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From the Workshop to the Air

Inside the workshop

It's a tiny room - assembled kites barely fit, and are tricky to turn over when fitting spreaders. The kite on the right is a prototype Cirrus, before it got its scalloped trailing edge and double-wall fin.

On the workshop table...

My table is in two sections. One section can be set either lengthwise or widthwise, to fit different jobs.

In the upper right table photo, and in those below showing unfinished kites under construction, the half kite visible is actually both wing halves, being laid up one on top of the other. This is the way they are all made, from the smallest to the largest, to ensure perfect symmetry.

A GLC 345 (above)

Both kites (above) are specials; the righthand one has the grain aligned separately in the same direction for every panel; it was terribly wasteful and woefully time-consuming. Such kites end up being heavier than their normal brethren, and the potential for minor asymmetries is large.
This is due to what in engineering is called "tolerance build-up."

When anything is made, there are no absolutes. Dimensions and specifications have a "±" component, larger or smaller depending on the level of precision required for the job. While hoping they average out, it's conceivable that on one side of a kite the "pluses" could significantly outnumber the "minuses," and the kite could have a permanent lean or a tendency to dive. It doesn't take much to throw off designs with deep scallops.
On the other hand, if there are many, many small pieces joined together, it is more likely the tolerances will average out on both sides.

Off the table and into the air...


This first example shows a scaled-up Trooper - scaled up to use 8mm wing spars. I drew the pattern on a clear plastic overlay, at 1/12th scale, transferring the dimensions to the full-size kite on the table.

The pictures show some of the long straight-edges I use.

Okay, sharp-eyed viewers will notice the kite on the table isn't the one in the sky (right), but they're close.

Below is another customer's fantasy (another wasteful use of ripstop). It was very difficult to cut and splice the pieces together. On top of that, the tail fringes had so much drag the kite's wing spars tended to wobble harmonically. It's another case of the kite looking better in pictures than it flies.

I made a giant compass to draw the radii on the curved pieces.

Enter the computer

(Above) This is the first graphic I concocted using a computer drawing package, which helped me to get things in perspective (I couldn't have done it otherwise). There are a few other examples of computer graphics to be found elsewhere on this site. These skins are almost twice the weight of a plain version of the same kite.

The orange version at left was another special order.

This one (right) is another customer's choice of colors.

(The fringe is also the customer's choice.)

In case it isn't obvious, I got the inspiration for these and other similar patterns from Navajo and Pueblo weaving, pottery and jewelry.


The flying site

Any new design or alteration has to be test flown. New designs may be test - flown over the course of a year or more. From our home workshop to our favorite flying site is about a half hour walk. The local winds are mostly very turbulent, except from certain directions, but the views from this hill are wonderful.
I used to be able to test kites right outside the back of the house, but there's a new road there now, so chopping and changing is a much more protracted process than it used to be!

And finally...

Prototype Cirrus, final version
This is the test of the kite in the photo at the top of this page, after having its trailing edge scalloped and a new double-wall fin. Wing spars: Glasforms E-40.
The reason for the double-wall fin is that it inflates in the wind. The original fin's back edge lacked tension along its length, because of the complex way the spine curves on this design.

One Scout and Aztec flyer expressed disappointment with these modifications, preferring the look of the straight trailing edge. Certainly there would be more surface area with the original configuration, but - perhaps because of the little battens - I thought the wing fabric tended to flop about too much. I may try one again some time (with stouter frame parts) because the Cirrus, pretty as it is, has quite a small wing area and, being a small kite, doesn't generate the lift one might expect. That's why I say it's a kite for 50lb line.

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