6 Foot Rokkaku Plans

If you are new to making kites, there is a place to get a lot of very useful  advice and information. It is the Kitebuilder Forum.

See what folks on the Fitebuilder Forum said about this plan at: http://www.kitebuilder.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=293

The Rokkaku is probably one of the most versatile kites any kiter could have in their kite bag. Rokkaku are probably most commonly used for kite battles, but they are also great lifters for laundry and can be stable enough for KAP (kite aerial photography) or kite rescue (using a kite to lift free another kite which is caught in a tree). Rokkaku are also forgiving kites to build, making them an ideal early project for the new kite maker.

New kite makers would do well to check out Kite Sewing 101 for some tips and tidbits for building kites.

Size matters: Probably the first thing to discuss is what size and shape to make the kite. The word 'rokkaku' means 6 sided, or 6 cornered, kite. So the shape is essentially an elongated hexagon. Just how much elongated may depend on whoever is giving the dimensions at any given moment. Tradition says that most rokkaku are made to ratios of 3,4,5 or 4,5,6. In these ratios, the first number is the height of the main body, the second number is the width of the kite, and the last number is the total height of the kite. So, a 6 foot tall rokkaku, made to 4,5,6 dimensions, is 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and the middle is 4 feet tall. That makes each 'end triangle' 1 foot tall, and 2-1/2 feet wide.

Having said all that, mine are usually 3.5, 5, 6. There is a simple reason, and it has nothing to do with aerodynamics. The first rokkaku kites I made were made to Mel Govig's Sanjo Rokkaku Plans. I made them long before I heard about 3,4,5 or 4,5,6, and they flew great. So, once I did hear about the ratios, I was content with the dimensions I had been working with all along, so I stayed with them. Plus, the math works out pretty neat.

These plans are for a 6 foot rokkaku, since that is the most common size used for battle. The reason there is a 'size' stated for battle is that, the smaller the kite, the easier it is to maneuver to put it where it is needed. So a minimum size is usually stated (and frequently ignored) for most battles.

Materials List:

3 yards of 3/4 ounce ripstop nylon (43" for Main Body. Both ends (4 pieces) may be cut from 1 yd of 41")
Add any extra material for appliqué.
4 eyelets (Dritz), eyelet setting tool (Dritz)
4 inches of velcro (4" of hook, 4" of loop)
Dacron, 3.5 ounce, 6" x 18"
Webbing, 1" wide, 36" long.
50 feet of 150 pound line for bridle and tension lines.


FRAME: The table below lists the choices for making a frame for the Rokkaku. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the frame can be customized to fit any performance level and almost any budget. The bad news is that there are so many choices, it can be confusing.

What do the numbers in the table mean? The first thing to understand is that the frame parts most of us use come from archery, as in bow & arrows. Standard length for these sticks is 32.5" because they are made for archery. So, folks that have been building kites for 20 years using these sticks still use the old archery numbers. The 'letter' part of the designation is somewhat arbitrary. It was just a handy way to reference a stick. Generally, the smallest stick was an 'A' stick, an the next largest was a 'B' stick. The 'number' part of the designation was the maximum poundage (strength, force) bow the stick could be fired from without incurring too much deflection. So, A 'G' stick could not be fired by any bow stronger than 50 pounds. Some kite building folks have nearly memorized the outer diameters and inner diameters of these sticks.

FERRULES: Sticks with the letters 'FL' in their designation are heavier sticks with thicker walls specifically made to join two sticks together to make one long(er) stick. As an example, FL-260 can be uesed to internally ferrule G-50, which has an Inside Diameter (i.d.) of .266 ( 266 thousandths of an inch ). FL-260 has on Outside Diamter (o.d.) of .260, so it just fits inside G-50.

FRAME
COMPONENTS

Epoxy/Fiberglass
(filament wound epoxy tubing)

Graphite /
Carbon Tubing - Sky Shark

Light wind

Heavy wind

Light wind Heavy wind
Spreaders:
(horizontal sticks)
Need 4 sticks and 4 ferrules.
Kite Studio stock #

G-50


RET50

K-75


RET75

P200


RSSP200

P300


RSSP30032
Spine:
(vertical stick)
Need 3 sticks and 2 ferrules.
Kite Studio stock #

K-75


RET75

FL-414


RET414

P400


RSSP40032

P400


RSSP40032

** IMPORTANT FRAME NOTE: It is important not to have a ferrule at a bridle point or where the spine and spreaders cross. An internal ferrule joint is weaker than the stick and tends to break in these spots. But a ferrule on only one side of the kite can cause it to flex differently side-to-side, and cause it to lean or spin. The best thing is to calculate the length of stick needed, and plan on a short piece in the center ferruled to two longer pieces at the outside. Usually, for kites made to these plans, cutting the 32.5" sticks to 27-1/2" leaves a piece about 5" which can be used in the middle of the spreader.


Tools:

Sewing machine that works.
Thread: HB (or HSB) -33 nylon, or V-30 polyester are preferred.
If you MUST go to the fabric store, use Mettlers Metrosene, Güterman, or Mölnlycke thread only.
Friends don't let friends sew with anything by Coats and Clark** from the sewing store.

**Note: Coats & Clark is now making an excellent industrial/commercial grade dabond thread

Needle: #14 (90) Regular Point (Don't listen to the folks at the sewing store . . .)
Scissors
Seam Ripper
Straight edge (6 foot is best. Find some cheap aluminum flat stock at the local home improvement store.)
Measuring Device. I use a regular metal tape measure, not one of those stretchy plastic sewing measuring tapes.
Hot cutter. It is more accurate than scissors, but scissors will work if nothing else is available.
The Woodburner from A. C. Moore is a good Hot Knife. And it can be made into a Tacker as well.
Take the pointy tip to a hardware store and ask for a spring that just fits over it. It makes a good Hot Tacker.
The spring steadies the tip and compresses the fabric together for tacking.
Hot Tacker really helps.
Duct tape. I use it everywhere. It is a great way to hold parts in place for sewing.
Template for cutting End triangles.
Glass table for hot cutting and hot tacking really helps.
Saw (hack saw or Dremel wheel) for cutting spars.

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A brief review of Kite Sewing 101: {web page: http://www.geocities.com/gengvall/sew/sew.html}

One of the lessons learned from doing this kite in workshops over the years is that people of all different experience levels build this kite. So we'll review a few quick sewing terms and techniques. A seam is where two pieces of fabric are sewn together. An allowance must be added to the size of the panels to sew them together. These plans call for half inch seam allowances. A hem is where an edge is folded over once or twice and sewn to prevent it from unraveling with use. These plans call for a ¾ inch hem allowance for a double fold hem. Mark the kite at ¾" in from the edge, then fold on the mark, then fold to the fold, and sew down.

Warp & Weft: As is most fabric, ripstop nylon is woven on a loom. There are threads running in two directions. Fabric cut along the threads is cut on the grain. Fabric that is cut, not on the grain, is said to be cut on the bias. Fabric cut on the bias tends to stretch more under stress than fabric cut on the grain. When fabric is woven, there are long straight threads called the Warp threads. The shuttle of the loom carries a thread between them called the Weft or fill threads. The Warp threads tend to be straighter than the Weft threads, so an edge of fabric cut along the Warp threads tends to stretch less than an edge of fabric cut along the Weft threads.

***************************************

To cut the parts using ½" allowances, the Main Body should be cut:

43" by 61-1/2". (42" tall plus two 1/2" seam allowances = 43". 60 inches wide plus two 3/4" hem allowances = 61-1/2") Some people prefer to work with smaller pieces, and make the Main Body in two pieces.

In this case, each piece should be cut 43" by 31.25". (30 plus 1/2" seam allowance, plus 3/4" hem allowance.

END TEMPLATE :

The easiest way to make the triangles for the ends is to make a template out of posterboard. Posterboard is available at most craft stores, even Wal-Mart. Start by measuring in 1/2 inch along any 2 adjoining edges. Draw lines 1/2 inch in from these edges for the seam allowances. Along these lines measure the 15" and 30" for the triangle and draw a line between them. Then measure out 3/4" from this line and draw a line for the hem allowance. Cut out the template and use it to cut 4 end triangles. Cut 2 one way, then reverse it (flip it over) and cut the other 2.

Important Construction Note: It is important to know the fabric and to know the difference between Warp and Weft and to make sure that the Warp threads are aligned along the outer (hem) edges of the end triangles. Folks coming into kite making from other sewing disciplines like Quilting or making clothes know that the fabric has Grain. Warp and Weft are the grain, but the Warp threads are straighter and run along the length of a roll, the Weft (or Fill) threads run across the roll and tend to be very wavy or curvy and therefore less stable, more apt to stretch. So put the longest edge of the Triangle Template against the outside edge of the roll, not across it. It looks like it uses more fabric, but it is well worth it in the long run.

Assembly:

Find 2 complimentary end triangles (a left and a right). Put the 'good' sides together, match up, and sew along the shortest side, using ½" seam allowance. The best way to sew an accurate allowance is to have a mark on the throat plate (needle plate) of the machine.

One of the things Kite Making Judges look for is for the Plain Seams to be folded and sewn (felled) in the same direction, so you might want to take that into account as you make your kite. In other words, if the fold for the top triangles goes to the right, the fold for the bottom triangles should go to the right as well, when the kite is sewn together. When the ends are sewn together, take the Main Body and fold it in half lengthwise and just pinch the fabric in the middle to have a place to line up the middle seam on the Ends. If the Main Body was made from two pieces, line up the middle seam of the Main Body with the seam in the End. Place the End and the Main Body together, good sides facing, and align for sewing. If you are using a Hot Tacker, start at the middle and tack along the seam to the outside, then go back to the middle and go the other way. This is the best way to make sure the End is centered on the Main Body. Sew the Ends to the Main Body. Trim off the little bits that stick out from the seams.

Mark all around the outside edge 3/4" in to form the hem. Use a #2 pencil to mark the hem on the good side of the kite. That always seems to be a point of confusion in the workshops.

Now, don't get ahead of me here.... FOLD on the line, all the way around. STOP.

Fold again, bringing the raw edge of the fabric in to be just shy of the first fold. Ripstop has great 'memory' and holds a crease very well. When done, there will be a double folded hem that you haven't sewn yet !!! Set the sail aside for a few minutes.

Find the 3.5 ounce dacron. Out of this cut 2 circles, each having a 3" radius, or a 6" diameter. Place a circle under the corner of one END of the kite and mark a wedge on the circle, the point of which is at the center of the circle. This will be the reinforcement patch for one end of the kite. Take the remainder of the circle and fold it in half, and cut on the fold. These 2 pieces are for the 2 corners of the kite.

Place one of these Dacron pieces on the kite so it is just inside the kite body from the folds for the hem. It shouldn't interfere with the fold. If it is 1/8 or 1/4 inch away, that's okay, it will be covered by the Hem later. Hold it in place with duct tape (DON'T sew over the tape) or seamstick and sew only on the curved part. Do this with all 6 patches.

After the patches are sewn in place, then sew the hem. The hem folds over on top of the patches for a very professional look.

After the hem is sewn all the way around, it is time to install the webbing for the pockets for the sticks. Find the webbing and cut 5 pieces that are 3 inches long. These are for the 4 corners and the top end.

The top pocket is the easiest, so start there. Take a 3" piece of 1" webbing, and fold over a little over an inch. When making a pocket for a stick, it is important that the ends of the pocket don't meet up. It is much easier to insert the stick if the ends of the pocket are slightly off-set. Place the folded webbing so that the opening is towards the body of the kite, and the webbing is centered on the pocket, and the corners of the fold are against the edge of the hem.

Corner pockets are done the same way. Take a 3" piece of 1" wide webbing, and fold over a little over an inch. Place the webbing on the corner reinforcement so that the corner of the fold of the webbing is in the corner of the kite and the fold of the webbing is along the edge of the kite.

Now for the fun stuff. Find the leftover webbing. Hot cut a 4" piece and a 9" piece. Find the velcro. Sew the 'loop' velcro to the 4" piece. Just lay it on there and sew around the outside. Put it aside. Sew the hook velcro to one end of the 9" piece. Lay the 9" piece down velcro up. Put the 4" piece on the non-velcro end, velcro side up. Sew the 4" to the 9" as close to the edge as you dare to form a sleeve (don't sew across the short ends!) between them. Then sew this assembly to the bottom end of the kite, so that the 4" 'loop' velcro end is on the kite, and the 'hook' end is hanging off. There should be about an inch of webbing with no velcro, and this should be on the edge of the kite. Said another way, the corner of the bottom of the kite should be in about the middle of this 'no velcro' area. It is better to have it too far onto the kite than not far enough. Too far makes it easy to tension the sail when the sail gets damp and stretches. Don't worry, it goes back to original size when it dries.

Dave Gomberg would say to make sure the Velcro/webbing sleeve assembly is well on to the kite to make sure it couldn't be grabbed by another flying line to tip the kite. In fact, Dave would probably say to put it on the top of the kite . . .

For more adjustment in the Spine tension, use a 10" piece instead of a 9" piece of webbing. That's the way I have been doing it lately.

The last step in sewing the sail is to install 6 reinforcement patches, 4 for the bridle to pass thru the sail, 2 that will anchor the Spine to the sail and the Spreaders to the Spine. Find the Dacron and cut 6 pieces that are 1-1/2" square. Bridle patches first. The bridle points, where the bridle passes thru the sail and connects to the spreader, are halfway between the spine and the edge, or, in our case, 15 inches (half of 30). Keep It Simple. Check to see that the sail is close to being 60 inches wide, and just make them all 15" away from the middle of the kite. Again, the distance is not critical, but consistency is. If one is 15 inches away, they should all be 15 inches away. Position the patch so its center is 15" away from the center of the sail, and in the center of the Spreader. Said another way, the center of the patch will be on the center of a line drawn from the middle of one spreader webbing to the other. Remember that the patches are bigger than the webbing by ½", so if the webbing lines up with the seam of the ends of the rokkaku, the patch will overlap the seam by ¼". Position the patch, sew it to the kite, then punch a small hole in the center of the patch and install an eyelet.

Spine Patches: First, the 'over/under' discussion. There are two schools of thought for whether the Spine or the Spreader should be closest to the sail. I'm a 'spine-to-the-sail' guy, for the following reasons: The Spreader gets bowed, it pushes against the sail. It should push the Spine against the sail. When it has to pull the Spine with it, it puts added stress on the tie or sleeve that is connecting the Spine to the Spreader. Also, with the Spine continuous along the sail, not broken up by the lump of the Spreader, the sail presents a 'cleaner' surface to the wind stream. Less drag equals greater lift. So, on my kites, I solve the 'over/under' question by making a Spine/Spreader sleeve patch which only allows installation in one way. Take some one inch webbing and cut two pieces, one at 1" long and one at 1-1/2" long. Sew the 1" piece to the middle of the 1-1/2" piece, forming a sleeve that runs parallel to the length of the 1-1/2" webbing. Place the assembly across a 1-1/2" square of Dacron. Sew down the short ends of the 1-1/2" webbing. If the patch is sewn to the kite as shown, the Spine passes underneath, the Spreader passes over it.

Bridle: Make 3 lines, each 1-1/2 times the width of the kite. Since that is a 'finished' dimension, cut the lines at 10 feet (7-1/2 feet plus 2 feet for splices, plus a half a foot for fudge factor). There is a principle to grasp here: The actual length of the bridle lines is relatively unimportant. They don't even really need to be all the same length, but it helps if they are close. The important part is: Tie or Splice the loops on the ends first. Then put the ends of the loops over a nail and bend the line to find the middle of the line. Mark each of the 3 lines in the middle.

Make the complete Bridle before attaching it to the kite. Choose one of the 3 lines and declare it to be the Main Line. Choose another line and tie the Main Line to it using a Prussik Knot.

One line goes across the top Spreader, one line goes across the bottom Spreader. The last line goes between them, secured at the middle marks of each line with a Lark's Head or a Prussik Knot. It is easiest to make up this bridle first, then pass the ends thru the eyelets and Lark's Head them to the spreader sticks. The way the kite is most commonly stored, the spreaders are left in and only the spine is removed, hence there is no need to 'secure' the bridle lines to the spreaders.

Make a Knotted Loop by taking 18" of bridle line and tying the ends together using a Figure 8 Knot. Then Prussik Knot this to the main leg of the bridle about 6" above the middle mark.

Tension Lines: (Bow Lines): I learned the neatest thing at the Oregon Kitemakers Retreat this year (2004). Barry 'Bazzer' Poulter came up with it, and Arnold Stellema was showing it to everyone who would sit still long enough to learn. Instead of going thru a bunch of folderol to attach bow lines to the outsides of the Spreader pockets, just do this: Take a piece of string. Tie (or splice, or No-Knot ™) a loop in each end. Prussik Knot it to each end of the Spreader, close to, but outside of, the Bridle. Then simply spread the Prussik Knots along the stick to bow it however much needed.

Note: Many of us used this method for a year or two and went back to using the Trucker's Hitch.

Aha, you say, but how does one tie a Prussik to a stick when one only has one end of the string to work with?
Enter the knot(ty) Ronda Brewer and Ellen Pardee.
They taught us how to tie it this way at OKR.

Take the loop,
drape it over thumb
and forefinger.
Wrap twice
around forefinger.
Wrap twice
around thumb.
Bring thumb
and forefinger
together.
Slide everything
onto thumb.
Clean up, make neat,
and slide on to stick.

For a six foot tall rokkaku, cut the bow lines 48" long. Make a mark 6" in from each end. Bend at the mark and tie an Overhand Loop. I usually use 5" to 6" of bow, but your mileage may vary.

There is another web page that has a plan I wrote for an 8 foot Rokkaku. Try visiting there if anything is unclear.
http://home.attbi.com/~ddkites/Rokkaku1.html, http://members.tripod.com/~verlin/Rokkaku1.html

 

Gary Engvall

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: http://members.cox.net/gengvall/


Adding Borders to Rokkaku kites:

So, the project is to make a Rokkaku that is still 6 feet tall, but has a 3-1/4" border all the way around, like Taz or Mickey. Simple, right?

To visualize the problem draw a plan, or just a full-size outline, for a 6 foot rokkaku, then measure in to it for a border. As soon as you do this, you realize something: When a border is added to a rokkaku, the corners move.

Even if a border is added to a finished kite, the corners for the spreaders move toward the ends (top and bottom of kite) by the width of the borders.

When starting with a fixed outline, and measuring in, the inner edges of the border don't meet in the corner at the seam. Oops.

How to fix it? Actually, there are 4 different ways to do it, and they all have pluses and minuses.

Plan A): Camouflage. If you get a close look at my KONE rokkaku, you will see little wedges of appliqué in the corners to cover up the spot where the border didn't meet. I didn't think it thru as carefully as I should have. I spent a week doing appliqué,  then I added the borders before assembling the panels. When I sewed the kite together, the borders didn't meet in the corners.

Plan B): Fudge it. Nibble out the offending corner of the main body when assembling the pieces. Admittedly, this could be a problem if there is appliqué here, but there generally isn't. Just join the end triangles together, then sew them to the main body. Put a straightedge along the outside edge of the end triangle and cut the main body to match. Then border the kite.

Plan C): Draw the big picture. Make a full size drawing on a piece of template material. The material should be larger than what is needed for the end triangle. Draw as much of the kite as is in the first picture here. Measure in to draw in the borders. Add whatever is needed along the base of the top triangle so the inside border corners meet. Said another way, draw the triangle for the End Panel after drawing the border. Add seam allowances, and that is the End Triangle template

This does two very confusing things. It makes a triangle all out of proportion to what is expected. Plus, the Main Body needs to be reduced in height by twice the amount added to the triangle template. If you are doing a lot of appliqué, this can be either a good or bad thing.

Plan D: Do the Math: Measure the distance of the vertical seam in the end border. Double it, subtract that number from the desired height of the rokkaku, and use the result to plan the dimensions of the 'inner' kite that will accept a border easily. That avoids many of these messy 'corner problems'.

For whatever it might be worth, my Taz rokkaku and Mickey Mouse rokkaku were made this last way. It shows judges who might be checking that some forethought went in to how the border would be done.

MATH: I always cut 4-1/2" borders. I dunno why, other than I did it once and it worked. There was no reason to change. So, 4-1/2" minus 1/2" for seaming to the kite, and minus 3/4" for hems on the outside, means the border ends up being 3-1/4" wide. It adds a little over 3-1/2" (on each end) to the vertical dimension of the kite. 72" minus 7" equals 65 inches. To make a rokkaku 65" tall means 65"/6 units equals 10.833333" per unit. Round to 11". 11" times 1.25 units for the end equals 13.75" for the end. 13.75 times 2 = 27-1/2. 3.5 times 11 equals 38.5 for the height of the Main Body. So, with a border, the kite becomes 73" tall and 61-1/2" wide. It's a tad over 6 feet.

A way to fix it is to reduce the main body by 1" in height, and by 1-1/2" in width.
Taz's ends were 14 x 27, plus allowances.
Each (of two) Main Body Panels was 37 inches tall and 27" wide, plus allowances.
Then the kite was bordered all the way around, using 4-1/2" strips, allowances included.
The kite ended up 72" tall and 60-1/2" wide.

-+-+-+<> Gary Engvall

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: http://members.cox.net/gengvall/