Back to Anthony's Kite Workshop
As they are very cheap I do not mind if the kids "let go" accidentally, and they are light enough that they will fly in the lightest of winds, The long tail however allows the kite to fly even if the kids run all over the place with them, as they are apt to do.
The plan may seem long, but that is because I try to offer lots of ideas suggestions, and diagrams thought the plan. Really the kites are very very simple to make, so please don't be put off by size of the plan you see before you.
If you are a complete novice at kites, have a look at the Terminology page from the Virtual Kite Zoo, which points out the names used for the various parts of a kite, wether it is a diamond kite like this, or some other kite. Print it out and refer to it.
As an alternative for this plan, a similar one (slightly less complicated, but less detailed too) is The MBK Tiny Tots Diamond from a fellow Australian Kite Flyer. Note he is a bit more commercial.
Balloon Sticks are the cheap plastic tubes, to which balloons are tied to a plastic balloon holder on one end, at fetes and other public events. If you go to such an event you will find handfuls of these sticks thrown away after the balloon has burst. One such event will yield you enough balloon sticks for hundreds of diamond kites, now and in the future. If you must buy them you can find a source at basically any party shop in packets of 100 to 1000 or more!
You can build this kite without balloon stick (for the diahedral), but the kite flys better with one. How to build the kite in this form is marked OPTIONAL below.
Having explained the most important part of these kites, (and more on this below), let's list the parts required, for a single kite.
Even with all the above materials, the cost for about 100 diamond kites works out to about $20-$30 here in Australia. Most of that for the tails. So in the end the cost per kite is very very cheap.
Make a cardboard/paper/plastic template of the above diamond, 40cm x 40cm with cross spar 1/5th (8cm) from the top. If you also make a small hole at the spar cross point, you can also mark that position when you mark out the patterns onto the plastic.
Cut off the bottom of a kitchen tidy bag, (or shopping bag) and down one side of the bag to give you a large sheet of plastic. Tape this flat to your workbench. Layer more plastic sheets, over the first, if you are making lots of kites.
Using your template, and a fine tip permanent pen, mark the four corners and the spar cross point onto the plastic sheet. Repeat as many times as you can, preferably without any of the advertising that the manufacturers seem to like printing on the bags. The diagram below shows how I layered out my diamond templates.
Cut out the sails, using a sharp craft knife. Fold the sail twice into rough quarters at the spar cross point (which you marked using the template) and cut off the folded corner in a arc to make a small hole (1-2cm diameter) for the bridle. Actually you could probably skip this step, and later punch the bridle line though the sail, but I prefer to make the hole anyway as it stops the bridle line from distorting the sail.
You should now have a stack of 6-8 sails. Cut more, if you want, while you are at it.
Cutting Suggestion: How I actually cut out a stack of diamond kite 'skins' is to take two or three plastic bags ("Multix Kitchen Tidy Bags"), which only have a small patch of advertising in the corner), cut off the bottom and slit it down the fold closest to the small advertising. Lay the bags on top of each other, so the advertising is all on top of each other, and squash the air out from between the bags with a ruler. I then fold the plastic sheets over along their longest length (half way between the bags original top and bottom. Hint: putting a heavy ruler along fold temporarily makes this easier. Tape (or pin) the bags in place, then layout the template 4 times (see figure below). A sharp craft knife can then be used to cut out the 16, 24, or even 32, diamond kite sails in one sitting!
The only problem I have with permanent markers, in general, is that you can only easily get them in primary colors, red, green, blue, black, however if you look in art shops and some news agencies you can often get other colors like greens, yellows, orange, brown etc.. Be sure to 'paint' in a well ventilated area, or you could get a headache from the fumes these pens give off. Also if painting large areas ensure it drys well (at least an hour) as some of these pens remain sticky for quite some time.
I like drawing a different pattern onto each of the kites in a batch. As I am not an artist, I cheat! What I do is find clean looking pictures, clip-art, sketches, icons, etc., from web sites all over the world, and enlarge them to just fill an A4 page, or letter page for the Americans. I then put that page underneath the plastic kite sail, follow the image with a black permanent pen, and then use other permanent pens to color it in. Quick, simple and lots of ideas and designs around.
As an another example, the dragon to the right is one of my favourite diamond kite designs. The image is one frame of a dragon animation by Kevin Palivec, an internet dragon artist (now offline).And as a final example, the source image for the gecko kite (at the top of the page) is from an icon image from my own Anthony's X window Icon Library. The image was of course greatly enlarged and graphically "smoothed" before printing.
I now have a large folder of image printouts to allow me to create a huge range of diamond kites, without repeating a pattern in a single batch of kites. Some of these can be found (unsorted) in the "Patterns" Sub-directory of this plan. To the right are more examples of diamond kite designs I have created in the past.
Permanent pens also works great on ripstop. If you use with them on the 'smooth' side of the fabric, it will not be absorbed into the weave. Also with a thick tip black pen, you can 'paint' large areas of the ripstop. If you repaint the area two to three times, leaving it to dry between fills, you will get the darkest black areas on your ripstop, without the use of appliqué and is also water resistant. I used this with great success on my own kite arch.
Cross Spar Dihedral
From a balloon stick (which are usually white but mine are blue), score and
snap off a 5cm length. Hold both ends of the 5cm plastic tube of the balloon
stick and while pulling on both ends, put your thumb into the center of the
stick to bend it slowing. Do NOT use your thumb nail!.
Alternativally, you can use two bamboo skewers which has been marked 2.5cm from the ends. Insert the skewers into both ends of the tube so the two meet in the middle (use the marks to gage this). You can then use the skewers to slowly bend the balloon stick. Do not do this too fast or you will snap the tube, particularly in cold weather, slow and easy is the trick.
The trick here is to stretch the underside of the stick (see lower part of the photo) but without puckering or indenting the top (inside of bend) of the stick (top part of photo). This is very important if you want your kite to withstand a higher wind, or sudden really big gust without folding up double. The puckering weakens the bend considerably as I have found from months of experience with these kites.
Jeff Jaeckels <firstname.lastname@example.org> reports that heating a balloon stick with a hot air blow dryer, allows the tubes to stretch and bend that much easier and more precisely, but as I live is a warm climate, I have not had any problems as long as I bend it slowly.
I have found one balloon stick can yield about 8 to 10 plastic dihedrals, which considering that the sticks are normally thrown away, is great value. You may however buy balloon sticks in party and balloon shops, though I never have needed to.
Preparing the Spars
Take the four 25cm bamboo skewers you will be using for your diamond kite
and with a craft knife bevel the square, non-pointy, ends of the skewers.
After that use a bit of fine sandpaper and smooth the end to a rounded
finish. You can see this rounded end in the photo of the tapes spar below.
The purpose of rounding the ends of the skewers is to ensure that it can not poke its way though the scotch tape you use to attach the spars to the kite. Of course you don't have to do this for ripstop diamonds where you use a multi-layered spar pocket, as in step 2 of the AKS Kite Arch.
Take two of the bamboo skewers and with the points toward the center
measure them to form one long spar 39.5 cm long (5mm shorter than the
kite sails height). This will form the diamond kites longeron, also
called the kite's spine, or backbone. Using scotch (magic) tape or
masking tape, tape the two skewers together around the pointy ends so that
it is tightly held and can't stick into anything it shouldn't. See the
plan diagram above.
Wire the plastic dihedral you made from bending a balloon stick, to middle of
one of the skewers (IE: toward one end of the final spar, not where the two
skewers overlap. using telephone wire or twist tie. Look carefully at the
photos and diagram to see how I wire them together. Then using a pair of
pliers, tighten the wire while holding the balloon stick slightly bent. Not
too much or you will collapse and/or pucker the plastic tube, as I warned
The dihedral should angle up away from the spar, like the wings of a glider. Upwards, not in the same plane as the spar. (See photo - click on it to get the larger version).
Cut off the excess wire and fold it out of the way.
Alternative: Instead of using a bit of wire to attach the dihedral to the 'longeron' (or spine) of the kite, Peter Rodda <email@example.com> (an 8 year old), reports that hot glue also works well. You will however have to correctly position the dihedral as you are gluing, as you can not slide it to the right point afterward. I myself have used this method.
Option for Longer Lasting Kites: Adding 'endcaps' such as used for wire coathangers to the four ends of the skewers will help prevent the skewers poking holes into the plastic sail.As an alturnative, you can find some plastic tubing that are about the same internal diameter as the skewers. Cut short 1cm lengths of this tubing, and poke a hole into the side at the center of the short tubing. You can use a sharp blade to make this hole an 'X' to enlarge. Push the end of the skews into this hole, so the tube is perdendicular (right angles) to the skewer. Later the sail will be taped over this smooth rounded tubing, rather than over the end of the skewer, allowing a longer life span of the kite.
When doing this try and tighten the sail, but not so much that it stretches, just taunt.
If you wired the dihedral to the longeron, slide it so it lines up with the hole in the kite sail. It you hot glued it to the spar, it should already be in the right position.
Then with the other two bamboo skewers cut off the pointy end to form the
cross spars about 19.5 cm long (5mm too short). Then first insert the
cut end of one of the skewers into one side of the dihedral, then tape
the sanded rounded end to the side corner of the kite sail, in the same way as
the longeron. Repeat with the other side, pulling the kite sail taunt.
NOTE: The spars are intentionally a few millimetres too short so that the corner plastic can also cover the rounded end of the skewer. This also helps prevent the skewer punching though the scotch tape. The sanding of the skewer ends also helps in this. Even so I still find the skewer will still punch though every so often so keep that scotch tape handy when out flying.
No Dihedral Option: If you are making this kite without the balloon stick tube dihedral, just tape the second two pairs of skewers together in the same way you did for the longeron, tape them to the sail, then wire that pair to each other in the same way as the dihedral is wired above. The kite will fly fine, though a longer tail is recommended.
Before attaching the bridle, I suggest you study various web page available showing a number of knots used by kite flyers...
Particularly look for and study the knots for
Bridling the Kite
Cut a length of about 60cm (not critical) of nylon twisted fish netting line
for the kites bridle. I suggest you use a cigarette lighter to cut the line so
as to prevent the line unraveling.
With a large needle (or a broken bamboo skewer) thread one end through the sail (and scotch tape) 2cm from the bottom of the kite, and tie it around the longeron (spine), pulling tight. Tie the other end around the dihedral and longeron though the hole in the sail. The bridle line is of course as with most kites on the front of the kite with the spars at the back.
Cut (burn) off a 10 cm length of nylon fish netting line, and make a loop using a large figure-8 knot. This knot will be a stopper knot which you can larks head the bridle line to.
Prusik Knot the loop onto the bridle line (See Kite flyers Knots above for more info) and then adjust its position as shown in the diagram below.
Attach Loop with Prusic Knot | ` | @====@--------| Stopper \ | Knot \ | \ | Kite \ | Longeron \ | \ | \ | \| |
Tieing loop to bridle with Prusik Knot
Actually in a high wind I have found you could just attach the flying line directly to the cross spars and have it work reasonably well, but I recommend you use the above bridle arrangement, so it works in basically all winds.
Later the kite line can be attach with a "larks head" onto the loops 'stopper knot' (see flying below).
Attach a Tail
For a tail I prefer to use fluorescent surveyors tape for attaching to
survey pegs. Your local hardware should stock it. A roll will provide enough
tails for lots of kites and comes in a lot of different colors. They also
look great. You could even use two different colors on the one kite.
Cut off a 3 meter length of plastic streamer and thread it behind the longeron spar of the diamond, twice, at roughly the center of the streamer. You do not need to tie a knot in the steamer, just loop it around the spar will hold it in place. (See photo left).
This will give your kite a good 1.5 meter twin tail which will stabilise it.
Their are lots of other alturnatives however...
Take a bread bag, and cut off the bottom to make a long tube. Now put the tube on your left arm (right if left handed), and while holding the scissors just right you can have a partner slowly pull out a long streamer from the bag about 2cm (1 inch) wide. That is the one long streamer is cut from the bag going around and around in a helix.
Even longer tails can be made in the same way from a kitchen tidy bag or other garbage bags, but one bread bag is just the right length (and colourful) for these little diamond kites.
A simple solution for classrooms is to take a roll of crepe paper, and with a heavy pair of sissors, just cut of streamer from the end of the roll without unrolling it.
Chris Sandin emailed to say that an old VCR tape, that prehaps has been eaten up by the video player will provide lots of tails. He also suggested that you could ask at a video rental shops as they probably throw out a lot of damaged tapes. However these are electrically conductive, and can short out power lines - not that you should fly anywhere near such things!
I usually tie the other end to a bit of cardboard tube (left over ripstop fabric rolls :-), tieing it on, to give the kids a good handle to hang on to. I also cut some slots into one end to hold the end of the line when you wind it up and detach the kite.
Hint: After tying a generous loop in the end of your flying line tie a very very small knot in the very tip of the large loop. This small knot creates a small 'handle' which you can grab to very quickly untie the larks head. This save you the frustration of try to use your fingernails on such small and difficult nylon line when untieing it at the end of the day.
The only adjustment that may be nessary is to slide the prusik knotted bridle loop in the bridle line 5mm at a time, downward, if the kite does large loops, or upward if the kite refuses to rise or wobbles side to side. To adjust the bridle, "unlock" the prusik knot by pulling the bridal line straight and sliding the knot. When positioned, pull on the bridle loop while folding the bridle line in half at the knot, to "lock" the prusik knot.
I rarely find any such adjustments are needed on the flying field. If the knot is positioned just above where the spars cross, or maybe a little further up from that point (See bridling) the kite flys perfectly. The kite is very forgiving with a large range of acceptiable bridle points, so a roughly positioned bridle should work fine. The kite even does not mind kids which loves to run with the kite, especially when no wind is available, and is a great way of wearing the ankle bitters out :-)
The original design is very light weight, even so it likes a light sea
breeze. Strong winds tend to make the kite loop and dive, and is very
difficult to get it to fly well in such winds. Here is a problem chart,
to try and help solve such flying problems.
Some times in a smooth, steady non-turbulent but strong wind, I move the bridle all the way to the top so that the lower part of the bridle is not used (all tension is on the upper bridle to the cross spars) and the kite flys high and steady. This is not always the case though, it may work with one kite but not another, experiment.
Of course, with this huge pull, you will have to use a different bridle arrangement. In my kite trains I use a very thick nylon builders line for the top leg of the bridle, the main line, though venetian blind cord should also be good. In long trains you may have to use even stronger line for the lower parts of the train! It is through this leg that the huge pull of the other diamond kites behind (and higher) is passed without damaging this particular diamond.
I also cut a separate segment of main line (builders line) for each kite, about a meter long. This makes it easy to replace individual diamond kites of the field (due to damage), shorten the train (due to that big tree downwind), make the train longer (as you get more time), auction off each kite individually (at the end of some big kite festival) or just to give that particular diamond (with a bat picture or whatever on it) to some kid who helped you out so much. IE: it makes the train a lot more flexible to the situation you find yourself in.
A 'figure-8' stopper knot is added to the front end of this segment (See Knots above). In the other end, a generous loop is added to allow this kite to larks head to the stopper knot of the next kite in the train.
____ loop to connect @-----------------------@---@____) to next kite's stopper || stopper knot knot `' Loop to wrap around cross-spar
The main line is threaded though the hole in the sail. The small loop is then threaded on the diagonally opposite side of the crossed spars, around the dihedral. The looped end of the main flying line is then threaded though the small loop, so that the kite is now locked loosely to the main line in that position.
Crossed Spars ---v ,;==:. Builders Line // () \\ / ____ @---------------------@------|------@____) `'
The loop should remain loose around the cross spar, just holding the kite next to the main line, as it goes though the hole in the sail to the next kite in the train. The kite then still free to adjust itself to the wind, regardless of the tension in the main line. and can pass its own individual pull to the main line via the small loop.
If loop was tight, or the main line was just tied directly around the crossed spars, the heavy tension due to the kites further up the kite train, could either pull the kite into an odd angle to the wind, or worse, crush the crossed spars, to splinters. Yes 25 kites generate a lot of pull!
Also note that the small loop should not be so small that it can't go all the way around crossed spars and dihedral. Nor should it be so big that it will fall off the line segment during normal handling, before linking all the segments together into the train.
Adjustable | Thicker Larks Head | Builders Line Knot | Cross spar (and small loop) \ / |/ ____ @---------@---------@--@____) Stopper \ A | Loop to attach to next kite knot \ | (larks head to its stopper knot) \ | \ | Thin \ | Kite Nylon \ | Spine Line \ | \ | \| |
This thin line is used only to set this kites angle to the the main (builders) line and does not carry the pull of the other kites behind this. Finally the larks head then adjusted along the main line so that the angle 'A' (see the above ascii-art) between the upper bridle and the kite longeron is just a little bit greater than the 90 degrees (say about 100 degrees).
Remember the object here is to use the strong builders line to carry the
pull of all the kites behind (and higher in the sky) this particular kite.
Only the first (highest) lead kite would use the normal diamond kite bridle.
This lead kite should be a extra steady kite (diamond or otherwise) and I
usually put a extra segment of light flying line from end of the train to
the lead kite (see photos). |
Overall Train Notes: The kites in a train should be spaced more that the spine length of kite, preferable more than double that length. For these 40cm diamonds 1 meter is good separating distance. This can be more, and there is no reason why it should be the same between all the kites in the train, except posibly the topmost "pilot" kite.
Train by Debbie Kinchloe
(see Responses Page)
The top most kite in the train is bridled in the normal (non-train) way. Its purpose is to provide stability to the whole train, and during launch help pull the rest of the train into the sky.
To help with this launch the line between the top kite and the second top-most kite is usally much longer than the rest of the train. This allows you to get that kite flying well, out of any ground turbulance, before letting the rest of the train go up.
Other than that top-most kite stability is critical to a good train. A much longer tail is recomeded, and the kite throughtly tested before hand for stability. Often a bigger, stronger, and older kite is used for the top kite. Also in many trains the selected top most kite is completely different to the rest of the kites in the train!
Also as a train gets longer, the pull along that main bridle line gets bigger and bigger! As such you may like to consider using a stronger line for the lower part of the kite train. Nylon brilders line should be fine for a train upto 25 kites, but I recommend going to venetian cord or a good quality dacron line for the lower kites if you want to make it longer.
Err... Did I mention to tie you kite train down well, and have a helper at hand. That pull gets strong fast!
Som a final note... Kite trains were used to set most of the world kite altitude records. However in this case the kites were separated by a huge distance, and the lower kites were flown so as to lift the weight of the kite line rather than to work in a pretty sequence. Trains of this sort require a very different, organisation. Each kite flys independantally with the main kite line forking from its flying line lower down. This type of train however is not generally recommended for kites with tails. However it can be done.
The younger kids simply cannot tie these knots, so I tied all of the knots and attached all of the lines.The last thought I have is an organisational one.
Each "kite kit" contained the pre-cut sail, wire, the dihedral, a long wooden dowel to be measured and cut, a 60cm length of line and 40m of line already wound on a small handle.
Additional note from Anthony :- use a 6cm length of thick cardboard tube to wind kite line onto. You can get lot of these from a fabric shop, either by asking or looking around the back. A hacksaw cuts through the thick cardboard tube easily. Also by cutting notches in the ends you can hold the end of the line in place, and stop it unraveling when in you aren't flying.
You can also do away with the complexity of the bridle. Just have the kids tied the flying line directly to the cross spar, THROUGH the hole in the kites sail. Note: you will find even with that instruction a number of kids will tie the line from the back of the kite, which will NOT work. So keep an eye out and make sure they do it right.
A longer tail is also recommended. A bread bag cut into one long strip (see "Attach a Tail" above) will be fine for this.
To do this double or triple the above dimensions and substitute the following parts, or variations...
I do not recommend this, though it does work and may be better for workshop situations.
Alternitivally, insert some dowel into the tube and bend it the same way you would with the balloon stick above. You may however require a vice to hold one of the dowel.
Tyvek is also an excellent sail material:- it is easier to draw on, allowing the use of plain crayons, felt tip pens, or cheap craft paint you can get at the local news agent shops. It also does not stretch, can be cut with scissors but will not tear; and it is water proof. You can also glue or even sew spar pockets onto the sail! Unfortunatally it is not as easy to get a hold of, is heavier. But is it a lot cheaper than ripstop.
I myself have been lucky to find a dowel in the hardware shop which has been standing so long the dowel has a bow in already. If you find such a spar take it to the shop manager and see if you can make a deal! These dowel are often un-sellable by the shop and the manager may let you make a deal to take then of his/her hands ;-)
You can also bow a longish (over 1 meter) dowel with a 'bow line' stretched and tightened from one end of the spar to the other, like a bow as in 'bow and arrows'. You should be carful when doing than that the dowel has no imperfections, or bowing too much with a very dry wood, otherwise the dowel can shatter.
For more information about peoples experience with building this diamond
kite, and what results they have achieved, I suggest you look at the
various Responses I have received. Many
thanks to all who have replied.
If like this plan, and/or build one, please mail and let me know what you think. Including any ideas, suggestions or other experiences. That way I can add them to the above so others can read and benefit from your results. :-) Photos especially welcome!