Kite Making Methods
The simple butt joint is all that is generally needed in kite making. It may be formed in two ways: first, by laying one piece of wood across another, and fastening together with glue and binding thread; second, by fastening two ends together with glue and a nail. When properly made, the butt joint combines simplicity with strength. The halving joint is used to make a framework all on one level, that is, one part does not stick out above or below another. This makes for neatness, and enables the kite cover to lie flat upon all the framework. This joint, to be effective, must be made accurately. A good joint is one in which the parts need a gentle tapping home with a mallet. Both these joints are described and illustrated in the instructions for making kites in Chapters 1-6.
When using glue, first read the directions on the container. It is surprising how many people don't do this, and then blame the glue because it won't stick. These directions usually state the approximate drying time, that is, the time to be allowed before the parts are brought together. Drying time is fundamental to successful gluing. Don't use too much glue. Too much is nearly as useless as none at all, and far messier. After they have been set aside for a while to dry, the two parts are pressed firmly together. The ultimate strength of the joint depends upon the closeness of contact of the two pieces of wood. The aim is to expel all air bubbles, which are the enemy of good joints. The work is best done in a fairly warm room. It is an advantage to cramp the joints and to allow the glue to set hard overnight. Metal cramps can be bought quite cheaply.
In addition to the use of glue, most kite framework joints are bound round with thread or fine string. Use thread for small kites and fine string for the larger sizes. Smear the binding with glue to keep it in place. Illustrations in Chapters 1-6 will show how to achieve neat and effective binding of joints.
Shaping Wood and Cane
We will take wood first. When the framework is to be bowed and suitable cane cannot be obtained, it is possible to shape hardwood stripwood. Many kinds of wood may be shaped by steaming. Professional woodworkers use a steaming box; but as an alternative, the wood may be soaked for a minute or two in warm water, and then laid across a pan of hot water. It should, after a while, be sufficiently pliable to be formed, gently but firmly, into the required shape, which shape should be fixed by the use of a bowstring. The shaping should be done before the parts are glued and assembled.
Cane, being naturally flexible, is readily formed into curves. Whole or split cane is more easily bent by the application of dry heat (e.g. gas jet, or electric fire). This method prevents cracking or splitting. Again, in the case of kite crossbars, the shape is retained by the immediate use of bowstrings. Other shaped parts should be fixed in position as soon as possible. Centre cane, which may be used when small sharp curves have to be made, is rendered more pliable by soaking it in hot or cold water. After the parts have been shaped, strings can be run across the ends to prevent the cane from springing back while it dries out.
Cane may be cut, split, and drilled quite easily. The best way of cutting it is to use the knife so that it rolls the cane round at the same time as it is cutting through it. This will prevent the ends from splintering. Cane can be split with a sharp-pointed knife. Don't use it as though it were a chisel, but draw it firmly, using the point, along the cane. It will be necessary to repeat the action in order to separate the cane. Nodes or knots are best cut through with a fretsaw. It is a good plan to drill through the cane near the ends, and pin it to a board. This will prevent the cane from rolling while the splitting is being done. When drilling cane, care must be taken not to split it. As soon as the drill pierces the underside, turn it over and drill through again.