KITE MAKING IN GENERAL
By Leslie Hunt
Is there anyone who has not felt the desire to fly a kite and feel it tug away at its string like a living thing? The joy of kite flying is greatly increased when we make our own kites and have the satisfaction of seeing them rise gracefully on the lightest breeze, or soar swiftly to a great height with a stronger wind and cut capers in a bright blue sky.
Many boys and girls do not make their own kites for fear they will not fly, but it is just as easy to make a kite that will fly as it is to make one that will not. In fact, most of the non-fliers can be made to fly with just a few minutes thoughtful work.
If you have a kite that does not fly well, do not throw it away, but read the description of the kite most like it in this book and see whether you cannot correct its faults. If you do not already have a kite, you will be able to make any number of satisfactory fliers by following the directions in Chapters II, III, and IV.
The author has made all the kites described in this book and rated them as excellent, good, moderate, and fair fliers. Even the fair fliers may be put up in a moderate breeze without a great amount of running, and fly high enough to show their decorative character to the best advantage.
The kites rated as excellent, fly in the lightest breezes, and with a small, smooth string will climb quickly to a great height. It is impossible to say how high any of the kites will fly, as only 1,000 feet of string was used while testing them. Several of the kites have been at the end of the string pulling for more, and flying at an angle that showed them to be several hundred feet above the ground.
Sometimes it happens that a good opportunity comes to fly a kite, but there is no time for experimenting. What is needed then is a kite that is sure to fly. This book describes various types of kites that are sure to fly and that can be made with common materials and gives directions for making them. I have had such splendid results with sticks cut from the boards of orange crates that I have decided to pass the good news on to others.
We may consider kites as either high-flying or decorative. Common flat kites, bow kites, and box kites are suitable for high flights, while the figure kites are designed more for decoration. There is no object in making a high-flying kite decorative since brilliant color combinations lose much of their near-at-hand vividness when high in the air.
In making a high-flying kite, it is better to spend a little extra effort on neatness and on cutting down weight than on decorations. While it is best to keep the decorative kites as light as possible, still a little added weight for the sake of stiffness is not as objectionable as it would be in the case of the high fliers.
THE QUESTION OF SIZE
The author has made kites of all sizes; from the tiniest, made of broom straws and thin tissue paper and flown with No. 100 thread, to huge affairs flown with braided clothes-lines that were real problems to make and store. If one increases the size of a kite indefinitely, the extra stiffness needed for the large kite makes the weight greater in proportion to its size, and a point is soon reached where the weight begins to increase faster than the lifting power.
On the other hand, if one makes a kite very small, it may be too flimsy to fly well. In a word, large kites are often too heavy, and small kites too frail to give the best results. A length of 20 to 40 inches will be satisfactory. If you need more pull or lifting power, use two or more kites on the same string some distance apart.
KINDS OF KITES
Considering the kinds of kites from the way they are constructed, there are those having one plane surface, those having a surface or surfaces not in the same plane, and combinations of the two kinds.
The plane-surface kites must have a tail or suitable substitute, which does not disfigure the kite, if it is properly made. A pretty tail is as much an adornment to a kite as a pretty tail is to a bird.
Kites having surfaces not in one plane do not need tails, although tails and pennants may be attached after a little experimenting. As a rule, it is better to carry the decorations on a rigging attached to the string some distance below the kites as described in Chapter VI. Combination kites require no tails, if the plane surfaces are of equal or less area than the curved or oblique surfaces.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
Fruit crates, especially orange and lemon crates that are made of sawed boards, provide excellent material for kite sticks. The crates made of veneering are not suitable. Veneer does not show the rough surface left by the saw, and may be easily distinguished by its tendency to split and curl.
An ordinary crate has eight boards about 5 inches wide, 26 inches long and a trifle less than a quarter of an inch thick. Even if one doesn't get the two top boards there is enough material to get two dozen full-length sticks, if one uses care in cutting them out. I have found it better to cut the sticks with a knife than to use a saw. Study the direction of the grain in the board from which you are cutting the sticks, and lay a straight board along the grain and cut along the edge of the board with two or three firm strokes of the knife. T he stick may then be detached with the fingers and will require very little dressing to make it ready for use. If the sticks are first marked out with a pencil, time will be saved and disappointment may be avoided.
If quiet flying is desired, crepe paper is superior to smooth paper in spite of its extra weight. It may be had in many colors and in a large number of brilliant patterns. When one wants to make a kite that will dance or perform antics, smooth or even glazed paper seems better. For all ordinary flying, plain tissue paper is excellent.
Thin wrapping paper serves well for box kites, since considerable strain comes on the paper and thin or crepe papers would have to be reinforced. Crepe paper is difficult to paste, but thin paste and quick work will solve the difficulty. Glue is better than paste.
Liquid glue and prepared paste are preferred on account of their convenience and keeping properties, but, if neither is at hand, a thoroughly cooked flour paste may be used. The tapioca paste described in Chapter VII is a little troublesome to make, but it keeps well and has wonderful sticking qualities.
Glue is preferable for work with the sticks. It gives a stiffness to the joints that is desirable. A string dipped in rather hot paste and wrapped around the sticks where they cross will make a strong joint, although, with a little help, one can do nearly as well with string alone. If a wire is used to fasten sticks together, it will be well to shape the wire to the sticks before twisting it tight. By shaping the wire first, cutting the sticks is avoided. Some kite makers fasten their sticks together with brads. Select a brad to correspond to the size of the stick used; those obtained from cigar boxes are about the right size for the kites here described. One brad with a few turns of string will make a stronger joint than two or more brads alone.
In applying decorations, such as those cut out of paper napkins and the like, do not use too much paste. No matter if the decorations flutter a little, this fluttering usually makes them all the more attractive while in the air.
Decorate boldly. Colors that appear startling close up are greatly modified when flying. Contrasts may be kept by running a bold dark band between the colors, or by selecting the colors desired, and then using the dark color of the selection and a subdued lighter color.
For example, a blue-and-orange combination has strong contrast near at hand, but when high in the air, the colors merge toward a gray. The contrast may be revived by running a black stripe between the colors, or by using an ocher instead of a bright yellow.
Few tools are required. A good knife, with a means of keeping it sharp, a pencil, a rule, a large darning needle, and a hammer are all that are actually needed. If a small plane is handy, it will be found very useful. A thin-blade saw, such as a hack saw or coping saw may be used to slit the ends of the sticks, but if no saw of this kind may be had, the stick ends may be notched as described in the Introduction and as shown in Figure 2.
The materials other than sticks and paper that are needed are easily obtained. Some string will be needed for tying and framing, which may be the same kind as that selected for flying the kite. A tube or liquid glue, a bottle of paste with brush, a few 1/4-inch rubber bands, about 20 feet of No. 18 covered iron wire, and paper festooning makes up the list. The wire may not be needed in the kite you wish to build, and material other than festooning may be used for the tail.
Before starting to build any kite, it will be well to read the Introduction and the directions for making the Two-Stick Kite. Many small and essential details are given in the suggestions and directions just mentioned that will not be repeated in the descriptions of the other kites. Should you have trouble in getting your kite to fly, make sure you have followed the directions carefully and study the suggestions given in Chapter V.
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Last modified: August 20, 2012.