In this class we will teach you how to build a kite from scratch. Building a kite can be a lot of fun and an inexpensive hobby for all ages. Kids will love learning the basic principles of flight on a summer afternoon. This class will go through how to build a kite from scratch with materials you can usually find around the house or at the local hardware store.
History of Kites
The first kites were built in China nearly 3000 years ago. China had an abundance of silk and bamboo which was perfect for building kites due to their strength and being lightweight. Kites served some very practical purposes including testing the wind, measuring distances, communication, signaling during war and of course just plain old fun.
One of the more notable stories associated with kites is when Benjamin Franklin proposed that he could prove lightning was electrifying by taking a kite out in a storm. Although it’s unknown of whether or not Franklin ever conducted this experiment, a similar experiment was conducted by Thomas-François Dalibard of France where he used an iron rod instead of a kite to extract electrical sparks from a cloud.
Kites have evolved over the decades into elaborate configurations used around the world in parades, theater and in cultural events across the Middle East and India. Building a kite is a great way to teach kids about the simple principles behind flight.
Materials Needed to Build a Kite
- 1 – Outdoor Trash Bag – You can use any type of bag you prefer for building a kite but typically outdoor bags are thicker and will hold up better in the wind.
- 2 – 1/4″ Dowels measuring at least 36″ each
- Roll of 1/2″ Masking Tape
- Spool of strong string
- Old t-shirt: We will use the t-shirt for the tails on the kite.
- Butter knife
Assembling Your Kite From Scratch
Step 1 – Assembling the Kite Frame
The kite frame will be made up of two 1/4″ dowels. This is the best thickness as it allows a little flexibility and will prevent your kite from cracking. Begin by cutting your first dowel to 36″ and the second dowel to 24″. Place the 36″ dowel vertical and the 24″ dowel horizontal to form a cross. Attach the two dowels together using the 1/2″ masking tape.
Next we will notch the dowels on the outside using a simple butter knife to give a place for the string to fit without slipping. Wrap the frame with the string as seen in the picture below and tie it off. Try to get the string fairly tight while wrapping the frame. For some added security place some masking tape over the edge of each dowel.
Step 2 – Attaching Sail Material
For our sail we are going to use a large outdoor garbage bag but you can use almost any light weight material. Cut your garbage bag down the middle and lay it out on a table. Place your kite frame on top and trim around the kite frame leaving about 1″ extra on the outside of the kite frame. Next begin to fold the extra material over the kite frame and tape with masking tape.
Step 3 – Kite Tail & Flight String
Applying a kite tail will help stabilize your kite during flight by adding some weight to the bottom of the kite. You can simply use an old T-shirt or some fabric you have laying around. Cut the shirt or fabric into three 1″ by 4″ strips. Attach 3 feet of string to the bottom of the kite and tie on the fabric every foot. Finally, attach your flight string to your kite frame where your two dowels meet.
Step 4 – Preflight
Make sure to take safety precautions when flying a kite. Fly in an open field with no power lines in sight. Also use common sense and make sure its a clear day outside with no storm warnings.
Step 5 – Flight
You’re ready for flight! Ideal flight conditions are winds of 5-10 MPH. With no wind your kite won’t fly and with too much wind your kite could get damaged. Lift off is fairly easy with this kite design as the style provides fairly stable flight. Hold the front of the kite into the wind and allow some slack in your flight line. Give the kite a simple toss into the wind and you’re off! Your kids will be amazed with their first flight and will be begging you to build more kites in the future. Hope you enjoyed my class!