Making A 48 Sq. Ft. Fluted Sled

Showing Kite Construction and Basic Bear Dropping

May 9, 2013


Having been basically out of kites for quite a few years as I pursued archery and railroading, when I got back into it last fall, I found myself with a primary lifting kite that was 20 years old and needed replacing. As I started planning, it was really like starting over. I had to find my old tools, some of which I'd forgotten even existed, and remember the various tricks that were second nature when I was building 20 or 30 kites a year. Since I am still running Treadle On, the antique sewing machine email list, I decided to share my new kite making adventure with the group, even though their emphasis is on vintage treadle machines and I would be using a relatively modern machine for this project. As I go, I'll document in both narrative and pix for them, so if some of the entries read like email posts, it's because they were.


Note: In total, this project took 8 days of work, and with pictorial and narrative explanation, ended up making for a large page presentation... 27 pages in total when PDF'ed, with 57 pictures! Hopefully, you'll stick with it and enjoy it. Quite a few folks followed along as I did the work and had positive things to say about the project.




The Captain Makes a Kite


Warning! This is going to be the first installment of another of my periodic somewhat off topic (though less so than some) and overly long and rambling project write ups. I somehow always find that there are a few folks who enjoy them and those who don't know where the delete key is. I'm not sure at this point whether I'll do a companion web presentation or not. We'll see how things develop.

It's been quite awhile since I had a real sewing project. I actually got organized to sew a quilt last year but after getting the fabric, I just never got started. Partly this is lack of ambition and partly physical problems in treadling due to arthritis. Ah, well. I considered leading another mystery quilt project this spring, but Ann's and my health problems got in the way. However, I now find myself actually having to engage in a rather major sewing project, which is not in a normally Treadle On oriented area either subject or equipment wise.

Last fall we had a spell of good weather and I got back into kite flying and particularly bear dropping at local parks. Great fun, but I found that: 1. the local winds are not usually as strong as those at the coast beaches where I used to fly a lot and 2. my old power lifting kite that got the Rainbear Skydive Corps bears aloft is now over 20 years old and after thousands of hours in the air, is showing it. The solution is a new power kite larger than the old one but made of the same weight of fabric. Since it has been a lot of years since I last made a kite, this is turning into a fair sized and interesting project and I thought that some folks might enjoy following along.

I'll begin with a warning that this project will involve fabric we would not normally use with our machines and… EEK! HORRORS! the use of my old electric kite sewing machine, which I wisely kept carefully stashed away for the last dozen of more years. Last year, Jan Sabin picked it up and overhauled it for me, so it was in good operating condition. This machine is a Pfaff 1222 with built in walking foot, a nearly vital feature for sewing slippery rip stop nylon kite fabric.



My old lifting kites are a design known as the fluted sled. This kite was developed in stages starting with a lady in England, then modified by a lady in Australia, and finally developed for enlargement and more practical assembly by myself. In the large size that I was responsible for, it was a very practical kite for instrument and camera support. The fact that it was a simply marvelous platform for teddy bear skydiving corps was, of course, purely coincidental. :^) I taught this design and variations of it at West Coast kite festivals and conferences for a number of years back in the 90's. (It is covered in great detail in "The Rainbear Skydive Corps Training Manual, Mark I", which is available from Treadle On Publications.)

The unique feature of the design is the holes on the front panel which allow air pressure to expand the open tubes on the back. The difference in the air pressure between the front and back panels provides additional power and lift surface and also causes the air in the tube to be expelled out the open rear end, creating a bit of a rocket effect which which helps keep the kite flying at a high string angle. Note that both front and back panels are level, not shaped like an airplane wing. This kite is often confused with the shaped parafoil kite, which it is not. The exceptionally large lateral surface area provided by the large keels and the side walls of the tubes keeps the kite extremely steady.

So.. the design was rather pre-determined, a bigger fluted sled. The original model was a 14 sq. ft. kite. I experimented with a variety of other sizes and proportions, and ended up with a 5' x 6' 30 sq. ft. version which became my standard and that of a number of other teddy skydive corps. Since the idea was basically irresistible, I also tried some larger versions, including a 63 sq. footer and a 120 sq. footer. These proved large enough (powerful enough) to be dangerous (I was advised not to build the 120 for safety reasons!) and basically too much for practical bear dropping in typical beach winds.

For the current effort, based on the fact of normally lighter winds here in town, I decided on a 6' x 8' model, or 48 sq. ft., built with the same 3/4 oz. sail finished rip stop nylon as my old 30' kite.


Picture of a Fluted Sled Kite

Materials and Tools

Getting material turned out to be a problem. Many fabric stores sell 3/4 oz. ripstop nylon, but it has been treated to make it very soft and slinky, for use in garments such as down coats and such. It's miserable to sew and doesn't make as good a kite as 3/4 oz. sailmaker's spinnaker cloth, which has a different coating that makes it stiff and smooth. Way back when I was making kites, Ann had a commercial account with a company that handled the kinds of upholstery fabrics she uses, but also the special nylon sail/kite fabric I used. I was able to buy roll ends and seconds on Ann's commercial account and only paid a dollar or two per yard. That company is no longer there as the industry has gone through major changes since those days. Now my fabric costs $12 a yard and this kite will take about 200 yards of fabric! Plus, I can't even find a source for the fabric locally. The only sources seemed to be the internet.

Well, I was giving the matter some thought as I drove home in frustration after the last place I thought might have it didn't, when I recalled that we were more or less friends/working acquaintances with a local sail maker back in the day. I drove to their loft and sure enough, the now owner (son of the founder) was there and remembered me as soon as I opened the door. I told him what I was doing and what I needed and his response was, "Let's go downstairs and look." Downstairs in a sail loft is big, and there was an under-ceiling shelf full of roll ends left over from making light air sails. He pulled several rolls out and handed them to me till I said to stop, "I don't want to mortgage the house!" "Nah," he replied, "I'm giving it to you. It'd sit here forever." So I came home with plenty of fabric in several colors.

Last week I had made masonite templates for the keels for this kite. Sunday I had spread out some fabric and marked a set of keels. I also dug out my old sailcloth sewing machine and got it organized and adjusted right. (Set for a heavier bonded polyester thread than usual.) I then had to dig out old kite making tools… Tony Bar, special nylon fabric hot cutter, spring set pinpoint soldering iron for seam tacking and various other clever and handy specialized tools. I couldn't find my wooden hand iron for putting creases in the fabric so had to make a new one of those, but was then ready to get underway.

I put in a good working session yesterday and I now have all four keels cut and ready to hem. The back and front panels consist of six pieces, which I hope to get cut tomorrow and/or the next day. It feels real good to be solidly into a constructive project. Note: For pix of fluted sled kites and info on the Rainbear Skydive Corps, see:

Rainbear Skydive Corps Main Page

There is also material on the fluted sled on the plans pages of the Kite Plan Base, a huge collection of kite designs on the internet in pdf format. I wasn't able to make this a live link, but it should work if you cut and past it:


And here are some pix of the work so far:



Pfaff 1222... It's sitting on a piece of plastic in the opening of the power stand for my Pfaff 130, a superb Singer 31-20 clone that is my main quilting machine.



I bought this machine used about 1990. It was just about the most favored machine for kite making at that time. It's a great machine in general, but it's big claim to fame is that it has a walking foot built in that can be engaged or disengaged. Very unusual at that time. It also offered three step zig zag, again, not real common then, but extremely useful for nylon kite applique.



This is the three piece masonite template for laying out and cutting the kite's keels, laying on a width of orange 3/4 oz. ripstop nylon kite material. The template includes the hem areas.


Closeup of part of the template, showing the 3/4" hems. The separte triangular piece will in turn be the template for reinforcing layers on the points of the keels.


Some kite making tools: 3' 4' 5' and 6' steel rulers, tape measure, Tony Bar, scissors, wooden iron, heat cutter, fine point soldering iron for cutting applique, needle point soldering iron for heat tacking seams, spar saw


Needless to say, I don't heat cut nylon on Ann's upholstery cutting table. This is a masonite top made to fit my 6' folding table. I do all kinds of hobby and sewing work on that table and now that I'm back to kites again, I just slip this top under the fabric on Ann's table and do my heat cutting on it, using only one side so I still have a good side for other work when needed.



May 10, 2013

Thanks to everyone who sent messages saying how much they enjoyed the kite project piece and were looking forward to following it. Encouraging!

Since Treadle On Publications actually contributes to Treadle On, I guess I can throw a plug in here for "The Rainbear Skydive Corps Training Manual". This is available for $10 in PDF from TO Pubs. It isn't so much a book as a collection of my notes and instructions. It covers the fluted sled kite design in great detail since it was based on my class teaching instructions. It also covers making parachutes, parachute packs, bear dropping mechanisms, a lot of philosophy of kite flying and "The Pre-History of Bears, Kites and Men", the story of how bears came to learn to fly and parachute in very ancient times when bears and men lived together and also why they left the Earth, having achieved space flight with their powerful sun kites, leaving us with only cloth teddy bears to remember them by. (I once performed this story for an audience of over 20,000 people at the world's largest kite festival. They believed it and you can't prove it isn't so!)

With all the diagrams in the book, you would be able to follow what I'm doing better, plus the dimensions for the standard 14' flute are there. It's not too hard a kite to build in that size and is a terrific flyer.



OK… This morning's work and problems have come to a stopping point for lunch… and also because my foot won't let me stand any longer. Here's how things went…

I spread out my back fabric, bright orange, and laid out the pattern. This is the back that will make the air pressure tubes. It's in three panels, each of which is itself in three sections or cells. The scaled up plan called for each section to consist of three 13.5" tubes, which would be 40.5", but an additional 1.5" is needed for seams, total 42". The fabric was "nominally" 42" but actually measured 41.25" :^( OK, I can handle that, the tube design just changed to call for 13.25". This means using the absolute full width of the fabric roll. While not as pronounced as cotton fabrics, ripstop nylon does have selvage. I'd prefer not to use the selvage, but since it will end up in the seams, I'm going ahead.

I have a very hard time keeping numbers and plan concepts in my mind these days, and, I guess somewhat hilariously, I came upstairs to brag to Ann that I'd cut out the back, "Boy, am I making progress." Actually, I'd only cut out one of the three necessary panels. It was just so darn large (almost 4' x 8') I didn't think further. So, back to the basement to cut out two more. This is going to be a BIG kite. I'm starting to wonder if I'm going overboard again. I mentioned that I had built and used a 63' version. I also built a 120' version; we flew that a couple of times but it was basically not practical unless you were just trying to win a powerful kite contest. (I actually received letters and posts from around the world asking me not to build that one. Folks were worried for my safety.)

OK, with backs cut and laid away, time for front panels. Uh, oh! My numbers problem bit me again. The plan was for black front panels (the ones with the circle holes in them) with orange back panels, which the sun would shine through, providing a nice black with orange polka dots contrast. Problem was, I didn't have that much black. I was given several colors, but not black. I had one 3 yard piece of black I had purchased last fall. The front panels need to be 24" wide and this piece of fabric was 60", so no way to get the width necessary for three tubes, only two. I spent some time consulting with Ann… Have a contrast panel? Stop work and order some more black? Change the color plan? One thing I did not care for on my old kite was that the body was light blue and the back yellow. With a powerful sun shining through, there isn't enough contrast. However, one color I do have plenty of presently is a rich royal blue. We laid some of the orange on it and I think it will be fine, so the front panels will now be blue and the back orange. This kind of kills my idea of calling the kite "Pumpkin Patch", but that's relatively minor compared to getting on with the work.

If my foot quiets down, I'll cut the fronts this afternoon, if not, tomorrow morning. Once these major pieces are cut, all that's left are some reinforcement pieces for the keel points and strips to make spar tubes from. Then the sewing can start. One of the reasons I'm pushing on this is that I waited for a couple of months for an opening on Ann's cutting table. I have a couple more days, then I'll be holding up Windrose's work. Once all these big pieces are cut and I'm down to actually sewing I have my own work area.


4 PM

Got home from lunch at 2:30 and got right to work cutting the three front panel pieces and laying the seams out on them. That went very smoothly. It always amazes me how doing an operation the first time will take you an hour and half, the second time 40 minutes and then it comes together and you're turning them out in half an hour. A little serendipity set in here, too. The blue fabric, like the orange, was only 41.25" wide and my front panels demanded 25 1/2" each, so, again, lots of wastage at the side, 16" actually. However, the major pieces still not done are the four spar tubes, which I can easily cut from these blue edge strips, which will make a nice contrast with the orange back.

Today's Pix:



Surprise! or "Ooops!" Fabric is 3/4" narrower than pattern calls for. Good thing I didn't plan a larger kite!


Tony Bar in use laying out 3/4" seam on fabric edge. A Tony Bar is simply a metal or wood piece 1/2" x 3/4" that you can use to easily draw 1/2" or 3/4" seam lines on material without having to measure each time.


Hot cutter


When in operation, it lights the work... very nice feature.


Use a steel guide and you get very clean cuts that will never fray.


Here's a top panel laid out, getting seam lines drawn all round and the actual non-seam width divided into three parts. Those dividing lines will be seam lines to join the front and back panels.

After discovering I did not have enough black for the front panels, we considered options and decided to keep going, substituting the blue for the black.




Here is a front panel laid on a back panel. You can see the seam lines on the front panel. When these are matched with the seam lines on the larger back panel and sewn, the result will be that the back humps into three tubes. A row of holes will be cut in the front panel before sewing, to allow air into the tubes to inflate them.




May 11, 2013


Evicted! It's a good thing I finished laying out and cutting all the big pieces yesterday afternoon. This morning Windrose needed their table. So, I am now set up in the garage to finish making the smaller masonite template pieces, cutting those pieces out of the fabric, and cutting the holes in the front panels. Have to say, the light in my shop is sooooo much better than Ann's. I had the whole garage/shop/furnace-railroad room rewired and lit two years ago. It's like being in an operating room now.

I got the small triangular templates made and cut out the small nylon keel spine reinforcement pieces with them. The remaining big job for today will be to cut out all the holes in the front panel. The template is made for that, so it's just a matter of doing it. I haven't laid them out exactly yet, but it's going to be about 70 holes.


Took a lovely break to visit with Catherine Eith, who was bringing my folding handcrank table back home (Catherine and I have many machines that alternate homes for periods of time)(seethis table on the Treadle On site at: ) I think I will use this table to set my Pfaff kite machine up out in the garage where I'm working now.

Getting back to the day's work, it turned out that the kite won't have 70 holes, it will have 108, not uniformly spaced… and therein lies a tale.

It takes opportunistic planning and a special nature to be truly cruel and evil (ask Voldemort!). I found a rather nasty flaw in my fabric, a slub or set of pulled threads. One solution was to heat melt it down, another was to arrange the holes such that they "ate" that piece of fabric. I chose the latter. Thus, I ended up with a set of 9 holes at the top of the panel that are more widely spaced than the 27 other holes in the panel. Of course, for symetry, I'll make the other two panels match. Now, being very knowledgeable about human nature, I know that sooner or later, in fact fairly often, someone at a kite fly will inquire as to why the spacing of the holes is different. I shall simply look at them and ask, "How much math and physics have you had?" That will normally move them on. If not, I can follow up with, "You can see that the axis point of the keels is not centered on the lateral surface of the kite. The hole arrangement balances the barographitic pressures in the air cells so the kite will fly at the right angle."

Mwahh, haaa haaa haaa! I love this sort of thing. People used to ask me if my muzzle loading rifles I built were any good for hunting. I'd reply that they used to be, but since the invention of cartridges they haven't been worth a damn.


I moved out to my shop, working on a folding table. I got the templates for the reinforcements of the keel points and for the holes in the front panels cut.



My plan/measurements came out pretty well. Here I've calculated and marked on the blue front panel the point that should be the axis of the kite, i.e. where the bridal lines will fasten. I've set one of the cut out orange keels over the front panel and, hurray!, the points match up where they are supposed to, in fact nearly perfect allowing for folding the hems on the orange keel in.


However, there is always a fly in the ointment. This fabric flaw fell between the spacing of the holes. As commented on above, I changed the spacing so that it ended up in the middle of a hole. Goodbye flaw! Incidentally, all tese marks are in white chalk and will rub off/disappear as the kite gets used.




Cutting the holes with the template... cut move, cut move, cut move, 108 times.



1/3 of a kite. This is not sewn, I've just folded the edges of the larger orange back panel under so I could see what the kite is going to look like.


I got the holes cut in all three panels this afternoon. Here you see 2/3 of a kite. The remaining third won't fit on the table. Note the three rows of wider spaced holes at the front. They'll serve to balance the barographitic pressure in the air cells...




Tomorrow I'll start sewing pieces together.

Dick Wightman
(Captain Dick)





Well, actually, I forgot that a lot of hemming has to be done before the pieces can be sewn together...

Went down to a shop covered with blue circles :^) Spent some time playing with sewing setups. Had planned to sew on the Pfaff as shown in earlier photos, set up in a big machine power stand in the laundry area. However, the light and space there were not encouraging and Catherine Eith had brought home my old folding sewing machine table so I set that up at the end of the table in the shop and it turned out to work very well.

The job for the day was to hem all the pieces… back and front panels get hemmed on the leading and trailing edges but not on the sides, keels get hemmed on the two hanging edges but not on the top edge and the small keel point reinforcement pieces get hemmed all around.

Things started off great and I was going to town when all of a sudden the tension went really screwy. It took me a very frustrated half hour to remember that I had had this problem 20 years ago, too. I have several types of Pfaff machines and for some strange reason, even though their bobbins will interchange, they aren't "right". In this case I had one of the "almost correct" bobbins in and it sewed well until the bobbin was half empty… then, no more. Once I figured this out again and changed to the completely correct bobbin for the 1222 all was well.

By lunch time, I had done all the hemming except the reinforcements. After lunch I hemmed them and then installed them on the keep points.

I did discover one slightly major foul up at the end. Frustrating but not fatal. Rip stop nylon has a right and wrong side, not terribly obviously, but there. One side has slightly brighter color than the other, actually more just shinier. I tried to keep the keels oriented so that there would be two bright sides facing outward on each side of the kite. Somehow, I blew it and cut one keel incorrectly, then hemmed it on the wrong side as well since I was going by the color but hadn't realized I'd cut it wrong. So, as cut and sewn, the kite would have one of the interior keels with the "right side" facing incorrectly and be hemmed to the wrong side. I considered the morning's work that would be involved in cutting and hemming a new keel and the fabric it would take vs. the fact that you actually have to study the fabric to find the color difference and I decided that at 300 or 450 feet in the air, it really isn't going to matter.

Here's today's pix:



The results of yesterday's work... Anyone need blue circles?


Here's how I finally got set up in the garage. The machine bed is level with the table, there is a separate table to the side to hold what I'm sewing and plenty of feedout surface when I get to the long seams.



This is a heat tacker... really just a soldering iron with a needle point and a protective spring. You just jab through several layers of nylon and the resulting melt hole locks them better than pins.


Here is one of the smaller reinforcement pieces tacked in place but not yet sewn. The seam you see is simply the hemming of the piece.

Here is a closeup of the piece sewn on, showing both the hem seam and the attachment seam and two tack holes.




Here you get a good idea of the reinforcement... a large triangle on what will be the outside side of the keel (under the orange) and a smaller one on the inside. This will spread the strain from the bridle attachement.



Tomorrow I'll cut strips to make spar tubes from and actually begin some assembly. That will start with the center section of the kite (which would actually be a usable 16 sq. ft. kite all by itself). Then an additional section will be added at each side. I'm thinking that whole process will probably take two days.




May 13, 2013


A tough day. To say that things didn't go exactly as planned would be understatement. First, I ended up spending a lot more time on making spar tubes than I had thought I would, then the final result came out a bit smaller than I really wanted. It will still work, just not as much seam allowance as I would have liked.

Handling the huge amount of extremely slippery nylon material became something of a nightmare. I really should have had a second person as a fabric facilitator. In spite of this, I did carry through, using weights to control the fabric. I got four spar tubes finished, one panel of the kite sewn into cells, including sewing the keel into the side, then sewed the spar tube on that unit. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the fabric difficulties and my own limited attention span are producing a workable but very sloppy result. My seams are crooked, wandering around as the pressure of huge amounts of loose slippery fabric pull them, plus, way too late to do anything about it, I discovered that I had sewn a hem onto the wrong side of one of the back panels. Like with the incorrectly sewn hem of the one keel, I'm just gonna call it crab grass and learn to love it. It won't hurt function, just constitutes a disappointment as I find the project much more difficult for me than it was 20 years ago. Such is life….

I never did get an afternoon session in as Ann took me off for 143 errands in three hours, leaving me exhausted. (OK, it was a few less than that, but who's counting?) However, out of that trip I did manage a stop at Lowe's, where I picked up 8 four foot 3/8" dowels. Among my old kite stuff I found some aluminum 3/8" inside diameter joiners, so I now have at least a wood set of 8' spars. They should work OK, as the spars on this kite, being rigidly held by the keels, do not take any significant bending stress. Still, I'll likely eventually replace them with fiberglass or carbon.

Here are today's pix:



I used a blue scrap to make a short sample spar tube. It looks fine, but by the time I was sewing them onto thekite, I wished they had a wider hem.


This piece of material is the side cutoff from the blue I cut the front panels out of. It's 16" wide. Since it was part of that front panel cut, it was already the correct 97.5" length. I wanted the tube to be double folded and based on my test tube, I cut 5 inch strips. Obviously, I needed one more strip, which I cut from a second piece like this. If I were doing it again, I'd cut two 6" strips from each of the leftovers so I could make the tubes just a hair wider.


Here's a spar tube, a 5" strip folded double and hemmed. The spar from my old kite fits it in spite of my concern, but I'd have liked to have another 1/4" beyond that seam for sewing it to the kite.


Next step is probably the most difficult. Sewing the front panel to the back panel where the drawn seam lines are in the middle and not visible to the sewer. I have lined them up as best I can and placed long steel rulers on them to hold them in place, then hot tacked them down the length. Then, unfortunately, the whole thing has to be moved over to the sewing machine, bunched up in your lap and fed through, all without messing up the alignment or sewing loose fabric underneath into the seam! In the picture above, the line on the right has been done and the fabric laid out again to tack the second seam.


Both seams done. Now you can see how the back piece humps up to form the air tubes on the kite.


Here I have added the keel to the outside of this unit, then stitched a spar tube to that edge. Now you can see two of the air tubes. The next step will be to sew the center seams of the middle unit so that it looks just like the photo to the left. Then its edge will be joined to this unit, with a keel between them and finally a spar tube will be added to that edge. That's a tricky job, as you are joining five layers of slippery nylon at once, then sewing the spar tube onto the resulting hem. If I can get that much done tomorrow, I'll consider it a good day.




May 14-2013

Very productive morning! I did a lot of thinking about fabric control and kept things in hand much better today. I clamped a board to the side of the outfeed table to keep the slithery fabric from going over and moved the second table in behind as to hold the fabric as it came into the machine. Then I moved the stool off to the side so the fabric was feeding straighter. All of this helped, though it is still a horrible job to sew. I figured it out and by the time I get everything assembled, at the final steps I'll be handling 170 sq. ft. of fabric.

I got the inside seams sewn on the remaining two panels, then added in three more keels and two spar tubes. This gave me the two outside panels with keels done. Tomorrow I'll add in the center panel and the two inside spar tubes.. I'm going to have Ann help control the fabric on that.

The finish work after that will be adding reinforced connection points to the keels to fasten the bridles to and tie strips to lock the spars in.

Today's pix:



Yesterday the material was very hard to keep on the table and when it slid off it pulled the fabric out of alignment. Here I've clamped a side board to the table.


The feed in was also a problem, so here I've moved the second table into alignment with the needle. Still a hassle, but better. I now have to sew sitting at the side of the machine instead of centered, but it's a big improvement.


Sewing center seams on remaining panels.


Completing hem/keel edges.




May 15, 2013

Another good day! I was unable to enlist the anticipated fabric handling person, but I did dig into forgotten storage boxes and found my old "quilt roll" clips. With those and heavy use of Ann's clamps, I managed pretty well. (The hot tacking system simply wasn't a strong enough bond for the volume/weight of fabric being moved around.)

Yesterday I got the two outside kite sections assembled, with keels. Today I joined the center section to them, essentially putting the whole kite together for the first time. Of course, I had to take it outside and spread it out immediately :^) Once that was done, I added the remaining two spar tubes. All that leaves is a bunch of small pieces for attaching lines and holding the spars in the tubes.

I didn't want to get into the small pieces with what was left of my work sesssion, so I undertook to make a kite a bag. I wanted a finished bag that was close to 18" in circumference and 9' long. This would be a lot of fabric to waste if cut new, but I had a lot of scraps. I had one blue scrap 8' x 11". I cut various pieces of orange scrap into pieces 9" by whatever length they could provide and joined them until I had an orange strip 8' x 9" to go with the blue strip. I sewed those together to provide an 8' x 20" piece. I then cut and joined another orange piece 20" x 16" and added that to the top of the existing strip, giving me a piece a little more than 9' to sew into a kite bag that would be 18" in circumference after seam allowances.

Tomorrow should see the kite finished and ready to fly.

Here are today's pix:


Whole kite in roll clips and side clamps


front of kite


Back of kite. Good view of inflatable air cells


Kite bag in front of kite. When the spars are in the kite, it rolls up surprisingly compactly and will fit in the bag nicely.




May 16, 2013

It's done! Not without a hiccup, but done. All I had to do today was sew a reinforcement tape to each keel point and sew spar ties at the end of each spar tube. I was going along great and had done all the reinforcements and all but three of the ties, when oops! Jammed machine, snarls under the feed dogs… you know the drill. I'd been going at a great pace but those last three ties, ten minutes work, took me about 45 minutes by the time I disassembled the feed system, lubed the bobbin and hook, etc. Once I did all that, everything was fine. Can't blame the machine, it's been doing yeoman service.

Once the sewing was done I heat cut and attached four 30' bridle lines and propped the kite in the garage door to roughly adjust them. Then we went to lunch and the daily errand run, by which time some afternoon wind was up and we were off to the park!

We went to Golden Gardens, which has become a somewhat problematic place to fly as trees have encroached on the air movement, making initial launch sometimes difficult. However, if you can get launched and get above tree height, you get into clean air from over the Puget Sound waters.
I had a few false starts as I did some adjusting to the bridles, but did get launched and once into good air, whee... straight up to 300 feet! The higher air was actually a bit more than I designed for, probably 12 mph plus rather the 7 to 9 mph I usually encounter at my regular flight park, Magnuson. The kite line was absolutely taught, just barely beginning to vibrate to a note. I put the bear dropper on the split line and hooked up Amelia Bearheart, my most experienced upper-medium weight bear. When I pulled on the raising line, she went all the way up with zero line sag. This kite has more than enough power to launch my heaviest bears in reasonable winds.

Ameilia's drop was a bit chancy. If I had been able to judge the upper winds better I'd have put my anchor stakes at the eastern edge of the grass and all the way back to the road. Poor Amelia came down at the edge of the trees and suffered that ever present problem of parachuting… how do I get down?

Here are the day's pix in two batches: Finishing the Kite and First Flight…


Finishig the Kite



Braided nylon tape ridal fastening point sewn to keel reinforcement with nylon webbing


Wooden spars, hole in end for tieing in, aluminum joiner to get the 8' needed


Sewing on the spar ties



Kite propped against garage door to put the bridles on. This is probably the best picture I got for showing just how big this thing is.



From behind


Kite rolled up in its bridles ready to put in sack and go flying. This is one of the huge beauties of this design... when you get to the field, there is no kite assembly. You hold the end of the bridles and let the kite unroll and you are ready to fly!


First Flight and Bear Dropping

Note: The bear dropping portion of this display includes photos from other flights to better show the basic operation of an RSC drop.

There is a lovely little bit of marsh/wetland at the end of the park field. You can see how it opens up to allow winds from Puget Sound, visible at top, to enter the park field.




Once the new kite is unrolled, you let it catch the wind, but you can't let it fly yet because you don't know just how it's going to behave.

Here I'm letting the wind hold the kite while I watch how it behaves. (Of course, I'm also trying to hang onto it as it tries to drag me across the field!) It's not wanting to fly level so I'm tweaking bridle lines to level it out. Once you get it flying right, you don't have to do this again.




OK, it's settled down and I'm getting it to stand level in the wind... time to try flying...


As you may have noted from the previous pix, the line is already fully extended. It's anchored to a pair of steel stakes 300 feet back. You don't try to run to launch a kite like this. You kind of prop it up against the wind and keep tension on the bridles as you step back to the point where they join... Then you stop and let the wind have the kite...


And the wind does its thing. If there are no trees or buildings around, the kite will usually just go staright up, pivoting from the anchor stake. Here, because of lots of wind interference, you have to help and coax a bit to get it up to tree level...


Here I've just gotten it started on its major rise and let go of the bridles. Up, up and away!


Straight up to 300'



Here's a telephoto shot of the kite aloft. Note how the wider spaced holes at the top enable the barographitic pressure to equalize and keep it stable... :^)

Sharp eyes will note that the bridle tweaking isn't over yet. The right side keel is too far outboard.



That 500 lb. test kite line is taut like a cable and Amelia Bearheart is ready to go up and jump! The line system is a triangle fastened to two stakes with pulleys. A third pulley is up close to the kite. You pull on the off side of the triangle and the bear and release mechanism go up. The release mechanism is triggered when it hits the upper pulley and the bear comes down. The parachute's pull cord is fastened to the release mechanism. The the falling bear hits the end of the line, the pack is opened deploying the chute... hopefully...



Oops! Well, that's one of the perils of parachuting. The chute opened but the parachutist landed in the trees. The tired and somewhat overweight old Captain was just barely able to jump high enough to get ahold of the that dangling blue belt tie and pull her out of the tree.



Folks have asked if the kite has a name. Looking at the pix above, the "orangeness" of the kite becomes obvious. The blue doesn't really register as much. Yes, it has a name: The Chudley Cannon. The significance will be clear to fans of the Harry Potter books... Ron Weasley's favorite Quiddich team's color.

Well, there you have it, an 8 day adventure in kite building. Problems were encountered and overcome and in the end, we have a terrific kite and it had a fantastic initial flight.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Captain Dick