How To Build A Barn Door Kite

Complete Instructions For The MBK 2-Skewer Barn Door Kite

This set of instructions on how to build a barn door kite assumes you know absolutely nothing about kite making. You might already have some of the simple tools and materials required. Anything you don't have is easily bought. If not exactly what I used, then at least something pretty similar!

The instructions on how to make a barn door kite might look awfully long, but that's because they are so detailed. For those who like pictures, every detail is illustrated with photographs too. Just quickly work your way through, skimming over any detail that you don't need. All in all, it should be quite hard to make a mistake!

The MBK 2-Skewer Barn Door is medium-sized at 58 cm across and 57 cm tall, with a single looped tail. Some 'dihedral' gives extra stability and shortens the amount of tail required.

The 2-Skewer Barn Door is a very nice light-to-moderate wind flier. As we found out on its first time out, it can cope with a rather strong breeze too! However, it could not be called a strong wind kite, as it bends a lot under those conditions.

Have you read the page on kite materials? If you haven't already, do it now to see what's needed for building a barn door kite.

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Frame

How to build a barn door kite - spars

For this barn door, you need to glue skewers together to form the 3 spars.

  • Snip the points off 6 skewers, then check to see that they are all exactly the same length.
  • From another skewer, snip off 2 lengths of bamboo, each 0.2 x (one skewer length) long. Mark the center-points with the marking pen if you want to be extra-precise!
  • From the same skewer, snip off another 2 lengths of bamboo, each 0.3 x (one skewer length) long.
  • Arrange all the bamboo as in the photo, with some paper underneath to catch excess glue.
  • Prop up each end of the double-reinforced spar to about 1/10 of a skewer length above the table, to give it 'dihedral'.
  • Get down to table top height and look along the spars, and make sure they are as straight as possible.
  • Lay down a thick line of glue all the way down each join, as in the photo.

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Sail

How to build a barn door kite - template

The template shown above represents one side of the kite sail. You will now transfer these measurements to the sail plastic as follows...

How to build a barn door kite - corners

  • Firstly, take the large bag that you will be using for the sail, and lay it flat on the table.
  • Measure and mark the corners of the template shape with dots, as shown in the photo. Notice that marks are also made on the side edge of the bag, which is the center-line of the kite sail.
  • Using the marking pen, rule lines between the dots.

Note: When marking the corners, I have found that just judging the 90 degrees from the center-line by eye is sufficiently accurate. Any small error will be exactly the same on both sides, and the spars will still fit the sail reasonably well. Of course, if you have a proper T-square, use it!

How to build a barn door kite - sail edges 1

  • Flip the plastic bag over, and trace over all the black lines using your marker pen and ruler.
  • Cut out a rectangular section of the bag containing the kite sail, open it out and lay it flat on the table. You can now see the complete sail outline, as in the photo.

How to build a barn door kite - sail edges 2

  • Lay clear sticking tape along all the lines with each line showing through the center of the tape. That's 6 pieces of tape in all.
  • With scissors, cut along the black lines. This will leave half the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline.

Note1: Don't worry about overlapping lengths of tape at the corners, it will all look tidier after the cutting is done.

Note2: Just between you and me ;-) I mis-measured the center-line and so had to lop 2 cm off each diagonal spar... So the sail above is not quite as tall as it should be. It shouldn't make much difference to how it flies though.

How to build a barn door kite - spar taped down

  • Place one straight diagonal spar over the plastic, with the edge tape facing up.
  • Cap the ends of the spar with electrical tape, as in the photo, by sticking it down over the bamboo and plastic then folding it under the plastic to stick on the other side - a bit tricky, take your time!
  • Do the same for the other diagonal spar, crossing it over the first one.
  • Next, lay down the horizontal spar and cap each end with electrical tape - pull the slack out of the plastic, but don't pull it really tight.
  • Don't secure the spars to each other at this point - the bridle knots will do that later!
  • If you want to, trim the bits of tape that stick out at the ends of the spars, with scissors.

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Bridle

How to build a barn door kite - bridle knots

  • Cut off some flying line to a length of 4 skewers, and tie a very small loop into each end.
  • Poke 4 holes in the plastic sail, where the horizontal spar crosses the diagonal spars - I've marked the holes with black dots in the photo.
  • Tie each end of the line to the bamboo, through the holes - use a single half-hitch, and pull tight against the knot of the small loop, securing the crossed spars together.
  • Tie a loop into the bridle line, exactly in the middle - to check before you tighten the knot, lift the kite up off the table by the bridle, making sure both sides come up at the same time.
  • Now cut off some flying line to a length of 6 skewers, and tie a very small loop into one end.
  • Poke 2 holes in the plastic sail where the diagonal spars cross - one hole on either side, as in the photo.
  • Use a single half-hitch as before, to secure the diagonal spars together, pulling tight against the loop knot.
  • Tie the other end to the loop in the upper bridle line, using 2 or 3 half hitches.
  • IMPORTANT: Put a drop of glue over each knot that is holding spars together - the very first test flight proved the need for this, since the spars tend to flex and loosen the knots.

Tip: Use the blunt end of a skewer to help get those little loops through the holes!

prussik knot

Now take a length of flying line about half a skewer long, and tie one end to the bridle line with a Prussik knot. Tie a small simple overhand loop into the other end, just to get a nice big knot.

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Attaching The Tail

How to build a barn door kite - tail

Have you read the page on making kite tails? Assuming you have...

  • Make up a tail from a black garbage bag, making sure it is at least 6 times as long as the barn door kite itself.
  • Attach each end of the tail to the bottom of a diagonal spar, by poking the end between the bamboo and the sail plastic, then tie off.
  • It looks nice if you don't pull too much plastic through, and tie the knots as mirror images of each other - see the photo!

At this point, you've pretty much finished making the 2-skewer barn-door!

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Preparing To Fly

How to build a barn door kite - attach line

Finally, make up a flying line and attach it to the bridle with a Lark's Head knot. See the photo above.

As a final check, suspend the kite from the flying line. Shift the Prussik knot along the bridle line until the kite hangs at roughly a 30 degree angle from the horizontal.

How To Build A Barn Door Kite - Flying!

Assuming there is some breeze outside, just dangle the kite at arm's length until the wind catches it. As long as you feel the kite pulling, let out line slowly by letting it slip through your fingers. If it refuses to climb despite pulling on your hand, shift the Prussik knot towards the nose a bit, and try again. Keep going until the kite behaves itself!

Another approach is to get a helper to hold the kite up and let it go, with maybe 10 or 20 meters of line let out. This way, the kite soon gets high enough to make it easy to let more line out.

How to build a barn door kite - launching

Here's a picture of the MBK 2-Skewer Barn Door Kite being launched, down at the Morphett Vale High School oval. Have fun flying, and I hope you've enjoyed learning how to build a Barn Door kite.

All the above info, plus much more is available in a PDF eBook which covers the entire 2-skewer series of kites.

Last updated: 11 Aug 2008

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