Catch The Wind: Make a Homemade Kite

It's not hard to make a homemade kite from brown paper grocery bags and newspaper. Just follow these plans.
By Margarert Greger
March/April 1980
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FIG 1 through FIG 5 are steps for cutting out and assembling a kite. FIG 6 shows how to obtain material for the kite tail.

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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 lower edge.

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 necessary.)

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).

Happy flying!

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