First a little warning: This is not a complete plan. The basic construction is explained, I'll give you a few details and construction tips, but a lot of the work is up to you. This is not because I don't want to give you a full building plan, but simply because I never had one. Most parts of the kite evolved during building, some parts were drawn freehand on the fabric. Even I can't make an exact replica. But if you are an experienced kite builder looking for a challenge this could be the kite for you.
The dragon kite is basically a Genki kite with curved edges, extra diagonal spars, and a windsock attached to the middle longeron. The rest is just details, to improve the looks, and hopefully not declining the flying capabilities. Sounds simple? Yes, when the kite was finished it did, but during he building I sometimes wondered what the **** I was doing.
I started with some basic ideas of how a dragon
should look in my opinion. Yours might be different, since dragons do not
exist (well... at least sometimes people tell me so) everyone's ideas are
right. Based on my ideas I made a sketch of the outlines of the
kite. I used this sketch during the whole building process, and the
outlines of the actual kite are a direct enlargement of this sketch, which
is shown here.
A kite with such impressive looks should be of an impressive size, so I chose the strongest carbon tube available at that time, 11 mm , and based my dimensions on the strength of the tubes. Such a large kite can only be flown single-handed in light wind conditions, so I wanted the kite to be able to fly in 1-4 Bfrt. The wings of the dragon are similar to a genki kite, a proven light wind kite, hence a good stating point. Comparing some of my own kites and kite of my friends, and doing a little math resulted in the choice of a wingspan of 7 mtr. The other dimensions resulted from the sketch. Well, that is how the basic design started. By now you probably want some real information on building the kite. If you are going to build it, do it right, it should be the star of your collection. Let your fantasy work, think of every detail a good dragon and a good kite should have, take enough time for building it (mine took 300hrs), and make your dreams come true.
Let's start with the wings, the most important part
of the kite, these should keep the whole thing up in the air. The outline
is as drawn in the sketch. If you take a look at the photographs you'll
see that part of the wing is black, and part of the wing is green. The
black parts are made out of heavy quality ripstop nylon 65g/m2 and bear
most of the tension. the green parts can be as light as you can
The frame consists of a spreader, three longerons, and four diagonals. The spreader (11 mm carbon tube) is joint in the middle with a brass tube, bent to appr. 150 degrees dihedral. Use a brass tube with at least 1 mm wall thickness, thin walled tubes will break instead of bend. The middle longeron (11 mm carbon tube), which is the actual backbone of the dragon, runs from the back point of the wing to the neck of the dragon, and is extended inside the head till the nose, where it is fixed to the support frame of the head with a T-joint. Only the part between the back point and the neck is tensioned, the extended part is just supporting the head. The head should be as light as possible, otherwise the center of gravity moves to much to the front of the kite, and it will soar towards you instead of flying on a line. Therefore the extended part of the backbone is not made from 11 mm carbon, but 7 mm carbon tube. At the neck you need a joint which can hold an 11 mm tube on one side, a 7 mm tube on the other side, and which can be fixed to the fabric for tensioning. I use a brass tube, with a hole drilled in the middle for a tension line, and on the nose side a 5 cm long piece of 7x9 mm carbon glued inside 11x9 mm carbon glued inside the brass tube. If you are really handy machine something better out of aluminium or nylon.
on picture for larger image:
The outer longerons (11 mm carbon tube) have attachment points for the bridle, four points on each longeron, one at the nose side, one at the tail side, one at the cross point with the spreader, and one in between.The diagonals are all 6 mm carbon tube. All the spars are fitted in tunnels, except the extension of the backbone. This is a necessity in a kite of this size, to keep the spars at the right place. All ends are fixed with arrow nocks and sewn on loops of edge binding tape. Black edge binding is used on all edges as reinforcement and colour accent.
The body is, as mentioned before, only a complicated windsock, sewn to the wings and supported by a few spars. Use a soft but airtight ripstop nylon for all the body parts. A little stretch helps you to form fluent shapes, so don't use icarex. You can cut out three pieces of fabric shaped as shown on the sketch to form the basic body. Sew them together, but don't sew the third, closing seam yet. Do all the appliqué work you want, a nice breast, pointed finns on the back, a pointed tail (my tail point is a little drogue) and the legs. Each leg is constructed out of three pieces of fabric. Draw a sideview of the shape you want, cut it out in duplicate, and sew a strip of appr. 10 cm wide in-between the edges of both shapes to give it volume. Leave a little gab where the claw should be attached, and turn the whole leg inside out. Now all the edges are inside. When you inflate the leg the shape changes slightly, so make a small version, try it, change it if it's not what you like, and when it's right scale it up. Sew claws out of two layers of fabric. Don't bother with inflating, just fill them with some pieces of foam rubber (after all sewing is completed).
|Some purists say that every seam can be sewn
in such a way that, by turning things inside out, every seam is located
inside the kite. I think you make it just more difficult for yourself. I
sew the claws to the legs by folding back the edge of the leg 1 cm and
stitching 1 mm from the fold. In the same way sew the legs to the body
with a 1 mm rim, along the blue line in the drawing, so the leg is only
partly fixed and can still move around. Now cut a nice round 10 cm hole in
both the inner side of the leg and the side of the body. Sew the edges of
both holes on each other. The air can flow from the body to the leg, but
can not escape between the body and the leg.
By the way, opinions differ on whether a dragon should have two legs like a bird, or four legs like a dinosaur.
When all the work on the body is done, you can sew it to the wings, along the blue spotted line in the main drawing Sew two loops of edge binding tape at the tensioning points of the backbone, on the inner side of the body. A V-shaped line will connect these points later with a bridle point on the stomach. Now you can sew the panels together to close the body. Sew a loop in the middle of his stomach, with attachment points both inside and outside the dragon. In projection it should be placed in the middle between the two tensioning points of the backbone. It's nice to do this with the kite turned outside in. Roll up the wings, slap the body parts over the wings, sew together, and turn inside out trough the neck hole.
Everything is taking shape, its time for the final part, his head. Yes, it's a he, by now you will probably consider it as one of your children, so I won't call him ‘it’ anymore.
|The head is constructed in the same way as the legs, two side panels and a (bit broader) strip sewn in between. Sew tunnels along the edges of the jaws. Two rectangles, as shown in the picture, of 4 mm carbon rod, or even better tube, joint with vinyl tubes, support the head. Sliding them in the tunnels takes some effort, but you can leave them there permanently. The head is a nice core to wrap the rest of the kite around for storage. The throat is open, this is where the wind enters the dragon. (red dotted line) sew the neck to his head, in the same way as the legs. Cut a 10 cm hole to let the air flow into the body. It should be large enough to let your arm pass inside for adjustments.
|The kite is almost ready. Attach the nine
bridle lines, at least 10 mtr long. The bridle line on the body
should pull the body a bit in front of the wing, adjust the V-line inside
until the stomach is not deformed by the bridle. In bad wind conditions I
sometimes fly the kite with an extra flying line on this bridle point.
This line is used as an emergency brake. In high winds, above 3Bfrt. , the
tips of the diagonals start to flutter, I don't have a solution for
this yet. Maybe they are extended a bit to far, maybe a short tail on each
tip is a solution, but it doesn't really affect the flying, it only looks
a bit weird. Curving the leading edge has made the wing shape a bit
unstable, a tension line between the nose ends of the outer longerons
prevents the wings from bending backwards, and turning the dihedral upside
Well, that's it, I hope you've enjoyed it,
and if you're really going to build a kite like this, let me