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Hot Tools

The most common fabric used to make kites is ripstop nylon. It is a synthetic material, which means it can be melted. When sewing together panels of nylon, the panels can be welded together using hot tools instead of using pins. Hot tools are faster, easier, and yield better results than pins.

The Sailmaking industry has some very useful, and expensive, hot tools. A simple Basting Pen (Hot Tacker) or Hot Knife Pen, similar to a Pencil Soldering Iron, costs about $60. A heavy-duty Engel hot cutter costs about $150. The good news is that tools that work just as well and last just as long can be had for a lot less money.

My favorite two tools to use are the Creative Woodburner from JoAnn Fabrics and the 5-in-1 Hobby Tool Kit from Harbor Freight. The Hobby Tool Kit lists for $8.99. The Creative Woodburner lists for $12.99 but often goes on sale for $10. Whenever it does, we buy a few of them.

The Pointy Tip (sometimes called a 'Dot Tip') on either of these tools is good for use as a Hot Tacker. José Sainz shows how to use a Hot Tacker for kite applique on the Carol Duval Show in this 12-minute video. I prefer to have a spring on my Hot Tacker. The spring helps steady the tool for appropriate, precise placement on the panels, it presses the layers together to form a good spot weld, and it holds the panels together long enough for the weld to cool properly if the tool is slowly removed.


I just take the Woodburner in to my local family-owned hardware store and ask them for a spring that will fit my tip.

I have been known to be somewhat creative when I can't quite find a spring to fit properly...

Before we go any farther, I want to mention that my favorite tool for hot cutting single layers of nylon is the Pointy Tip on the Harbor Freight tool. It is really good for very precise cuts and it easily gets in to tight corners.

So, now you have a Hot Tacker and a Hot Knife. How do you store and use them without burning yourself or melting your work? You need a stand.

Above is my Deluxe Hot Tool caddy for use at kite-making workshops. This one has a 3/16" diameter dowel in the top to hold extra bobbins, and cup-hooks on each side for scissors. The central part of the stand is a 2x3 about 15 inches tall. The white tool holders are 1" Schedule 40 PVC pipe (thin wall) cut to 2" long and a slot cut in each one to let the cord thru.

The pieces of PVC are screwed to blocks of one inch pine that are 2-1/2" wide and 2" tall. This sets the hot tools away from the upright in the middle. The base is oak, about 6" square.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, having said all of the above, my home workshop hot tool holder is mounted to the floor joists in the basement, over one end of the glass-top hot-cutting table.