There are few things more thrilling on a windy day than flying a nice kite that you built yourself. But, I’m not talking about ready-to-go kits that you snap together in 10 minutes. I’m referring to designing and building it yourself from scratch.
There’s so much satisfaction from watching your homemade handiwork take flight in the skies. I remember growing up making kites from just fishing line, sticks on the ground, and plastic bags.
I wanted to relive those days, and build a kite for my son – so that’s exactly what I did 🙂 Here’s how to make a box kite from scratch.
Planning the Kite Design
This time around, I wanted to go beyond the standard diamond-shaped kites that I used to make as a kid. My craftsmanship has significantly improved since I was 10 years old, and I wanted to construct something that was up to my present standards.
After some kite design research, I settled upon the box kite. If you are wondering how to make a box kite, it’s an easy project to work on.
It’s an elongated box frame with fabric wrapped on two ends, leaving the middle exposed. It also has two attached strings (with specific offsets to give the kite a better aerodynamic tilt during flight) which converge to a single string to control.
How to Make a Box Kite
Here is a TinkerCad sketch I made of my proposed design of how to make a box kite. I love using TinkerCad because it gives great 3D visuals of my DIY projects.
It just so happens that a few days before my birthday, Eileen was on the phone with one of her sisters and mentioned that we were planning to make a kite.
Her sister stealthily went on Amazon and ordered a few kite-making materials as a birthday present for me. So we lucked out with some nice wooden dowels, table cloths, and an awesome spool of string for the box kite. 🙂
Materials for the Box Kite
Here’s the list of materials we used. A few were sent via Amazon but most are easily found around the house.
- ⅜” 4 ft wooden dowels (5 of them)
- Brightly colored lightweight plastic table covers
- Fishing line
- Stiff thin wires
- Electrical tape
- Shipping tape
- Spool of string
Step 1 – Preparing the Wooden Dowels
Here’s a picture of the wooden dowels. Little do they know about their high flying adventures to come 😉
I only used four of the dowels. The extra one you can use to keep pets away from chewing your sticks while working on your kite 🙂
My kite is made of 4 long 36” dowels, and 4 short 12” dowels. That means I can just take my 48” dowels and cut them at the 12” mark, and I’m set.
Here is one of the dowels marked at 12” and clamped into my handy workbench vice, ready to be cut with the hacksaw:
Several cuts later, here is the end result:
Add some string to that and I could sell it as a kit online!
Step 2 – Constructing the Crosses
To make the crosses, I first marked the center points of each 12” dowel. Then I notched out partial holes using my Dremel. If you don’t have a Dremel, you can use a hack saw.
The notches allowed two intersecting dowels to form a lap joint for a rigid connection.
Here’s a picture showing the notches I made with the Dremel (and a high-speed cutting bit):
Here are the dowels intersecting via the notches:
The ends of these crosses were going to be in contact with the long 36” dowels. To make for a better fit, I opted to carve the ends of the crosses slightly with a concave cut. This would allow the crosses to rest nicely against the long dowels.
Once again, I used the Dremel to make the cut below (boy was the Dremel helpful in this project):
To make a strong connection between the crosses and the long dowels, I used wire that I inserted into small holes drilled into the dowels.
The wire would be twist-tied and strongly pull the dowels together. So holes were drilled into each 36” dowel (where the crosses were going to be in contact. Likewise, matching holes were drilled into the crosses (to line up with the holes on the long dowels)
Here’s a picture showing one of the holes I made in a cross:
Step 3 – My Strengthening Process
The lap joints I made for the crosses were just the beginning of the strengthening process I used for maximum durability.
First, I put a dab of construction adhesive in each joint. Wood glue was another option, but in my experience, wood glue tends to be a lot runnier. Construction adhesive is thicker and starts to give some tackiness almost immediately.
Then, I assembled the crosses with the glue in place, and started reinforcing the intersection by repeatedly wrapping it with some fishing line:
Finally, I used strips of strong repair tape to repeatedly wrap the intersections:
Here is one of the finished structural crosses (it’s very sturdy at this point):
Step 4 – Assembling the Kite Frame
Now it was time to start connecting the crosses to the long wooden dowels using wire and the holes I drilled earlier.
Here’s a close-up showing how the connections were made:
The wire ran through a hole in the cross, and a hole in the 36” dowel. Then it was twist-tied.
Here is the kite structure nearly completed with the crosses attached via wire:
The wires made for a very strong connection between the dowels. However, the structure was still a little wobbly. To remedy that, I wrapped all the wire joints with electrical tape:
The kite structure was now complete and very rigid. It should have no problems standing up to strong wind forces (and inevitable crashes).
Step 5 – Wrapping the Fabric
Next up was wrapping the ends with fabric. You can be very liberal with what type of fabric you use. Some people use garbage bags. Others use construction paper. I used plastic tablecloths that my sister-in-law sent for our kite-making. You can pick these tablecloths up at the dollar store too.
Here’s a picture showing one side of the kite wrapped:
I also made sure the fabric was wrapped nice and tight around the structure. Then, I used a lot of shipping tape to help secure and reinforce the fabric.
I applied tape inside to help keep the fabric attached to the dowels. I also used tape where the fabric overlapped itself and on all the exposed edges of the fabric.
Here’s a close-up showing how the edges of the fabric were reinforced with tape:
This last step with taping the edges was especially important to prevent the fabric from ripping as wind gushed through the structure. It would also help during landings to prevent tearing.
Here is the kite with fabric applied to both sides:
Step 6 – Stringing the Kite
Now to make the string connections. String attaches to the top of the kite, and then again about ¾ down the kite. Then a final string connects to this one and will be used to control the kite from the ground.
To attach the string securely to the kite, I once again drilled some small holes and used more wire. The wires made a hook for the string to tie onto and not slide around.
Here’s a close-up of one of the wire hooks:
Here’s a picture showing how I attached the second string to the one above:
My Fancy Birthday Spool
That fancy metal clip connects to a string wrapped around a spool. The spool will be held by the kite flyer and reeled in and out as extra length is needed.
This nice kite flying spool came with a cool lightweight clip to quickly attach/detach to kites. If you aren’t so lucky, you can just wrap a long string around a stick and use that instead.
Here is the completed kite with a spool of string:
Ready for Take-Off
The kite was now complete! We went to the park for a nice open area and really lucked out with a windy day!
Zeus had been wondering what we were working on and was overjoyed for his trip to the park. He got to run along with the box kite and enjoy a windy evening outside.
The homemade box kite was a really fun project to work on. It only took a few hours and didn’t cost much to make. I can’t wait until my son’s old enough to create his own designs with me. His interest is already peaked – we are definitely a family of engineers.
Now when we have windy days this summer and fall, we have our hand-constructed box kite ready to go 🙂
If you have been wondering how to make a box kite, these six easy steps will have your kite ready in no time. All you’ll need then is a windy day.
It’s a great family project, kids’ activity, or couples activity – and who doesn’t love a great DIY project?!