How To Make A Sled Kite

Complete Instructions For The MBK Dowel Sled Kite

This set of instructions on how to make a Sled 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 Sled 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 from top to bottom, skimming over any detail that you don't need.

The MBK Dowel Sled Kite is a large vented Sled, with a shallow V cut into the leading edge. If you imagine a kite taking off from the ground, the leading edge is the top edge of the sail.

The Dowel Sled is a good light wind flier and can cope with moderate gusty winds. However, it likes smooth air to fly in!

Now's the time to read up on the kite making tools and materials required for making a Dowel Sled, if you haven't already.

How To Make A Sled Kite - Spars

Make a sled kite - spars

For this sled, you need 2 lengths of 4mm wooden dowel. I have chosen to make '1 Dowel Length' equal to 1.1 meters since that just fits the garden bags we buy. If you are in North America, 4 feet of 1/8" dowel might be a good choice! For a light-wind sled, the dowel doesn't have to be very stiff.

  • Make sure the dowels are exactly the same length. Trim one a little if necessary, with the hack-saw.
  • Round off the 4 tips with your wood file.

How To Make A Sled Kite - Sail

Make a sled kite - template

Make a sled kite - corners 1

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

  • Firstly, take a large bag that will fit the entire Template shape within one side, and lay it flat on the floor.
  • Measure and mark the corners of the template shape with dots, as shown in the photo. I have highlighted the corners in yellow since the marker pen lines and dots are a bit hard to see.
  • Using the marking pen, rule lines between the dots. For lines longer than the ruler, just add a few extra dots using one of the dowel spars as a ruler! Then it's easy to connect the dots. It's probably best not to rule the whole line with the dowel, since it bends easily.

Make a sled kite - corners 2

  • 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 floor - you can now see the complete sail outline, as in the photo. As before, the lines are hard to see so I have added yellow dots at the corners.

Make a sled kite - sail edges

  • Lay clear sticking tape along all the lines, except the diamond-shaped vent holes. Most of the width of the tape should be inside the kite's outline. Use a single length of tape for each line. Hold it out straight, touch it down to the plastic at one end, then at the other end, dab it down in the middle, then press down all along its length.
  • With scissors, cut along all the black lines, including the vents - this will leave most of the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline.
  • Place 9 short lengths of tape down as reinforcers, in the positions shown by the small yellow rectangles in the photo.

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

Make a sled kite - spar taped down

  • Firstly, pull a length of sewing thread tight across the plastic, over the corners where the left spar will go. Tape the thread down to the floor (not the plastic!) at each end. Mark the plastic on either side of the thread with dots, near the center of the kite.
  • Remove the thread, and place the left spar onto the plastic.
  • Prepare 6 lengths of electrical insulation tape, each one about 3 times longer than it is wide. Stick them by a corner onto something handy like a table edge. You can remove them one at a time as needed.
  • Cap the ends of the spar with tape, as in the photo, by sticking it down over the dowel and plastic then folding it under the plastic to stick on the other side - a bit tricky, take your time!
  • Next, lay a short length of electrical tape across the dowel and onto the plastic, at the center. Use those dots on the plastic to position the center of the dowel, which will ensure that it is perfectly straight. See the photo.

Now, tape down the right hand spar in exactly the same way.

Here's how to reinforce the towing points...

Make a sled kite - towing point

  • Prepare another 3 lengths of electrical insulation tape, 2 of them 0.08DL long, the other 0.05DL.
  • Firstly, stick down one of the 0.08DL pieces of tape from left to right. Let it stick out from the plastic a distance of about twice the tape's width. See the photo.
  • Turn the sail over and stick down the other longer piece of tape exactly the same way, so both pieces stick to the plastic at one end and to each other at the other end.
  • Lay down the remaining shorter piece of tape across the towing point in a nearly vertical direction, then fold the ends under the plastic. The photo shows how the corner of the sail should be covered in tape.

Now go over to the right side of the sail and do exactly the same thing with another 3 pieces of tape. The pieces of tape that stick out are where you will attach the bridle line. This method is surprisingly strong and can take a lot of punishment in gusty air.

How To Make A Sled Kite - Bridle

Make a sled kite - bridle knots

  • Cut off 8DL of 50 pound flying line.
  • Tie a simple overhand loop into each end. Make them as small as possible, since the loops aren't being used, just the knots!
  • Tie one end to one towing point tape, and the other end to the other towing point tape. Use a single-wrap slip knot. In other words, just loop the line around once, tuck the loop knot through and tighten against the loop knot. It might take a few tries before you get the knot sitting tight and secure.
  • With the knots nice and tight, the line should crush the tape and make a secure connection. If you do it right, it should never slip off when the kite is flying.

    prussik knot

    Finally, take a length of flying line about 0.2DL long, and tie one end to the bridle line with a Prussik knot. See the small photo. Tie a small simple overhand loop into the other end, just to get a nice big knot.

    At this point, you've pretty much finished making the Dowel Sled!

    How To Make A Sled Kite - Prepare To Fly

    Make a sled kite - attach line

    Finally, make up a flying line and attach it to the bridle with a Lark's Head knot. See the photo over there, where the Lark's Head has been left loose.

    As a final check, lay out the bridle across the floor, with the kite folded along its center-line. The kite should look like the Template. Shift the Prussik knot along the bridle line until it is centered. Then pull the flying line away from the bridle, which will lock the Prussik in place, as in the photo. To unlock it, you just pull the bridle line straight, with the knot in the middle.

    How To Make A Sled Kite - Flying!

    Firstly, if it's very windy outside, stay home! This is a big light-wind kite and it can be a handful in fresh wind. If the wind is too strong, it will not even be stable enough to fly.

    Make a sled kite - launching

    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 taking loop after loop off the winder. Be very cautious about letting line slip through your fingers, since this kite can easily give your finger a nasty line-burn!

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

    The launch picture over there shows the Sled on its way up, in a light and gusty breeze.

    The Dowel Sled Kite eBook is a neat compilation of all the info on this page and much more.

    Have fun flying, and I hope you've enjoyed learning how to make a Sled kite.

    Last updated: 17 Dec 2008

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