Go Fly a Kite!

Spring is coming and a traditional pass-time of Spring — one that can be done even through the Summer or on any day with a nice breeze — is flying a kite. There are many fine kites you can buy at a hobby shop or toy store. For that matter at the right time in dollar stores, drug stores, department stores, or other shops. They aren’t quite as common perhaps as they once were — but the heritage of kite flying goes back hundreds of years.

The shiny pre-made kites are quite attractive and simple to buy and start out with. There are also kits that you can buy that take a bit more work and bring a bit more satisfaction. It is also possible to build a kite from scratch! You can use materials from ultra-modern to extremely traditional.

A few years ago I decided to make some kites. I had been studying making toys from the 19th century through to the 1960’s and toys that could be made simply were something I kept an eye open for. I was volunteering at the museum so I also was keeping an eye out for things that could be done without expensive tools or materials. Kites seemed to fit the bill.

I realized that I might make many of the kites without buying much. In fact, if I were to make small kites, I could make them from bamboo cooking skewers and tissue paper using thread and simple white glue. I’m not actually sure the skewers are bamboo, they could be some softwood or rattan or some other woody material — however they are about 25 cm – 10 inches long and very inexpensive to buy from many places. I got a pack when I went for groceries. The tissue I got from the dollar store and I already had the thread and glue. I had some very heavy thread to use for some short kite string.

I’m not going to go into all the different sorts of kites there are just here — perhaps I can add some drawings and pictures later as well as some plans. I was able to make a half dozen different types of kites in an afternoon and experiment with flying them in a very light breeze. That is an advantage of kites built that small and light. With the 25 cm skewers the longest dimension was about 25cm as well. Of course there were also longer skewers that were about 30 cm that made some kites a bit easier to build. The only one I really couldn’t build with these materials was the traditional English kite. That one has an arching rod that runs the entire curved front of the kite all the way down each side. I’d need to find something to use for that — perhaps a strip of rattan?

A person cold easily make a dozen different sorts of kites and hang them from a rod in their room when they are only 25-30 cm across. You could also afford to make them or lose them, though of course you might feel bad because of the time you put into them. BTW you have to be careful because the glue goes right through the tissue and onto any surface the kite is on while the kite is wet. Actually I used that as part of my kite construction technique. I’ll write more about that sometime.

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