Introduction: How to Build a Chinese Dragon Caterpiller Kite

I searched many places on the internet for Chinese Dragon (Caterpiller) Kite Designs. I found one on the net and it didn't have any images or anything, and I had to figure out a bunch of the process myself. So I figured I would document and take pictures and let you guys know how I did it.

Step 1: Decisions Decisions

First thing first, you are going to want to make a game plan. You need to decide how many cells there will be to your kite. The amount of cells determine how long your kite will be.

(For this kite I decided to use 20 sections.)

This will be the deciding factor on how much materials you need. This is also a good time to decided the color scheme for the kite.

(We decided on Orange Green and Yellow.)

Step 2: Materials and Tools

For this size kite you will need:

1. 1/4" Dowel Rods, 45 full length

2. Styrofoam plates, 18 -25

3. Braided Dacron 100lb test Kite string, 1 roll 500 ft

4. Acrylic Paints

5. Paint brushes of various sizes

6. Feathers, Tinsel, or Streamers

7. Hot glue gun and plenty of glue sticks

8. Scissors

9. Exacto Knife

Step 3: Building the Cells

Before you start, preheat the glue gun. I found that using the low heat setting was easier to work with on styrofoam. The high heat would melt through the plate.

First thing you need to do is cut the dowel rods for the vertical and
horizontal supports. The vertical supports should be the full diameter of the cell and extend 2 inches at the top. The horizontal supports should also be the full diameter of the cell and extend 30" to each side. It will take 2 dowel rods for the horizontal supports. To cut the dowel rods, take an exacto knife and score the dowel rod where you want to cut it and grip it on both side of the score line a snap it.

(For my build the cells where 9 inches wide and each vertical support was 11 inches long, and the horizontal supports were 39 inches long.)

To build the cells you need to mark each cell, on the concave side (the side you put food on), at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o-clock. Place the vertical support across the cell. Place the bottom of the vertical support on the bottom of the cell, and glue it at the 6 and 12 o-clock marks. Next place each of the the horizontal support across the cell and glue in place at the 3 and 9 o-clock marks on the cell. Then glue the horizontal supports together to strengthen the supports. Then glue them to the vertical support.

(I placed the glued my horizontal supports together before I glued them to the cell, but this can be done either way. If you do it this way make sure that the ends of both the left and the right horizontal support match up to the edges of the cell.)

Next you paint or have someone else paint each of the cells to your specified color scheme.

(I got my group of royal rangers to do this for me because this was going to be their kite.)

Step 4: Building the Head

This is all about your creative ability.

The head of the kite is the main decoration. The size and weight does not matter to much as the other cells is what creates the lift of the kite. Be creative and be sure to reinforce the head with some dowel rods. Also make sure your Horizontal and Vertical supports are at the same position as your cells. They only need to be the size of the head. Then poke holes at the same 3 points the other cells attach to the string.

(I used many different styrofoam plates to create the head of our kite. And I also used the dowel rods to reinforce the head.)

Step 5: Balancing the Cells

Preheat your glue gun again.

After the paint has dried it is now time to balance the cells and add your feathers, tensel, or streamers to the outriggers. The easiest way to balance the cells is to hold up the cell by the top of the vertical support and find which side it leans to. The cell should be parallel to the ground if it is balanced. This is trial and error, each side should have a minimum of 3 feathers glued onto the outriggers and to balance the cells you just simply add feathers to the end that is lighter until the cell is balanced.

(I glued 3 feathers together one of each color before I glued them to the outriggers. I also checked the balance before I put any feathers on and made figured out how many extra feathers I needed by the lean of the outriggers. If it leaned at a 45 - 15 degree angle I added 2 feathers, and at a 15 - 5 degree angle I added 1 feather. This worked out well. I had also connected the string to the cells before I balanced them but found it to be to much of a hassle to work with. It would have been much easier to do before attaching the strings.)

Step 6: Measure and Attaching the String

You will need 3 lengths of string. Each length of the string should be 1 1/2 times the size of the cell multiplied by the amount of cells plus 3ft (36"). Or you could make it 2 times the size of the cell. Example : 1.5 x 9" x 18 + 36" = 279"

For each length of string a mark should be made every 1 1/2 or 2 times the size of the cell ,depending on which formula you use. This is for cell spacing. Example: 1.5 x 9" = 13.5" for each mark.

Preheat the glue gun.

At each mark you will attach the string to the outriggers with a larks head knot. To make a larks head knot you make a loop, then pull the 2 strings on the other side of your fingers through the loop and then pass the outrigger through the 2 loops you created and pull tight. When attaching the strings attach one string at a time and do not move the knot all the way up the outrigger to the cell, you want to have room to work. I found keeping the string at the end of the outrigger helped while attaching the string. The first larks head knot is a bit different, you tie the end of the string to make a loop and then you pull the string through the loop and put the outrigger through the loop created and pull tight. Here is a website showing the larks head knot in this form.

After all the knots have been attached you will now slid them all the way into the cells, adjust each knot to the mark, and place some glue on each knot.

To attach the head, pass the string through the holes and tie a box knot to each of the supports at the final marks on the strings.

Next you will make the bridle. To do this you place the head on the ground, on a flat surface, facing you. Hold the end of the horizontal strings together and make sure they are even. Next pull the top string of the kite up until the top of head is off the ground and is at about 15 degrees of an angle to the floor. Then tie all the strings together with a Loop Knot.

Last thing to do is to tie your flying line onto the bridle with a larks head knot.

Step 7: Flying the Kite W/ Video.

It helps to have a couple extra pairs of hands to help stretch out the kite and hold it up in the air.

Dragon caterpiller kite:

squeeze more awesome out of summer contest

Participated in the
squeeze more awesome out of summer contest

Great Outdoors Contest

Participated in the
Great Outdoors Contest

Glue Contest

Participated in the
Glue Contest