The bat-winged triangular box kite is so dependable a flyer it's been used to tow strings across chasms at the

start of bridge-construction. That floating hoop kite you see at the right has a printed-plastic covering

W H O STARTED the whole thing? Legend has it that the first kite-flyer was Archytas, a Greek philosopher and friend of Plato, 400 years before the birth of Christ. Others credit the ancient Chinese general Hao Sin with the idea. However, kites were in existence long before either of these men lived. The earliest travelers to Malaya reported that natives flew large leaves and worshipped them as gods. There's evidence, too, that the Egyptians flew kites centuries before Cleopatra. Kites have not been merely playthings, but

Go fly a kite

These four novel designs make the most of March winds. There's also a variation on the box kite that you can fly from a "control" line


have served man in practical ways. Polynesians still use them for fishing. Ancient Chinese flew them as signaling devices during wartime. A kite laid the first line of the bridge that now spans Niagara's gorge, and until recently the U.S. Weather Bureau sent kites high into the upper air to record temperature, wind velocity and humidity. America's most famous kite-flier, Ben Franklin, put one up in the midst of a thunderstorm in 1792 to prove that lightning was electricity. Most of us, though, simply accept the principles of what makes a kite fly and just enjoy the thrill of a high flyer's tug on the line. And the thrill's double when you've made the kite yourself. Materials are easy to come by. For the sticks, a strong, light wood with straight grain is best; it can be soft pine, spruce, basswood or redwood. Sticks 3/8 x 3/16 in. are suitable for most kites except very large ones that require heavier frames. The covering material is usually paper. Ordinary brown wrapping paper is fine. Lightweight cloth, such as silk or nylon, is less likely to tear, if you don't mind the extra cost. Some plastics work well—an old shower curtain makes a strong, colorful covering. Plastic should be fastened to the framework with masking or freezer tape. Paper is attached by spreading glue on the top surface of the sticks and laying the framework onto the paper. Smooth out face-down on a flat surface. Cut the paper at least 1/2 in. larger than the kite's outline on all sides. Apply glue to this projection and lap it back around the frame or outline string. string is needed String is needed both for flying and building the kite. For flight lines, the larger the kite, the stronger the string must be. Mason's chalk line is fine. Rigid lashing of the frame is essential. After crossing the sticks at the desired angle lash diagonally both ways, forming an X. Many turns of thread do a better job than a few turns of heavier cord.

The fish wind vane (top) is a pole kite — popular in the Orient. The mouth is formed by whip-stitching cloth to a reed hoop. The ring, tied into the bridle string, lets the fish show which way the wind is blowing

four kite designs, continued

The butterfly kite has a flat stick frame with outlining string tied around notched ends. Its bow strings run between points A-A and B-B and are tied at the center. The dotted lines show how bridle strings are attached. The flight string is tied at point C, which should be 15 to 19 in. from the kite's face


A common misconception about kiteflying is that you need a strong wind. Actually, kites fly best in a light, steady breeze of from 8 to 15 mph. Launching a kite is easier if you have help, as in the photo at the top of page 1541. The helper, downwind about 50 to 100 ft. from the stringholder, raises the kite until he feels it being lifted by the wind. A light upward toss should launch it without your having to dash away with the string. A well-balanced kite will climb steadily as string is gradually paid out. If a kite won't rise in a good breeze, it's probably too heavy for its surface area. A kite usually flies best if the bridle is adjusted so the kite's at an angle of 30 to 40 deg. from horizontal. Most kites need a tail for balance. The only one of the designs shown here that will fly its best without, one is the box kite. An effective tail can be made of light material; it's not the weight but the bulk and surface that give the balance. Accordion-pleated sheets of typing paper, cinched at their center to make them fan out, work very well. So do scraps of plastic or cloth. A good tail may be made of pieces about 1-1/2 in. wide, tied to cord about every 5 or 6 in. The stronger the wind, the more tail is needed to balance the kite. Tails are attached at the kite's lowest point. In the case of the butterfly kite, a second string is required to center a tail between the two points. The floating hoop kite differs from the others

Form the hoop by lapping the ends of a 1/4-in.-wide bamboo strip 77 in. long. At the center (top) drill one of four socket holes for pointed cross sticks. These will bow when they are inserted

Lash the sticks at the center and cut a circle from plastic curtain material, big enough so the edge can be folded around the hoop (right). Apply tape at four cross-stick points and at midpoints to stretch the cover


four kite designs, continued

presented in that its outline is formed by bamboo. Since you'll need a strip 77 in. long, you'll probably have to join two shorter pieces by tapering, lapping and gluing the ends; let the glue set under clamping pressure. Also glue (and lash) the 3-in. lap that brings the strip into a hoop. After stretching the plastic covering by taping at eight equidistant points, tape all around the frame. The Chinese Fish kite is a wind sock, so it needs no body frame. In the Orient, such kites are carried in holiday processions at the top of long poles. Cut the two pieces of the body from cloth; draw the simple markings with crayons and set the color by placing the cloth between two layers of paper and pressing with a warm iron. Lay the two pieces together, right side in. Cut fins of plastic cloth and lay them between the two body pieces. Stitch along the top and bottom, leaving the ends open. Turn right-sideout and stitch the basket-reed hoop inside the large end. Attach the bridle at top and bottom seams and tie it to a bone ring large enough to turn freely on the pole you've selected. Since the framework for the box kite can't be lashed, use a good grade of wood glue in the assembly. Fasten paper around the two end triangles, leaving the center section open. Then, glue the cross stick at right angles and lash the joints where it crosses the body sticks. Plans for the maneuverable version of the box kite call for the glued joints to be reinforced with staples and pins because this frame will be subjected to unusual movement in flight. Once you learn how to twist a double reel to pivot the rudder right or left, you can send the kite plummeting all over the sky or swooping in lazy figure-eights against the clouds. The fact that it can be guided (plus its load-carrying abilities) means you can even put it to practical use. It'll carry a small camera aloft for aerial photography—or a sheaf of circulars for your next church bazaar, to be released when a separate trigger line is tugged from the ground. use rubber cement For the covering, use the heaviest grade of model-airplane tissue, or light cloth such as handkerchief silk or cambric. Rubber cement is best for attaching since it won't shrink or pull anything out of shape. The rudder is covered on one side only. Its control horn is fastened to the bottom stick with glue and small airplane 1544

After covering the kite's top and bottom (leaving center open), form bat-wings' outline with string and cover it separately. Attach the bridle at point A. The diagram below shows how the rudder version is controlled by lines from the ground

bolts, and is set back from the leading edge to permit free pivot action. When launching the kite, let it gain some altitude before you attempt to control its flight. The two flight strings are tied to opposite ends of the control horn and run through screw eyes turned into the bottom edge of the lower crossbar which is nailed and glued to the second Vframe. The opposite ends of these lines are tacked to the core disks of the reel spools. When the lines are taut, merely twisting this double reel swings the rudder right or left. The kite can also be flown from a single string. You don't even have to tie down the rudder—just remove its control lines and let it swing free. Designer Roy Clough test-flew this model in New Hampshire, to let us know how high the kite would climb on a single string. He'd paid out 1000 ft. of line when the string broke. "Far as I know," he says, "it's still going."

The maneuverable version of the triangular box kite is by Roy L. Clough, Jr. The frame dimensions differ from those given for the conventional type, but the main feature of the maneuverable version's design is the fish-tail rudder at the rear


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful