Did Someone say kites?


A kite is a kite is a kite, right? Well, to most people, yes.Everything in the picture above, even the styrofoam thing in the Presenter's hands, is a kite.That means it flys. If it doesn't fly, it isn't a kite. Call it room decoration, a wall hanging, even soft sculpture, but not a kite.

So, a kite is an object that is heavier than air, and gets lift by being held still in the wind by a string. Isaac Newton taught us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Wind being deflected by the angle of the kite imparts a force on the kite, lifting it in to the air. The amount of air being deflected by the kite must be equal to or greater than the weight of the kite for it to fly.

For generations, the kite that appears most often in pictures and drawing is the two-stick Diamond Kite. It is interesting to wonder why that kite instead of so many others. But, since the Diamond is the quintessential kite, let's start there.

Below are two diamond-shaped that appear to be the same type of kite. But there are four critical differences.
1. The kite on the left is perfectly flat. The kite on the right has a permanent bow (dihedral).
2. The kite on the left has tails, because it needs them, because it is flat. The kite on the right was patented as a kite that does not need a tail.
3. The kite on the left has a string (bridle) to adjust its angle to the wind. The kite on the right has a single tow point.
4. The kite on the left is taller than it is wide. The kite on the right is just as wide as it is tall.

The kite on the left is the traditional Diamond Kite.The kite on the right is an Eddy kite, developed by William Abner Eddy in the late 1800's.

Before we leave the picture above, can you see the kite on the stage? The triangle-looking thing just to the right of the red & yellow triangle kite? Here is a better look:
That kite looks very modern, doesn't it? It is a Tetrahedron (3-dimensional triangle) Kite invented by Alexander Graham Bell. Yes, the Alexander Graham Bell.

While we are talking about early kites, let's visit Box Kites. The Box Kite was invented by Lawrence Hargrave in Australia.


Above, on the left is a black Box Kite with wings. The blue & yellow kite to the right is not a box kite. It is a Rhombus. A rhombus is a parallelogram with four equal sides. Said another way, a rhombus is a squished square. A Box Kite has four equal sides. The sticks inside spreading it apart (called Spreaders) are all the same length. If we took each pair of spreaders in the kite, and one 2 inches shorter, and the other 2 inches longer, we would have a Rhombus Kite. Why would we do that? The Rhombus Kite and the Box kite above weigh the same. But the Rhombus has more area for the wind to push against. SO the Rhombus will fly in less wind than the pure Box Kite.

In the picture above, the person in the red shirt is holding a Box Kite. Since it only has one cell, or said another way, it is only half of a Box Kite, and it has 6 equal sides, we usually call it a Cube Kite. Now, the reason that kite is there...

Let us consider for a moment. A box kite is squares of cloth, with sticks on the inside. What would happen if we turned a Box Kite inside out?

We would get a kite that was squares of cloth with the sticks on the outside. NASA engineer Francis Rogallo did just that in the early 50's.


Rogallo's "Corner Kites" had two cells, like box kites. The single cell Corner Kite is a much easier build!

Of course it flys! If it doesn't fly, it isn't a kite!

The Corner Kite above is made from two 24" squares. But, while we have our thinking caps on, what would happen if we added a square half the size in each corner?

Above is the same kite, except it is made from four 12" squares and two 24" squares. When we teach people to sew kites who have never sewed 3/4-ounce ripstop nylon before, this is our favorite kite to have them make.

What if we cut out the middle?


Above is the same kite with the middle cut out of it. Oh no! It's got a hole in it! Now it will never fly. Oh, wait, there it is, flying. In fact it flys more stable than the one without the hole!

Once we start adding cells to Corner Kites, we call them Facet Kites. When we cut out the middle, they are called Reflex Kites.

But wait - there's more!

What if - we started with 3 big squares instead of 2?


We get a 6-sided kite instead of a 4-sided kite.This is still 24" squares and 12" squares. Pop quiz: How long should those outside sticks be? The answer is easier than you might think.


What if we used three different sized squares instead of two different sizes? We could do 24", 16" and 8". We could even do it as a square kite...


Above is the kite from Margaret Greger's great book, More Kites for Everyone. I wanted it to look like the one on the cover.



If we use 3 squares in the middle, we get something like this:


If we cut out the middle....



How big is a yard? People who sew realize that it is not a trick question. To most of us, a yard is 36 inches or 3 feet. But when we walk in to a fabric store and ask for a yard of fabric, we get a piece of fabric that is 36" by however big the machine was that wove it. When I started sewing kites, the 'standard' yard was 41" We really celebrated when they started making 54" kite fabric. It encouraged me to make the kite below. If we take a 54" yard, and make 3 white squares 54 inches on a side, then the mid-size squares are 36" and the small squares are 18".



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