[photo] [photo]
El'Cheapo Diamond
Kite Plan


[photo] up Back to Anthony's Kite Workshop


These small kites are great for kite trains, kiddy amusements, filling the sky with lots of kites, or to sell for a couple of dollars each. This plan while NOT recommended for kids can have kid involvement with lots of help from a older brother, sister uncle, dad, whatever. The inal kite howeevr can be flown by children of all ages. My own nephew (age 9) has no problems with building a small stack of these kites after being shown the steps, once through.

As they are very cheap I do not mind if the kids ``let go'' accidentally, and they are light enough that they will fly in the lightest of winds, The long tail however allows the kite to fly even if the kids run all over the place with them, as they are apt to do.

The plan may seem long, but that is because I try to offer lots of ideas suggestions, and diagrams thought the plan. Really the kites are very very simple to make, so please don't be put off by size of the plan you see before you.

It is basically very simular to the very simplistic plan Susie's Kite Class, A Small Eddy, the main difference is that I have provided a huge amount of detail, options and extra information in the one document. That plan is however a good reference for the basic steps, which are the same as this plan. The two plans through related evolved seperately.

This is NOT an Eddy: Just before getting into this plan for a small diamond kite, I'd just like to bring to your attention a small peeve I have. I see time and again people refer to diamond kites as ``eddy'' kites. Eddy kites are very different, with a loose sail as a bow angled rearward at a 45 degree angle. Diamond Kite on the other hand have a tight sail and dihedral or bow 90 to the spine. I would be very disappointed if someone refers to one of these as eddy's after this.

If you are a complete novice at kites, have a look at this page from the Virtual Kite Zoo, which points out the names used for the various parts of a kite, weather it be for this diamond kite plan, or some other kite. Print it out and refer to it.

Materials (Simple and Cheap)

This diamond kite is basically a white kitchen tidy bag with bamboo BBQ skewers. However the main component that makes this kite work is a dihedral angle joint made from a short bit of ``Balloon Stick''. This is used in the same way that many kite books suggest for dihedrals made from aluminium tubing, bent in the middle, to create an angle.

Balloon Sticks are the cheap plastic tubes, to which balloons are tied to a plastic balloon holder on one end, at fetes and other public events. If you go to such an event you will find handfulls of these sticks thrown away after the balloon has burst. One such event will yield you enough balloon sticks for hundreds of diamond kites, now and in the future. If you must buy them you can find a source at basically any party shop in packets of 100 to 1000 or more!

You can build this kite without balloon sticks but the kite flys better with them. Note how to build without this are marked OPTIONAL

Having explained the most important part of these kites, (and more on this below), let's list the parts required, for a single kite.

Even with all the above materials, the cost for about 100 diamond kites works out to about $20-$30 here in Australia. Which is a pittence per kite!!!!


Cut Out the Kite Sail(s)

I first made diamond kites as part of a kite arch following the AKS Kite Arch Plan. I continued to use the same plan for the diamond kites when I later wanted to build a kite train, using plastic for my prototype to avoid the more (100 times more!) expensive ripstop.

[Diamond Kite Figure]

Make a cardboard/paper/plastic template of the above diamond, 40cm x 40cm with cross spar 1/5th (8cm) from the top. If you also make a small hole at the spar cross point, you can also mark that position when you mark out the patterns onto the plastic.

Cut off the bottom of a kitchen tidy bag, (or shopping bag) and down one side of the bag to give you a large sheet of plastic. Tape this flat to your workbench.

Using your template, and a fine tip permanent pen, mark the four corners and the spar cross point onto the plastic sheet. Repeat as many times as you can, preferably without any of the advertising that the manufacturers seem to like printing on the bags. The diagram below shows how I layed out my diamond templates.

Cut out the sails. Fold the sail twice into rough quarters at the spar cross point (which you marked using the template) and cut off the folded corner in a arc to make a small hole (1-2cm diameter) for the bridle. Actually you could probably skip this step, and later punch the bridle line though the sail, but I prefer to make the hole anyway as it stops the bridle line from distorting the sail.

You should now have a stack of 6-8 sails. Cut more, if you want, while you are at it.

Cutting Suggestion: How I actualy cut out a stack of diamond kite `skins' is to take two or three plastic bags (``Multix Kitchen Tidy Bags'', which only have a small patch of advertising in the corner), cut off the bottom and slit it down the fold closest to the small advertising. Lay the bags on top of each other, so the advertising is all on top of each other, and squash the air out from between the bags with a ruler. I then fold the plastic sheets over along their longest length (half way between the bags original top and bottom. Hint: putting a heavy ruler along fold temporarly makes this easier. Tape (or pin) the bags in place, then layout the template 4 times (see figure below). A sharp craft knife (actually a surgical scalpel :-) can then be used to cut out the 16, 24, or even 32, diamond kite sails in one sitting!

[Cutting Figure]

Decorate the sails

The title says it all. With permanent felt tip marker pens decorate the sail with whatever design you like. Get your kids to help, though it is easier if you lightly tape the `skin' to your workbench before you let them at it.

The only problem I have with permanent markers, in general, is that you can only easilly get them in primary colors, red, green, blue, black, however if you look in art shops and some news agencies you can often get other colors like greens, yellows, orange, brown etc.. Be sure to `paint' in a well ventilated area, or you could get a headache from the fumes these pens give off. Also if painting large areas ensure it drys well (at least an hour) as some of these pens remain sticky for quite some time. [photo]

I like drawing a different pattern onto each of the kites in a batch. As I am not an artist, I cheat! What I do is find clean looking pictures, clipart, sketches, icons, etc., from web sites all over the world, and enlarge them to just fill an A4 page, or letter page for the Americans. I then put that page underneath the plastic kite sail, follow the image with a black permanent pen, and then use other permanent pens to color it in. Quick, simple and lots of ideas and designs around.

For example, the ``Dinosaur Hatching'' photo to the left shows a printout I used to trace the kites design. This sketch was found on ``Mark Kistler's Drawing Web Site!''. [photo]

As an another example, the dragon to the right is one of my favoriate diamond kite designs. The image is one frame of a dragon animation by Kevin Palivec an internet dragon artist. Specifically the image comes from this Flying Dragon Animation, Kevin designed. [photo]

And as a final example, the source image for the gecko kite to the left is from an icon image from my own Anthony's X window Icon Library. The image was of course greatly enlarged and graphically ``smoothed'' before printing. [photo] [photo]

I now have a large folder of image printouts to allow me to create a huge range of diamond kites, without repeating a pattern in a single batch of kites. Some of these can be found (unsorted) in the ``Patterns'' Sub-directory of this plan. To the right are more examples of diamond kite designs I have created in the past.

Permanent pens also works great on ripstop. If you use with them on the `smooth' side of the fabric, it will not be absorbed into the weave. Also with a thick tip black pen, you can `paint' large areas of the ripstop. If you repaint the area two to three times, leaving it to dry between fills, you will get the darkest black areas on your ripstop, without the use of appliqué and is also water resistant. I used this with great success on my own kite arch.

Cross Spar Diahedral

[photo] From a balloon stick (which are usually white but mine are blue), score and snap a 6cm length. Hold both ends of the 6cm plastic tube of the balloon stick and while pulling on both ends, put your thumb into the center of the stick to bend it slowing. Do NOT use your thumb nail!.

Alturnativally, you can use two bamboo skewers which has been marked 3cm from the ends. Insert the skewers into both ends of the 6cm tube so the two meet in the middle (use the marks to gage this). You can then use the skewers to slowly bend the balloon stick. Do not do this too fast or you will snap the tube, particularly in cold weather, slow and easy is the trick.

The trick here is to stretch the underside of the stick (see lower part of the photo) but without puckering or indenting the top (inside of bend) of the stick (top part of photo). This is very important if you want your kite to withstand a higher wind, or sudden really big gust without folding up double. The puckering weakens the bend considerably as I have found from months of experience with these kites.

Jeff Jaeckels <jjaeck@itis.com> reports that heating a balloon stick with a hot air blow dryer, allows the tubes to stretch and bend that much easier and more precisely, but as I live is a warm climate, I have not had any problems as long as I bend it slowly.

I have found one balloon stick can yield about 8 to 10 plastic dihedrals, which considering that the sticks are normally thrown away, is great value. You may however buy balloon sticks in party and balloon shops, though I never have needed to.

Alturnative Diahedrals:
John Cunningham <lagunasc@gte.net> found that a little plastic gadget used in a drip watering system worked perfect instead of the baloon stick to form the diahedral.
You could also slightly bend a thin aluminum or brass tube for for the diahedral but this is much more expensive.
No Diahedral Option:
If you can't find a balloon stick you can still make this kite without it. It will just not fly as well but it should still work. Just skip this whole setion and see the next ``OPTIONAL'' below.

Preparing the Spars

Take the four 25cm bamboo skewers you will be using for your diamond kite and with a craft knife bevel the square, non-pointy, ends of the skewers. After that use a bit of fine sandpaper and smooth the end to a rounded finish. You can see this rounded end in the photo of the tapes spar below.

The purpose of rounding the ends of the skewers is to ensure that it can not poke its way though the scotch tape you use to attach the spars to the kite. Of course you don't have to do this for ripstop diamonds where you use a multi-layered spar pocket, as in step 2 of the AKS Kite Arch. [photo]

Take two of the bamboo skewers and with the points toward the center measure them to form one long spar 39.5 cm long (5mm shorter than the kite sails height). This will form the diamond kites longeron, also called the kite's spine, or backbone. Using scotch (magic) tape or masking tape, tape the two skewers together around the pointy ends so that it is tightly held and can't stick into anything it shouldn't. See the plan diagram above.

Wire the plastic dihedral you made from bending a balloon stick, to one end of the two skewers, using telephone wire or twist tie. Look carefully at the photos and diagram to see how I wire them together. Then using a pair of pliers, tighten the wire while holding the balloon stick slightly bent. Not too much or you will collapse and/or pucker the plastic tube, as I warned about above. [photo]

Cut off the excess wire and fold it out of the way.

Alturnative: Instead of using a bit of wire to attach the diahedral to the `longeron' (or spine) of the kite, Peter Rodda <peter@rodda.pta.school.za> (an 8 year old), reports that hot glue also works well. You will however have to correctly position the diahedral as you are gluing however. I myself now use this method.

Tape Spars to the Sail

[photo] Tape the longeron (spine) to the decorated kite sail starting at the top of the kite. The dihedral wired to the longeron should be at the same end. Attach a 5-7cm length of tape (the wider variety if possible) to the front of the kite and with the spar in place fold it over the spar on the back. Press the tape to the kite sail really well on both sides of the skewer. The harder the better. Then do the same with the other end of the longeron.

If the scotch or masking tape you are using is not wide enough, tape another piece of tape across the spar at the back to hold the first piece of tape in place.

Slide the plastic dihedral tube along the skewer, to line up with the hole in the kite sail. Then with the other two bamboo skewers cut off the pointy end to form the cross spars about 19.5 cm long (5mm too short). Insert the cut end of one of the skewers into one side of the dihedral, and tape the sanded rounded end to the side corner of the kite sail, in the same way as the longeron. Repeat with the other side pulling the kite sail taunt.

NOTE: The spars are intentionally a few millimeters too short so that the corner plastic can also cover the rounded end of the skewer. This also helps prevent the skewer punching though the scotch tape. The sanding of the skewer ends also helps in this. Even so I still find the skewer will still punch though every so often so keep that scotch tape handy when out flying.

No Diahedral Option: If you are making this kite without the balloon stick tube diahedral, just tape the second two pairs of skewers together in the same way you did for the longeron, and wire that pair directly to the longeron like you would for the balloon stick. The kite will fly but not as well as with a diahedral.

Knots for Kite flyers

Before attaching the bridle, I suggest you study various web page available showning a number of knots used by kite flyers...

In particular

Particularly look for and study the knots for

Bridling the Kite

Cut a length of about 60cm of nylon twisted fish netting line for the kites bridle. I suggest you use a cigarette lighter to cut the line so as to prevent the line untwisting.

With a large needle (or a broken bamboo skewer) thread one end through the sail (and scotch tape) 2cm from the bottom of the kite, and tie it around the longeron (spine), pulling tight. Tie the other end around the dihedral and longeron though the hole in the sail. The bridle line is of couse as with most kites on the front of the kite with the spars at the back. [photo]

Cut (burn) off a 10 cm length of nylon fish netting line, and make a loop using a large figure-8 knot. This knot will be a stopper knot which you can larks head the bridle line to. [photo]

Prusik Knot the loop onto the bridle line (See Kite flyers Knots above for more info) and then adjust it as shown in the diagram below.

Attach Loop with
    Prusic Knot     |
          `         |
Stopper     \       |
 Knot        \      |
              \     | Kite
               \    |   Longeron
                \   |
                 \  |
                  \ |
If you cut the bridle line about 60cm long before tying it to the kite, the bridle point should be almost directly above the diahedral of the kite. The kite is very forgiving of this point and will fly well on a badly positioned bridle (important with kids).

Actually in a high wind I have found you could just attach the flying line directly to the cross spars and have it work reasonably well, but I recommend you use the above bridle arrangement, so it works in basically all winds.

Later the kite line can be attach with a "larks head" onto the loops `stopper knot' (see flying below).

Attach a Tail

[photo] For a tail I prefer to use fluorescent surveyors tape for attaching to survey pegs. Your local hardware should stock it. Of course you could use another plastic bag where you cut off the bottom to form a plastic tube. You can then cut a long streamer by continuously cutting around and around that tube. Have a friend hold the tube over their arm while you cut.

Cut off a 3 meter length of plastic streamer (surveyors tape or otherwise) and thread it behind the longeron spar of the diamond twice at the center of the streamer. You do not need to tie a knot in the steamer. This will given your kite a good 1.5 meter twin tail which will stabilise it in all but the highest of winds, but is light enough for the lightest of breezes. See photo of the gecko kite at the start of this plan.

For a cheap solution:- Take a bread bag, and cut off the bottom to make a long tube. Now put the tube on your left arm (right if left handed), and while holding the scissors just right you can have a partner slowly pull out a long streamer from the bag about 2cm (1 inch) wide. That is the one long streamer is cut from the bag going around and around in a helix.

Even longer tails can be made in the same way from a kitchen tidy bag or other garbage bags, but one bread bag is just right (and colourful) for these little diamond kites.

Flying your New Kite

[photo] Tie a generous loop into the end of about 15 meters of that fish netting nylon line (add a small pull handle to tip of the loop), and larks head this to the stopper knot (see the Knots section above for more details).

I usally tie the other end to a bit of cardboard tube (left over ripstop fabric rolls :-), tieing it on, to give the kids a good handle to hang on to. I also cut some slots into one end to hold the end of the line when you wind it up and detach the kite.

Hint: After tying a generous loop in the end of your flying line tie a very very small knot in the very tip of the large loop. This small knot creates a small `handle' which you can grab to very quickly untie the larks head. This save you the fustration of try to use your fingernails on such small and difficult nylon line when untieing it at the end of the day. [photo]

The only adjustment that may be nessary is to slide the prusik knotted bridle loop in the bridle line 5mm at a time, downward, if the kite does large loops, or upward if the kite refuses to rise or wobbles side to side. To adjust the bridle, ``unlock'' the prusik knot by pulling the bridal line straight and sliding the knot. When positioned, pull on the bridle loop while folding the bridle line in half at the knot, to ``lock'' the prusik knot. [photo]

I rarely find any such adjustments are needed on the flying field. If the knot is positioned just above where the spars cross, or maybe a little further up from that point (See bridling) the kite flys perfectly. The kite is very forgiving with a large range of acceptiable bridle points, so a roughly positioned bridle should work fine. The kite even does not mind kids which loves to run with the kite, especially when no wind is available, and is a great way of wearing the ankle bitters out :-) [photo]

The original design is very light weight, even so it likes a light sea breeze. Strong winds tend to make the kite loop and dive, and is very difficult to get it to fly well in such winds. Here is a problem chart, to try and help solve such flying problems. [photo]

Some times in a smooth, steady non-turbulent but strong wind, I move the bridle all the way to the top so that the lower part of the bridle is not used (all tension is on the upper bridle to the cross spars) and the kite flys high and steady. This is not always the case though.

Diamond Kite Trains

[photo] I originally designed these cheap small diamonds for building a train of diamonds kites and in light winds such a train works great. Make sure you use a good strong line through where the spars cross, as 25 of these little kites can add up to a huge pull. Don't forget to stake it down well too. [photo]

Of course, with this huge pull, you will have to use a different bridle arrangement. In my kite trains I use a very thick nylon builders line for the top leg of the bridle, the main line, though venetian blind cord should also be good. It is through this leg that the huge pull of the other diamond kites behind (and higher) is passed without damaging this particular diamond.

I also cut a seperate segment of main line (builders line) for each kite, about a meter long. A `figure-8' stopper knot is added to the front end of this segment (See Knots above). In the other end, a generous loop is added to allow this kite to larks head to the stopper knot of the next kite in the train.

This makes it easy to replace individual diamond kites of the field (due to damage), shorten the train (due to that big tree downwind), make the train longer (as you get more time), auction off each kite individually (at the end of some big kite festival) or just to give that particular diamond (with a bat picture or whatever on it) to some kid who helped you out so much. IE: it makes the train a lot more flexiable to the situation you find yourself in.

                                 ____  loop to connect
    @-----------------------@---@____) to next kite's
stopper                     ||         stopper knot
 knot                       `'
                       Loop to wrap
                     around cross-spar

About 20cm before the end loop of this segment I fold the line double, and tie a knot to form a second smaller loop in the main line segment. This is used to attach the kite to the main line, loosely.

The main line is threaded though the hole in the sail. The small loop is then threaded on the diagonally oppisite side of the crossed spars, around the diahedral. The looped end of the main flying line is then threaded though the small loop, so that the kite is now locked loosely to the main line in that position.

        Crossed Spars ---v
                      ,;==:.      Builders Line
                     // () \\    /   ____

The loop should remain loose around the cross spar, just holding the kite next to the main line, as it goes though the hole in the sail to the next kite in the train. The kite then still free to adjust itself to the wind, regardless of the tension in the main line. and can pass its own individual pull to the main line via the small loop.

If loop was tight, or the main line was just tied directly around the crossed spars, the heavy tension due to the kites further up the kite train, could either pull the kite into an odd angle to the wind, or worse, crush the crossed spars.

Also note that the small loop should not be so small that it can't go all the way around crossed spars and diahedral. Nor should it be so big that it will fall off the line segment during normal handling, before linking all the segments together into the train.

               Adjustable  |
   Thicker     Larks Head  |
Builders Line     Knot     | Cross spar (and small loop)
           \      /        |/  ____
    Stopper       \      A |    Loop to attach to next kite
     knot          \       |      (larks head to its stopper knot)
                    \      |
                     \     |
                Thin  \    | Kite
                 Nylon \   |   Spine
                   Line \  |
                         \ |

The lower leg of the bridle is the good old light weight fish netting line as used for single diamond kites. This line is first `larks headed' to the upper leg, thus allowing adjustments to be made and tightened into place. The lower end is then pushed through the sail 2 cm from the bottom (not critical) and tied as normal to the spine (lonergon) of the kite.

This thin line is used only to set this kites angle to the the thick builders line and does not carry the pull of the other kites behind this. Finally the larks head then adjusted along the main line so that the angle `A' (see the above ascii-art) between the upper bridle and the kite longeron is just a little bit greater than the 90 degrees (say about 100 degrees).

Remember the object here is to use the strong builders line to carry the pull of all the kites behind (and higher in the sky) this particular kite. Only the first (highest) lead kite would use the normal diamond kite bridle. This lead kite should be a extra steady kite (diamond or otherwise) and I usually put a extra segment of light flying line from end of the train to the lead kite (see photos).

It is also recomended that longer tails are used on the upper diamond kites. to steady them more. These uppermost kites are affected more my turbulence and move around and can loop. Longer tails ensure these remain stable. A number of swivels between each of the upper kites is also recomended. as these often loops and swirl alot, especially during the launch.

Train by Debbie Kinchloe
(see Responses Page)

Notes for a Kite Class

The following are notes and suggestions for using this plan in a Kite Class for school, scouts, guides, or whatever. The first few of these were provided by Jane McDowell <jmcdow24hr@aol.com>, who substitued 1/8'th inch dowels for the bamboo BBQ skewers. I have also added some comments and alturnatives.

Larger Diamond Kites

This plan can also be used for larger diamond kites, and in response to a number of emails I have recieved, I present the following modifications...

To do this double or triple the above dimensions and substitute the following parts, or variations...

6mm (or 1/4 inch) dowel, for spars. The longeron (or spine) will be one piece, though you will still use two peices for the cross spars when creating a diahedral for the kite.

No Diahedral Variation
Instead of using a diahedral, or bowing the spar, you can just use a straight piece directly, as your grandfather probably would have. The kite however will be stronger, but not as stable. You can compensate for this by using a longer (and thus heavier) tail.

I do not recommend this, though it does work and may be better for workshop situations.

Dihedral Tube
Use a thin walled, brass or aluminium tube with the appropriate inner diameter for your dowel. To bend this center the metal tube over a gap in some wooden boards and tap a chisel with a hammer lightly in the middle. Don't bend it too much. (See Dr Deleto's Eddy kite for some deatils of this.

Alturnitivally, insert some dowels into the tube and bend it the same way you would with the ballon stick above. You may however require a vice to hold one of the dowels.

Sail or Kite Skin
Ripstop is good, and you can sew it, hemming the edges to prevent fraying, and add spar pockets with folded strips of ripstop. This allow you to remove the cross spars for transport. It is however expensive.

Tyvek is also an excellent sail material:- it is easier to draw on, allowing the use of plain crayons, felt tip pens, or cheap craft paint you can get at the local news agant shops. It also does not strech, can be cut with sissors but will not tear; and it is water proof. You can also glue or even sew spar pockets onto the sail! Unfortunatally it is not as easy to get a hold of, is heavier. But is it a lot cheaper than ripstop.

Bowed Cross Spar Variation
Instead of a diahedral you could also use a bowed crossspar... Soak the dowel in water for 24 hours, then bend dowel using nails half hammered into a bit of scrap chip board (or whatever) to hold the bend while the dowel drys throughly. When dry the dowel will have a permenant bow in it! You can do this with a group of dowels all together.

I myself have been lucky to find a dowel in the hardware shop which has been standing so long the dowel has a bow in already. If you find such a spar take it to the shop manager and see if you can make a deal! These dowels are often un-sellable by the shop and the manager may let you make a deal to take then of his/her hands ;-)

You can also bow a longish (over 1 meter) dowel with a `bow line' streached and tightened from one end of the spar to the other, like a bow as in `bow and arrows'. You should be carful when doing than that the dowel has no imperfections, or bowing too much with a very dry wood, otherwise the dowel can shatter.

Other links

The following are other simple diamond kite making web sites you can try or look at to find out more.
* Simple Sewn Nylon Diamond Kite
* Dr Deleto's Eddy kite
* Susie's Simple Kite
* No Secrets Kite Train (KiteLife EZine)


For more information about peoples experience with building this diamond kite, and what results they have achieved, I suggest you look at the various Responses I have recieved. Many thanks to all who have replied.

If like this kite, and build a few of them, please mail me and let me know what you think. Including any ideas, suggestions or other experences. That way I can add them to the above and others can read of your results. :-)

Created: 15 May 1997
Updated: 12 May 2000
Author: Anthony Thyssen, <anthony@cit.gu.edu.au>
WWW URL: http://www.sct.gu.edu.au/~anthony/kites/diamond/