In 1979 Margaret Greger presented her
plans for "MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Recycled Kite." Well, those ol' March winds
are blowin' again, and Meg has provided us with another
sure-to-fly designs for a homemade kite . . . which were suggested to her by Gary
Hinze of San Jose, California. The cobra kite and Its variant,
the octopus, are high-soaring wind catchers that are well worth
the half an hour or so it'll take you to construct one of 'em. In
fact, you can see expensive, commercial "sky snakes" — made of every
Imaginable material — most anywhere . . . but rest assured that the
do-it-yourself versions will match the store-bought kites
maneuver for maneuver!
Step-By-Step Leads Skyward
Here's what you need to make one of the recycled air soarers:
a large paper grocery bag (which will make two kite faces), two 1/8"
dowels (16" and 12" long), a 22" piece of cotton string for the
bridle, tape, glue, newspaper for your kite's tall, scissors, a
ruler, a pencil, and a cardboard template.
STEP 1: Enlarge the provided scale diagram, position the
drawn-to-size template on the front of the bag, trace around it,
and mark the bridle points and the ends of the spars. Then remove
the template and extend the end point marks across the head.
STEP 2: Cut out the head.
STEP 3: Tape the 16" dowel spine on the back of the kite and
then—using the same adhesive material—fasten the 12"
cross spar in place.
STEP 4: Turn the kite over and punch holes for the bridle.
Next, tie one end of the 22" bridle string at the top (through
the holes and around the spine) and the other end at the bottom.
STEP 5: Tie a loop In the bridle. If the
string's top "leg" is perpendicular to the face of the kite, your
bridle will be in the correct position for most winds.
STEP 6: The tall strips should be cut—8"
wide—across the 24" width of a newspaper. You can cut
several sheets at once.
OCTOPUS TAIL: Glue four 8" X 24" strips end to end, and cut
long 1"wide fringes Into the resulting strip. Secure the
top edge of the multi-stranded tail to the back of the kite's
COBRA TAIL: Glue ten 8" X 24" strips end to end, fold the long
sheet down the middle, and cut it to a taper from the tip to the
top. You must crumple and smooth out the finished tail at least
three times before gluing it to the kite. Of course, if the wind
is light, the cobra tail can be shortened.
Bridles and Tails
A "bridle" is the string which is fastened at one or more
points to the face of the kite. (The cobra and octopus kites use
a two-point bridle.)
With the proper bridle setting, the windpowered
toys are all but foolproof in breezes up to 15 miles per hour. If
the wind is very light, a lower (near the mid point of the kite)
oriole setting will hold the kite In a more nearly vertical
stance . . . and thus allow It to present a greater surface area
to the wind. For stronger gusts, on the other hand, a higher
(close to the top of the kite) setting will let the toy fly
nearer to the horizontal, and permit more wind to slip away under
the base of the paper sky traveler.
Whenever a kite refuses to fly well, check the bridle first.
Then, If you're satisfied that the setting is correct, your next
step would be to adjust the tail's length.
Just be sure—when you make your kite—that you
crumple and smooth out Its newspaper tall several times. Otherwise, the tail will "wag" the
kite. (Of course, if you cut the tail into strips—as in the
Octopus version—crumpling the paper won't be
A Note About Kite Lines
A kite line should be strong and lightweight . . . but not
fuzzy. An all-cotton line is fuzzy and creates "drag" on the
kite. That is, the string itself has considerable surface for the
wind to work on . . . so the kite files at a lower angle with the
line sagging in front of It. (Commercial synthetic kite string is
very strong and will last for years, but—since It's neither
twisted nor braided—it does tend to fray and kink.)
You might try using old crochet thread, which you can often
purchase inexpensively at yard sales or from Goodwill stores. (To
wind such twine, make a simple reel of notched cardboard.)
Crochet thread will hold a cobra or octopus kite in light to
medium breezes . . . but for heavier kites and stronger winds,
you should probably use braided or monofilament fishing line of
an appropriate weight (about ten-pound test will do).