GUEST POST: Recycled Kites ~ Creative Repurposing Takes Flight

About the Guest Blogger ~ Glenn Davison is an eco-artist and workshop leader who has been featured on HGTV as a New England Craftsman.  He is the editor of the books, “Kites in the Classroom,” “How to Fly a Kite,” and the “Guide to Building Miniature Kites.”  He is a director of the club, “Kites Over New England” and chairman of the education committee for the American Kitefliers Association. (Find links at the end of this post.)

Oh, the people I meet when I am out and about, always talking about Time Well Spent… I met Glenn Davison at the Topsfield Fair. When I checked out Glenn’s website, I found the kites he makes are truly functional art, a great vehicle for the message of creative repurposing. So, I was happy to welcome Glenn to write a guest post on his area of expertise ~ kites! I encourage you to read on and visit Glenn’s group of websites

Here are some mini kites from one of Glenn's several kite sites!

Here are some mini kites from one of Glenn's several kite sites!

Kites have a long history that goes back hundreds of years.  In that time kites have been made from everything you can imagine especially repurposed materials.  Certainly Jell-O wouldn’t work, but what about candy wrappers?  Would they fly?

 Bamboo and paper continue to be widely used for making kites.  People have used old cotton bed sheets for kite sails and kite tails.  Many people made their first kites from yesterday’s newspapers and twine.

 One of the great things about kites is that they can be made from a wide variety of thin materials that can be taped together into larger sheets.  Those sheets can be given a framework then flown many times.  Kite flying is an excellent hobby for that reason.  When you have a completed kite it can be flown many times without additional fees or expenses.  All you need is sunshine (optional) and wind.

Read on to learn more about the wonderful world of handmade kites…

Many modern kites rely on hollow tubes that were originally made for arrow shafts or golf club shafts.  The tubes are ferruled together to make kite spars that are strong and lightweight.

 In many parts of the world today, people use dried bamboo that grows wild in many areas.  It’s free!  Certain dried grass is also popular, especially cattails.  When I went to Antigua I heard that palm leaves are stripped, dried, and made into kites.

There’s a great story about a NASA engineer named Francis Rogallo who took down his kitchen curtains and asked his wife to sew them into a unique shape.  Because of their teamwork, that prototype is now considered the grandfather of the hang glider and the delta kite.

 You can make a kite from recycled materials too.  Here’s how:

1. Collect a variety of recycled items, such as: 

  • Sails: paper, plastic, trash bags, wrappers, foam trays, junk mail, recycled umbrella, paper napkins, tissue paper or a plastic rain poncho
  • String: heavy duty button thread, yarn
  • Spars: bamboo, food skewers, used bamboo blinds, wood sticks, straws, dowels, broom bristles
  • Tails: streamers, ribbon, strips of plastic, holiday tinsel
  • Do not use: heavy things like metal, hot-glue or paint
  • Do not use: stretchy materials like plastic wrap or cotton fabric

2. Design your kite:

  • Design and build a unique and interesting kite using recycled materials
  • Eddy kites and sled kites are recommended
  • The kite should be symmetrical so fold it in half to make sure it’s even
  • See the Kite Plan Database for detailed plans

3. Construct your kite:

  • Your goal is to make the kite fly
  • It should also be creative and unique
  • Attach tails 7 to 12 times the length of the kite
  • Use your imagination!

4. How to make tails from recycled plastic:

(1)  Take a plastic sheet or bag and lay it flat. 

(2)  If you’re using a plastic bag, start with the closed end and roll the bag into a long tight tube.

(3)  Use scissors to cut the tube into many small rolls.  They look like hot-dogs that are 2″ long but still tightly rolled.

(4)  Unroll your tails and use tape to attach the tails together to make long tails for your kite.

Here are some ideas for contests for kites made of recycled materials (all kites must fly):

  • Best flying kite
  • Highest kite
  • Most artistic kite
  • Most innovative use of recycled materials
  • Smallest kite
  • Largest kite
  • Photography: Best photo of recycled kite

When I do kite workshops I often use tape or glue.  I distribute the glue one drop at a time (less glue is better because it dries faster and weighs less).  To distribute the glue I pass out used bottle caps and used Popsicle sticks to apply the glue.  That’s a great reason to keep them out of the trash.

 When you build a kite, remember to keep the tails on the bottom, keep the sticks on the back and keep the bridles on the front.  On some kites tails are decorative, on others they are a necessity.  Keep them light.

 That’s the details about the theory of kite design.  In practice, I doodle, I sketch, I take notes, I fold paper, I try new things and I test new ideas.  Then I keep all of my designs in a sketchbook.  When I’m ready to build a kite I have a book of ideas that are waiting.  There’s plenty of information online.

 Kites don’t have to be hard to make…

                    “There’s nothing remarkable about it.

                   All one has to do is hit the right keys

                   at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”

                                                 -Johann Sebastian Bach

My final recommendations: don’t over do it.  Keep it simple and don’t worry about it.  Above all, remember to wear sun block.

 Glenn Davison is an eco-artist and workshop leader who has been featured on HGTV as a New England Craftsman.  He is the editor of the books, “Kites in the Classroom,” “How to Fly a Kite,” and the “Guide to Building Miniature Kites.”  He is a director of the club, “Kites Over New England” and chairman of the education committee for the American Kitefliers Association.

  Links:

Recycled kite plan http://www.motherearthnews.com/DIY/1979-03-01/Mothers-Recycled-Kite.aspx
Kyoto contest http://www.geocities.com/kitesforkyoto/kites.html
Teaching resources http://classroom.KitingUSA.com/resources.htm
Kites in the Classroom http://classroom.KitingUSA.com
Kite plan database http://www.kiteplans.org/
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