    1 reply

    YES! I had the same problem with that thing. couldn't figure out how to get enough lift.

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

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

    1 reply

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

    You're right, though - beautiful things.

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

    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.

    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

    1 reply

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

    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?

    2 replies

    You can be anything you want, old bean.

    omg stereotypical british slang roflmao

    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.

    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.

    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

    4 replies

    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)

    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

    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.

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