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Kite Making New Revolution Sail

For my first project I decided to make a new sail for my (aging) Revolution EXP. The reasons for this were:

  • Cost : I would have all the spars, lines, and handles necessary.
  • Design : since I had one I could copy it and work out the 'difficult' parts by looking at a 'real' Revolution.
  • Understanding : since I know how a Revolution kite flies I can then compare it with my copy and see what needs doing.
By doing a Revolution of my own I could easily determine if a) I like kite making and b) pick up some of the necessary skills whilst making something useful.

By the way - this is not a step-by-step guide in cloning a Revolution Kite - it's how I had my first sail.

Step 1 - The Newspaper Template.

I made a newspaper copy of the Revolution sail by sticking together lots of pages of my local newspaper. I then measured the various parts and the angles to draw the sail shape on the paper. Finally I cut this out and admired by work!


Step 2 - The Sail Design

I could have made a simple one or two panel design - it would have been much easier for me, but I decided I wanted something a bit more complex - whilst not exactly what I would like, something that would involve a number of panels in different colours. After a lot of doodling on scraps of paper at work and elsewhere I decided upon a 9 panel design with alternating red and white (I like kites with a lot of white!). It was this stage I had to think about the grain of the ripstop fabric - I then tried to simplify the design so that a) the sail was symmetrical and b) the fabric grain was similar to the original Revolution sail. To check the design out 'real' size I used the paper model I built - I placed pieces of paper in place of the different panels in order to work out how best to arrange the panels in by design.

Step 3 - Making the Cardboard Template

I taped together a load of pieces of A4 sized card in the size of half the Revolution sail then transfered the design I had worked on by measuring the paper sail. I then cut the template using a sharp craft knife. Finally I labeled each piece - C5 for the center (half) panel, R4, R3, R2, R1 for the remaining panels on the right hand half of the wing. I also marked which was going to be the leading and trailing edges, and which piece comes next. Finally I turned the templates over I labeled them C5 to L1 for the parts of the left wing.


Step 4 - Checking the Template

I then compared the template pieces with the real Revolution sail - to find that I had one of the measurements wrong. Which meant I had to do Step 3 again. But much better to keep checking before you actually cut fabric and stuff.

Step 5 - Get the Materials

Part of this is sizing up what you will need. I spent some time working out how to arrange the template pieces onto the fabric (I had checked the width of the fabric rolls I would be using) so as to minimise waste. I also had to include seem, allowances - my templates were just the actual size of the panel. Once I had worked it out (1 meter red, 1.5 meter white) I purchased it all, plus the other fabric parts (except the Dacron - which seemed to be in short supply here!). I also tried to avoid paying (relatively) a lot of money for the caps necessary (about £12 for the 6 necessary) by finding some PVC tubing at a DIY shop with the correct internal diameter. I cut these to the right lengths and drilled holes for the bungee cords, then a second set of holes for the bridle lines.

Step 5a - Make a Scale Model

To test out my design and how to do things (such as the leading edge and the trailing edge stitching I) I made this small model - only about 30cm on the leading edge, but big enough to try out techniques on a small scale, rather than risk messing up the 'proper' kite. 

Step 6 - Mark and Cut the Sail Panels

This is when it starts to get real! I first drew around each template using a soft pencil. Then I drew the seam allowance lines - I decided on 1 cm for where the panels meet together, and 2 cm for both the leading and trailing edges (these were more than usual in order to allow me to trim mis-fitting panels after sewing). I then labeled each panel (in pencil) on the seems - both which panel it was, and which was the trailing or leading edge. To cut I simply used a sharp craft knife and a steel ruler & a piece of flat wood to rest on.

Step 7 - Sew Panels Together

Really there should be a Step 6b - practice sewing by making the bag - I did this out of a number of offcuts and made a bag with a multi-panel design, like the kite itself. From this I decided to glue the panels first (using 'normal' craft glue), and to use a simple roll seam. I then stitched a couple of panels at a time - each time fully completing the seam. Also after the first stitch whilst the panels were face-to-face I would trim the back if the panels weren't exact. I then would fold the seem flat (light colour to dark colour) then stitch again. Once I had all the pairs of panels assembled I then stitched them all together to form the whole sail.

Step 8 - Add the Reinforcement Points

I cut the bit of Dacron I had to form the wing tip reinforcement points - as the Dacron I have looks a lot thiner than the Dacron used on the Revolution I glued two pieces together, then glued the cut shape to the back of the wing tips. I then put lines of stitches to hold it all in place. For the reinforcement in the 'W' of the kite I first worked out how to cut the seam on a piece of paper (good job - otherwise I would have got it wrong!) then cut the piece of dacron to the ^ shape required. I then stuck this in the wight position, allowing for the trailing edge seam allowance.

Step 9 - The Trailing Edge

I then did a double roll seam allowance around the kite, starting with the left and right edges, then doing the (for want of a better word) the bottom. Again I glued the seam, but I used just a little glue just where the first fold would be - this seemed to keep the fold in place whilst sewing, without it going too near the needle.

Step 10 - The Leading Edge

Attempt #1: As I didn't have the correct width of Dacron (7cm) I decided to use 5cm Dacron as it would just fit. So I measured the leading edge, cut the mesh for the vent, sewed small strips to the mesh, put the leading edge onto the mesh, then placed more dacron over the leading edge to support the vertical spars. I then cut the mesh to the correct size, allowing for a 1 cm roll seam onto the sail. I then found three problems 1) the sail had a 2 cm seam allowance & so I would have to cut quite a lot off, 2) When the leading edge was rolled there were quite a number of thicknesses of Dacron to sew through (and to hold in place), and 3) it really was too tight for the standard EXP spars. And it was pretty poor sewing. So I decided to try again.

Attempt #2: I acquired some wider Dacron (more like the 7cm of the original) and rather than building the leading edge separately from the rest of the sail and then sewing it on I first attached some Dacron at the ends, then sewed the mesh fabric, and then attached the leading edge Dacron. This method may not have been as neat but was way easier to achieve. Once some additional Dacron reinforcement points between the leading edge and the sail had been added it looked rather good. The only problem I ran into was I cut the leading edge about 30cm too small and had to sew two pieces together to get the correct length. Remember the golder rule: Measure twice, cut once......