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Tools And Materials

This chapter is concerned with the hows, whys and wherefores of the things which are used in kite making and flying. We begin with a few words about tools, of which the following are recommended.

First, a fretsaw, for cutting the small joints which are sometimes used. Second, a small hacksaw, or a small tenon saw, for cutting lengths of wood. Third, for a hammer, use what is called a pin hammer. Other tools include a craft knife with spare blades; a small screwdriver; a small file; a hand drill, with bits up to £ in. diameter; a fretsaw drill or an awl for making nail and screw holes; a small brad punch to drive nails home; a rule; a pair of scissors; a soft-grade pencil; a few assorted paintbrushes. In addition, a woodworker's vice comes in handy, as also do one or two cramps for holding down glued joints.

In considering the various materials which are used we come first to wood for the framework. It is possible to make a kite from odd scraps of wood, or even hedgerow sticks, but in the long run it pays to use the best. The wood must meet with certain requirements, namely; it must be light in weight, smooth, strong, and flexible. Fortunately, this kind is readily obtained in the form of hardwood stripwood. It can be obtained at woodworkers' and model-makers' shops. It comes in lengths up to 8 ft. and is of different thicknesses. When you are buying wood it is a good thing to tell the shopkeeper what you want it for, and he will help you in the choice. This stripwood is most suitable for the purpose, because besides being light and strong it is also fairly flexible, though not to the same extent, of course, as cane. Cane is often specified in kite making, generally for the crossbars when these have to be bowed. That which is generally referred to is known as gardener's or staking cane. The hard outer skin gives great strength and flexibility to small diameter lengths. It is supplied both in the form of whole cane and split cane. Of course, one may split the cane at home when necessary by using a sharp knife or fretsaw.

Other cane mentioned in this book is called centre cane. It is cut from rattan, a species of climbing palm belonging to the East Indies. The hard outer skin of the rattan is stripped off, leaving the centre cane. It provides lengths of uniform thickness, but, however, it does not possess the strength of whole cane, as it lacks the hard outer skin. It may be used in suitable diameters when difficult shaping is called for, as it may be easily worked. Handicraft stores usually stock centre cane. Covers for kites can be made in several materials. The most common is tissue paper. It is chosen mainly because of its lightness, but it is flimsy stuff and must be handled with care. Sheets of the paper measure 20 in. x 30 in., and various colours may be obtained. Following correspondence with a well-known paper manufacturers, and after testing, the writer recommends the following as being superior to tissue paper: one, pure unbleached greaseproof (17/18 lb.); two, mg. pure ribbed kraft (16 lb.). Both are light in weight and very strong. A good quality adhesive should be used for gluing the greaseproof. Both papers are obtainable in sheets measuring 20 in. x 30 in. A cloth cover is specified for some kites. This may be made of fine smooth silk, very fine calico or cambric. The usual width of these is 36 in.

The right kind of glue is an important factor in kite making, since the joints must be of the maximum strength. Generally speaking, glues are divided into the synthetic; the animal, and the fish glues. The two latter, when properly used, are very strong. They are gap-fillers in joints which do not fit too well. Another advantage is that they do not deteriorate so quickly in the tin or tube as do some other types. 'Croid' or 'Seccotine' are especially recommended. The cellulose cements are very much to the fore in the synthetic adhesives. They are widely-known as 'balsa cements' and are used for their strength and quick-setting properties. Unless they are properly sealed when not in use, they have a tendency to harden. As a general rule, the quicker in setting the cement is, the shorter is the time that it will keep in a working condition, particularly when once the container has been opened. Most kinds of cellulose adhesives are suitable for balsa wood, paper, and card, but for ordinary wood a slower drying kind is needed. This is known as 'high strength' balsa cement. Mention may also be made of an adhesive derived from poly-vinyl acetate (p.v.a.). This is an excellent general purpose glue. It is quick-setting and very strong, and provides slightly flexible joints. It is non-staining and therefore is a good choice where cloth covers are glued and not sewn down. The synthetic resin glues, of which there are many, make up another great group. They give great joint strength, and are waterproof.

Certain proprietary brands are supplied with the resin and hardener ready mixed, requiring only the addition of water. String comes next in the list of materials. This is the general name for the material used for the bracing, bridle, tail, and kite line. The string is required in different strengths and thicknesses according to the purpose it serves, and the size of the kite. The writer, after consultation with a manufacturer, and after many tests, recommends the following as being suitable for the kites listed on the website. In the case of the larger kites, up to 3 ft. 6 in. in length, use fine flax line for the bracing, and No. 68 hemp whipcord for the bridle and the kite line. Flax line may also be used for the tail. The line is available in knots of 17-20 yards. For the smaller kites and to serve a general purpose, use No. 10 or 104 coloured cotton, or linen tent thread. These should serve for kites up to say, 2 ft. in length. The appearance of a kite is improved when it is decorated in some way. A few simple designs are given later in the chapter. These may be cut from coloured gummed paper, or painted directly on to the kite cover. Use fabric painting oil colours for cloth covers. Lacquer is most suitable for paper covers. It spreads easily, gives a clear-cut outline and dries fairly quickly.

19 Great Kites to Make