Materials range from traditional bamboo and paper to ripstop nylon and carbon fiber or fiberglass. The choice of materials depends on the type of kite. Fiberglass rod, for example may be ideal for the flexible bow of a fighter kite but inappropriate for the rigid frame of a box kite, where dowel is better. Look around the house, at your local kite store, or at the DF Online Store for materials and equipment.
Paper: Colored tissue paper, wrapping paper, and even old newspaper are readily available and make good sails. Japanese paper (washi) is especially attractive because of its strength and stability. Kite kits from Japanese kite makers, available at the DF Online Store, utilize Japanese paper.
Plastic: Trash bags make good, cheap sails for simpler kites.
Ripstop Nylon: Lightweight, strong, and available in a large variety of colors, ripstop is an ideal material from which to make sails. Sewing skills are extremely useful for making ripstop nylon sails.
Tyvek®: This synthetic material, of spun-bound olefin fibers, is made the same way as paper but is much stronger. It is good for experimental kite making because it can be stapled, glued, taped, or sewn. It is available at the DF Online Store.
Cotton Line: Very inexpensive and great for lightweight kites and classroom workshops, it can be purchased at the DF Online Store.
Nylon/Polyester Line: Inexpensive and widely available, this is the standard line. Nylon/polyester lines are available in smooth or coarse and in a variety of thicknesses and braids. Braided lines tend not to tangle when laid on the ground, which is a very desirable trait!
Spectra: Ideal for performance stunt flying, this line is much thinner and has less stretch than nylon/polyester line.
Frames and Structures
Bamboo: A traditional kite making material. Cut apart bamboo window blinds or use bamboo stakes from a garden shop to make simple spars. For machine split bamboo of high quality, imported from Japan, purchase at the DF Online Store.
Carbon Fiber: Stiff and light, a material used in many of today’s stunt kites.
Dowel: One of the best frame materials. Dowel is easy to obtain, light, and affordable.
Fiberglass: Available as a rod (good for kites that need flex, such as fighters) or a tube (thin wall or thick wall) in many diameters and wall-thicknesses. Fiberglass is heavier than carbon-fiber, but far more durable.
There are several knots useful for kite flying. Here are a few important ones to learn.
The bowline is one of the best known and widely used knots. It is tied to form a loop at the end of a line or to attach a rope to an object. The bowline is simple to tie, strong and stable. Its main advantages are that it does not slip, come loose or jam. It is easy to untie, even when the line is under tension. A major disadvantage is in its tendency to work loose if it is tied with stiff line.
The clove hitch is one of the best known and most valuable of hitches. It can be used to fasten a line to a shaft or post. It is also good for tieing on bows to a tail. The clove hitch is not a totally secure knot, as it will work loose if the strain is intermittent and comes from different angles. It is best used as a temporary hold and then replaced by a more stable knot.
The knot’s name comes from its characteristic shape. The knot is made at the end of a rope or line to prevent it from slipping through an eye, loop or hole. It can also be used to bind the end of a line so it will not unravel.
The fisherman’s knot is a very good knot for joining two lengths of string together, especially when the lines are of different thickness.
This knot is used for securing the towing ring to the bridle and attaching other kites to the line for flying in trains.
This knot is used for finishing off ends and attaching lengths of line. Remember to pass left over right then right over left.
The thief knot closely resembles the reef knot and according to legend, it was used by whalers to tie their clothes bag. A thief would re-tie with a reef knot and the sailor would know if his bag had been tampered with. The thief knot differs from the reef knot in the way it is tied and, in the finished knot, the short ends are on the opposite sides.