Public Lab Research note

Kite Construction: How bad can it get?

by mathew | June 04, 2016 00:29 04 Jun 00:29 | #13165 | #13165

What I want to do

I'm interested in workshopping Stormy Weathers' Horned Allison Sled Kite. (plans pdf), and I wanted to see how poor the construction could be and still have a flying kite.

My attempt and results

I started from a pre-cut pattern in Tyvek (this part was precise, I think I'd pre-cut the patterns in a workshop), and then taped down the McDonalds' straw spars recommended in the plan with 1" masking tape. I stuffed three straws into each other, end to end, and I lined them up by eye and taped them down. It was very messy and I didn't fold in any reference marks or anything:


I similarly applied the 1/4" PP strapping tape (brand: Tesa 4288) for the bridle attachments entirely by eye. They are slightly uneven.

Then I tied the bridle. Here I made sure the bridle point was in the exact middle.

In Flight

I flew this kite and it flew great. I haven't gotten a good in-flight photo yet. I was suitably impressed, and it flew better than the version I made very carefully with bamboo spars.

Questions and next steps

My goal is to use this kite as a wind speed meter and need to calibrate it. I need to get a better clinometer and spring scale setup. My current spring scale is 5000g, @Ecta64 is recommending 250g scale. I should really attach the clinometer to a tripod or other leveling system.


I also need to replace the stretchy dacron line with a non-stretch line, as recommended for a kite anemometer (wind speed meter). I bought 3000' of 70lb kevlar line from Emmakites.

I want to see if I get the same high-wind spar failures that @Ecta64 is reporting.

I should try a version out of a plastic bag, not just my fancy type 10 Tyvek.

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Actually the 5KG scale you have should be fine. The 250g was only for the 1-1.2 square foot size kites I was flying or flying the stormy in light wind (I have tested so many kites with so many different configurations its hard to keep it all straight sometimes). Roughly 5kg scale will allow a kite built to stormy's plan (3.2-3.4 square feet) to measure over 35mph (ICAO standard air pressure). In light winds the 250 gram or 1kg scales do make for more detailed observations but your scale will likely cover the kite to its stated wind range limit of 30 mph. The stuffing of the straws is a great idea! might make alleviate the bending I saw in rough winds since my straws were only 2 straws thick at the junctions. I bought 1/8 hardwood dowels in bulk a while back so I just haven't played around with the straws since.

Its awesome to know that one doesn't have to be exact. I take a almost insane amount of care in precisely aligning everything. I guess that this design is much more tolerant to inaccuracies than I thought. Good to know. That likely means a young student could make such a kite roughly and still be able to take it out and gather data as part of a class.

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