History and How To Make Kites

People have enjoyed making and flying kites for at least 2,000 years. It is exciting to watch a kite lift in the breeze and rise until it is just speck of color in the sky. The word "kite" is the name of a bird of the hawk family, known for its grace in the air. A kite may be a simple arrangement of two sticks, crossed and covered with paper or cloth and flown at the end of a string. Or it may be a more elaborate shape, such as a box or a pyramid. In the Orient, kites are made also in the shapes of birds, fish, and butterflies. Many are beautifully decorated. One of the largest kites is the Chinese dragon kite. It is a long train of individual kites connected by sticks. The first kite represents the dragon's head, and a number of circular kites behind it represent the dragon's body. This kite is so long that it must be launched by several people.

No one is sure who invented the kite. Some historians believe it was invented by Greek named Archytas about 400 B.c. Others believe it was invented 200 years later by Han-Sin, a Chinese general. But we do know that making and flying kites have been popular pastimes in China, Japan, Korea, and other countries of the Far East for many hundreds of years and still are today. In China the ninth day of the ninth month is known as Kite's Day, or the Festival of Ascending on High. it is the tradition for people of all ages to fly kites on that day.

In Japan Children's Day is celebrated on May 5. Each family flies a fish kite from a bamboo pole in front of the house for each boy in the family. The Japanese also enjoy a sport known as kite fighting. Each kite flier coats a portion of his kite string near the kite with a mixture of powdered glass and glue. When all the kites are in the air, a player tries to cross and cut the string of another kite with a sharp, glass-coated part of his own string.

Flying kites is a popular hobby in many countries of the Western world, too. In the United States, kite tournaments are held in a number of cities each spring. In Europe and the United States, kites have also been used in scientific experiments and have been put to practical uses in both peace and war. In the two Scottish students, Alexander Wilson and Thomas Melville, sent up a train, or connected series, of kites with a thermometer attached to each in order to find out the temperature of the upper air. In 1752 in the United States, Benjamin Franklin used a kite in his famous experiment with electricity. He wanted to prove that lightning was a form of electricity. To do this, he had to find a way to attract lightning and test it. He decided to fly a kite into a thundercloud during a storm. He hoped the lightning flashing in the thundercloud would travel along the kite string so that he could reach out and feel it. It did. Franklin also got an electricity shock. (we realize today that Franklin's experiment was extremely dangerous. A person who comes into contact with electricity while he is wet may be killed by it.)

Many years later, kites played a part in the development of the airplane. Before they built and flew the first airplane in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright experimented with huge box kites strong enough to lift a man into the air. The box kite is shaped like a long box with open ends. The sides are covered except for an open section in the center. This kite was invented by Lawrence Hargrave, an Australian about 1892.

In the early part of this century, the United States Weather Bureau used box kites equipped with instruments to obtain information for weather forecasts. Trains of box kites were sent up to great heights. Kites have also been equipped with cameras in order to take pictures from the air. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, a tailless kite invented by William A. Eddy was used for this purpose. A photographer stood on the ground and clicked the shutter by pulling a string attached to it. The Eddy kite was developed from a kite used by Malay natives. It is built on a framework of two sticks crossed in a T, the cross stick bent like an archer's bow.

During the Boer War in South Africa(1899-1902), man-carrying kites flew British soldiers over enemy territory so that they could report on the enemy's movements. In World War II the Germans developed a man-carrying kite that could be flown from a submarine.

Kites were also used as targets in gunnery practice by the United States during World War II. Life rafts were equipped with kites, too. These kites were used to fly wire radio antennae or aerials into the air. In this way radio signals could easily be transmitted long distances.

You can have fun flying a kite you have bought in a store. But you'll find there's a special thrill in flying a kite you have made yourself. There are three main types of kites: the flat kite, the bow, or Eddy, kite, and the box kite.

You don't need special skill or expensive equipment to make a kite. But you must be willing to work slowly and carefully. You'll have your reward the first time you feel the kite string tighten in your hand and see your kite begin to rise.

The Flat Kite
The flat kite is the easiest to make and the most familiar. You will need one stick 36 inches long and one 30 inches long. The sticks may be round dowel sticks 1/4 inch thick. It is best to use sticks of pine or spruce to keep the kite light in weight.

Make a crayon mark in the middle of the 30-inch stick and a mark 9 inches from one end of the 36-inch stick.This stick is the upright. Place the two sticks in a T shape so that the crayon marks are together. Glue the sticks at this point. Then wind string in an X shape around the two sticks ate the point where they have been glued.

You can use special kite string, fishing line, or cotton twine both in making the kite and in flying it later. (When you fly the kite, it is easier to let out string if it is wound on a reel, rather than in a ball.)

With a small saw or knife carefully cut a slit or notch in the end of each stick. Put a drop of glue in each slit. Now outline the kite by drawing a piece of string through each one of the slits. Knot it firmly. The glue will help hold this string in place. Let the glue dry.

Place the framework of the kite on a large piece of tissue paper, gift-wrapping paper, newspaper or thin plastic. Cut the covering so that it is 2 inches larger then the framework all around. Fold the 2-inch margin of the covering over the string and paste it down.

The decorate of paper kite, paint it with poster paints or watercolors. But be careful not to tear the paper.

Now you are ready to attach the kite string. The string is not fastened directly to the kite, but two slack strings called the bridle. The bridle helps keep the nose, or tip, of the kite titled upward at a good flying angle.

To make the bridle, put the kite on the floor with the paper covering facing you. Tie one and of piece a piece of string 40 inches long to the top end the other end to the bottom of the upright kite stick. Tie a second piece of string, 34 inches long, to the two ends of the cross stick.

Pick up the two strings of the bridle at the point at which they cross, and attach the end of your reel of kite string at this point. After trying out your kite, you may find that you need to adjust the length of the bridle string so that the kite flies well.

A flat kite is also needs a tail. The weight of the tail helps keep the bottom of the kite down and the nose tilted up. The tail also steadies the position of the kite in the air, It acts somewhat like the rudder of a ship. When the wind pushes the kite too hard in one direction, the surfaces of the tail act as an opposing force to to the wind, so that the kite can remain steady.

To make a tail for your kite, you will need a piece of string at least 8 feet long. (after you have flown the kite, you can adjust the length of the tail if necessary.) Cut some cloth into 6-by-2-inch pieces, or fold 6-by-4-inch pieces of tissue paper into several lengthwise pleats, and unfold the pleats at each end. Attach each of paper or cloth, at its center, to the tail string. Leave 6 inches between pieces. Tie the tail to the bottom of the upright kite stick.

The Box Kite
To build a rectangular box kite, you will need four sticks, each 36 inches long and 3/8 inchsquare. These will form the outer framework of the kite. You will also need four sticks, each 15 1/2 inches long and 3/8 inch square. Two of these shorter sticks will be crossed in an X to brace one end of the framework, and two will be crossed to brace the other end of the framework.

You will also need strips of paper or cloth 48 inches long and 14 inches wide to wrap around the framework of the kite at each end.

Fold down 1 2-inch margin along the entire length of both strips of covering material, both at the top and bottom edges. Paste down the edges of these margins. This will make the covering stronger.

A box kite should not need a tail. This is because these kites have several surfaces and each surface acts as an opposing force to the wind. If the wind flows too hard against one surface, another side of the kite swings around and the kite is steadied.

Now glue together the two ends of each strip of cloth or paper to form two circular bands. Allow exactly a 2-inch overlap at both ends of the strips so that the two 48-inch strips will become two 44-inch bands. On these bands make four crayon marks, 11 inches apart, along both edges. Slip the four long strips of wood inside one band of cloth so that the ends of the sticks and the upper edge of the cloth cloth are together. At each set of crayon marks glue a stick of wood to the inside of the band of cloth. This will be one box of your kite.

Make crayon marks 11 inches apart, apart on the other band of cloth. Slip it around the uncovered ends of the sticks and the bottom edge of the cloth meet. Glue the sticks to the inside of the second band of covering material at the crayon marks. Let the glue dry.

Cut shallow V-shaped notches in the ends of all four cross sticks. If the notches are too deep, the wood may split. Fit one cross stick like one arm of the letter X across the inside of one box of the kite. It should be placed in the center of the box about 5 inches from the top. Now place the other cross stick above it so that it forms the other arm of the letter X. Turn the kite upside down and put the remaining cross sticks in place just as you did with the first two.

Attach the kite string to one of the upright sticks at a point just below one of the boxes.

The Bow, Or Eddy, Kite
The bow kite is one of the best fliers. To make a bow kite, you need two flat sticks, each 36 inches long, 1/4 inch thick, and 3/8 inch wide. One will be the bow stick, and the other the upright. Make a crayon mark in the center of a bow stick. Then soak this stick in water until it is soft enough to bend. Tie a string at one end and bend the stick so that the bow is about 4 inches high. Now tie the string to the other end of the bow stick. Mark the center of the bowstring with crayon.

Put the bow stick and string down flat on a table with the stick facing you. Make a crayon mark on the upright stick 8 inches from the top. Place the upright stick on the bow stick so that the two form a T. The crayon marks on the two sticks should meet. The upright stick should also pass over the crayon mark at the center of the bowstring. First glue and then tie the string to the upright stick at this point.

Notch the four ends of the two sticks and outline the framework of the kite with string, as you do in making the flat kite. Place this framework, bow stick down, on a piece of tissue paper or light cloth. Cut the covering, allowing a 2-inch margin all around. For this kite the covering must fit somewhat loosely, so fold over only a little more than an inch of the 2-inch margin, and paste down the edges. When you paste the covering, be sure to leave the bow stick and string free.

When the paste is dry, push the bow up and out the into the covering of the kite, so that the kite is no longer flat, but curved out. Attach a bridle like the bridle of a flat kite. Until you learn to make a perfect bow kite, you may have to add a short tail.

No comments:

Post a Comment