Introduction: Building a Low-cost Pointer Kite
Ceewan from Malaysia created the Pointer Kite that flies very well in very light to medium wind speeds.
This large kite typically flies at a high angle above the horizon, yet pulls very little for its size.
You too, can build your own pointer kite, using readily available natural and recycled materials, at a very low cost.
This instructable will show you how.
Here are the assembly instructions, in PDF format, of the commercial version of the Ceewan Pointer kite, for reference.
Step 1: Materials Needed
- thin plastic table cloth typically used to cover banquet and buffet tables at social events. I clean and re-use this type of table cloth to make kites. One could also use any large thin sheet of thin plastic to make this kite.
- Jerusalem artichoke stems harvested from the garden or fields where they grow wild. You could use Japanese knot-wood or other light-weight natural stems. The stresses on this type of kite are low, so anything light that flexes a bit will work.
- rubber bands to make cross-over connectors
- bamboo skewers to insert at the end of the stems to tie-off the sail
- clear sticky tape, the wider tape used to close off boxes works best but any clear tape will do
- optionally, the body of a 2 liter soda drink bottle to make a junction connector for the longest stem
- twine or fishing line
Step 2: Tools Needed
- ruler or straight edge
- utility knife to cut and square off the stem ends
- optionally a pet claw cutting tool to cut the bamboo skewers sticks; this could be done with a utility knife also
Step 3: Jerusalem Artichoke Stems
The hollow stems of the Jerusalem artichoke plant are extremely light-weight, have some flex and are surprisingly strong.
This plant can be harvested from fields where they grow, or from gardens where they are grown mainly for the root which is comestible and nutritious. Likewise, one could use Japanese knot wood stems, or any other sturdy weed stem.
Here are the stems used for a second pointer kite built in a similar fashion.
The difference between the first one, and this one, is that the dorsal stems are joined by a plastic connector as described in the next steps, to allow the long dorsal to be taken apart, rather than being one long one, made up of taped stems.
Step 5: Planning the Kite
The shape of the kite is that of mouse cursor pointer, wide at the top, and very narrow at the bottom.
Its exact dimensions are not critical, as long as it is symmetrical.
Plastic table cloth is generally 42 inches wide (107 cm).
The narrow point of the kite I made is 18 inches wide at the bottom (46cm), but you can vary this width if you want, as long as it is not too wide.
The length of the kite is 11 ft long (335 cm). This can vary a bit. One of my pointer kites has a long tapered tail that is 70 ft long, though the kite does not require a tail to fly well.
To cut the sail, fold the table cloth in half along its length and cut from the front to the rear, along a angle, to have a wide head and a narrow tail.
Step 6: Joining the Cross Arms to the Back Spine
Here is a suggested connection method for fixing the cross arms that keep the kite sail open, to the dorsal or spine of the kite.
The rubber bands are thick ones used by grocery stores to keep produce together (broccoli flowers for example) or to keep the claws of lobsters closed.
One could also use other rubber bands, elastics or even twine to secure the stems together.
Step 7: Preparing the Twine Tie-offs
Twine will be needed to be tied to the ends of every stem making up the kite skeleton. As the stems are somewhat fragile, we will prepare harder sticks that will be inserted into the stem extremities to serve as anchors for the twine.
Cut off the pointy end of a bamboo skewer and set aside. You can use a pet nail cutting tool to do this rapidly, or you can score a mark around the circumference of the skewer, and snap it off.
One could also use wooden matches, taking care to remove the sulfur end, and sharpening one end, for insertion inside the stem end.
Step 8: Preparing the Stems Ends
Cleanly cut the ends of the stems, using a utility knife to score the circumference of the stem, and snapping the excess off. One could also use a fine tooth saw if one was available, taking care not to crush the end of the hollow stem.
Wrap several layers of sticky tape around the end of the stem, near the extremity where it was cut off. This helps give strength to the end, which might otherwise split open from the stress placed on the bamboo stick placed inside.
Using the cut-off pointed end of a bamboo skewer, and insert and push it inside the end of the Jerusalem artichoke stem, leaving a bit sticking out.
This extension protruding out of the stem is used as an anchor for the twine holding the cross-members bowed, and the line at both ends of the dorsal or spine off.
Step 9: Attaching Sail to the Frame, and Bowing the Cross-member Stems.
Once the cross-members are attached to the spine using rubber bands, this rigid skeleton is then placed over the plastic sail, and it is secured to the frame using wide sticky tape.
The cross-members will have to be bowed a bit. This is where the twine comes into play.
Using your favorite knot, tie one end of the twine around the bit of bamboo skewer sticking out of the stem.
Slightly bow the cross-member stem, as shown in subsequent steps, and tie off the other end of the twine to the other bamboo skewer anchor. Cut off the excess twine.
From the first cross-member making up the front or leading edge of the kite, apply a bit more bow than for the other cross-members.
Also, there will be another line attached from the tips of the leading edge cross-member, going to the front tip of the dorsal stem extending past the start of the sail. This line, along with the leading edge cross-member, forms a triangle, to keep the leading edge stem from moving.
The rest of the sail will pull from the end of the kite, against this triangular shape, to keep the sail tight while in flight.
Step 10: Alternate Method to Attach Sail Material to Stems.
It easy to just use sticky tape to fix the plastic sail to the edges of the cross-members, just wrapping some tape over the end of the bamboo skewer anchor and back onto the other side of the sail.
Here is an alternate method, though somewhat more complicated to accomplish the same thing, that was used on a second such pointer kite. This method adds weight to the kite, but gives it a more "professional" look.
Refer to the picture.
Step 11: Front of the Kite
This picture shows the leading edge stem placed about 36 inches from the end of the dorsal or spine of the kite.
The leading edge stem is bowed using a string attached to the bamboo skewer anchors described in the prior step.
Since no Jerusalem artichoke stem is long enough to form the full length of the kite, one or more stems are taped together using sticky tape, overlapping just enough to have a stiff long dorsal rod. No stem is perfectly straight, but as long as it is not too crooked, anything will do as this kite design is very forgiving.
Step 12: Alternative Dorsal Connector
If one wants to make a two part dorsal, for ease of transporting the completed kite, a connector must be made.
Here is how to make one. Cut the top and bottom off a large 2 liter carbonated drink bottle.
Split along the side of the resulting cylinder.
Roll up tightly this cylinder into a small tube, with enough inside diameter to accommodate both ends of the stems to join.
Snug up the fit with masking tape or paper taped over the stems.
This cylinder can then be slid over the junction, providing an easy method to break the kite's dorsal in two, so that the sail can be folded in half for transportation or storage.
Step 13: Leading Edge Details
Here is a close-up of the kite's leading edge.
A rubber band connector holds the cross-stem perpendicular to the dorsal stem.
The plastic sail is wrapped around the front of this cross-stem, and taped down with sticky tape.
Next the connector is attached by a length of twine to the nose of the dorsal stem that extends in front of the kite. This is required to keep the wind pressure from pushing back the leading edge of the kite while in flight.
Step 14: Adding Cross-members to the Kite.
Now that the leading edge of the kite is bowed, and fixed to the sail, we progress down the kite by adding more cross-members using the same techniques.
These cross-members do not, unlike the leading edge cross-member, need to be secured with twine to the "nose" of the dorsal.
Only the last (the trailing edge) cross-member will need to be attached in a similar fashion with twine, to the tail extension of the dorsal.
Use progressively shorter cross-member stems as you progress toward the trailing edge of the kite.
Step 15: Completed Kite Skeleton
Here is the nearly completed kite, with one leading edge, one trailing edge and two cross-members attached to the dorsal or spine of the kite.
Using sticky tape, secure the cross-members to the plastic sail, ensuring that the cross-members are at right-angles to the dorsal.
Likewise secure the dorsal to the sail using sticky tape at several locations.
Lastly, tie the trailing edge connector to the tip of the dorsal that extends past the end of the kite, using twine.
Also tie each end of the trailing edge connectors of the last cross-member to the tip of the dorsal stem extending past the end of the kite.
In this picture, the sail was prolonged into a tail that will be cut in a tapered manner. That tail extension is not required to have a nice flying kite.
Notice that the kite is not perfectly symmetrical, but it flies nicely.
Step 16: Kite Skeleton Number 2
Here is the preparation for building the second pointer kite using similar construction techniques.
The cross-member stems will be marked and cut off to the width of the sail material prior to having their ends prepared for twine anchors.
Note a straighter skeleton by using better stems, and Japanese knot wood stems for the cross-members.
Step 17: Attaching the Dorsal to the Center Line of the Sail
The dorsal stem can be directly taped to the plastic sail.
If you elect to build a take-down version of the pointer kite using the pop bottle connector for the dorsal stems, you might want to use the following method to attach the dorsal stem to the sail.
This requires the use of some sort of sturdier tape to fix a piece of twine onto the sail, and then use the twine to attach to the stem.
This is optional, as it adds weight to the kite.
Step 18: Completed Kite Nr. 2
Here is the second pointer kite built using the same materials. Straighter stems were used in making this one.
This one incorporates a take-apart central spine, and the more complicated sail fixation method to the cross-members.
Note that this one does not have an integral tail, as the first one used a prolongation of the sail material as a long tail.
Both fly equally well.
Step 19: Anchoring the Tension Lines to the Spine.
As instructed in a prior step, you have to attach twine to each end of both the leading edge and the trailing edge cross-member stems to the tips of the dorsal that extends past the front and the back of the sail area. This both serves to keep the stems at right angles to the spine of the kite, and to keep some tension on the sail so that it is snug.
This can be done with simple knots around the bamboo skewer anchors inserted inside the tip of the dorsal stems.
For the trailing edge tension lines, an alternate method to a knot is to use a paper trombone and a stiff rubber band to keep the tension on the line coming from both ends of the trailing edge stem. This helps if you used cotton twine, that stretches when humid or wet, by keeping the tension on the sail, despite varying cotton line length.
Step 20: Ready for Flight
Here is the first pointer kite built using these materials, ready for flight.
The flying line is attached at a single point near the front of the kite, where the leading edge meets the back spine, or dorsal.
Several hundred feet of flight line is anchored at the far end, and the kite front is lifted in the light breeze and let to take off by itself.
It slowly and gradually raises by itself. More line can later be added to increase height in flight.
This kite will fly behind you at a brisk walking pace and sustain flight in the slightest of breezes.
Step 21: Up, Up and Away!
The first pointer kite, with a long extension of the sail, as a tail, takes to the air !
The table cloth part that was making up the tail was torn, and forked into two parallel tails.
It was later modified to make one single 100 ft tail.
Step 22: Two Completed Pointer Kites.
Here are additional pictures of two Ceewan Pointer kites, to give prospective builders a better idea of what they look like.
Note in the back ground, extra Jerusalem artichoke stems to make more kites!
Fall time, just before the first frosts, is the best time to harvest wild stems from the fields, as the plant has stored its nutrients in the roots and the stems are now almost dried.
Step 23: Pointer Kite Serial Number 2 in Flight
Here is the second pointer kite using natural or re-used materials, in flight.
This one does not have a tail, though a long ribbon tail is often attached to the rear tip of the dorsal.
It too, flies in very low winds.
The pointer kite does not like turbulent air, and handles thermal currents encountered in the summer with difficulty. It excels in barely perceptible winds, as are found early morning or late evenings, and during winter blue sky days.
Step 24: Ferry Flight Home
Though your pointer kite weighs very little, taking it home often presents a problem.
Unless you have built the take-down version, bringing home your kite on foot can present a problem.
First there is a large sail area to contend with, and secondly it is quite fragile versus those built with more conventional materials. Therefore the better way to take it home is to "fly it home" at the end of a tall stick. This way it will stay clear of all ground obstacles that wants to "eat" it, and to let it ride the ground wind gusts that would attempt to break its fragile structure.
As the kite flies quite happily at a brisk walking pace, the ferry flight home only requires tying the note stem to the tip of a pole and walking it home.
It is up to the builder to find a proper storage space in the garage!
Thanks to Ceewan to allow me using his wonderful kite design to adapt it to this construction method and sharing it with you.
Happy Building !
Happy flying !