Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Easy Being Green: Episode 12: Recycled Kites with Glenn Davison

Episode 12 of my local t.v. show, "Its Easy Being Green," is airing this week and next week. My guest is Glenn Davison, who is a kite enthusiast. He showed us how to make kites out of recycled materials. This is going to be a lengthy blog post. Glenn has provided a nice article that talks about recycled kites. He was also kind enough to let me borrow his camera (I had forgotten mine) after the show so that I could photograph his kites. After the article will be pictures and a step by step how to on making your own kite out of recycled materials.

The following is the article that Glenn Davison has written:

Recycled Kites

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.

Many modern kites rely on hollow tubes that were originally made for arrow shafts or golf club shafts.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:

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

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

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!

How to make tails from recycled plastic:

Take a plastic sheet or bag and lay it flat.

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

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

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.


Recycled kite plan HYPERLINK ""

Kyoto contest HYPERLINK ""

Teaching resources HYPERLINK ""

Kites in the Classroom HYPERLINK ""

Kite plan database HYPERLINK ""

“I checked out your website and the kites you make are truly functional art, a great vehicle for the message of mindful repurposing.”

Thank you Glenn for providing this article. I would like to point out that the website is Glenn's website. You can go there to learn more about kites and what Glenn does.

How to make a kite out of a plastic bag:
Here is the kite template.
As you can see it is easy to make it any size that you want.
All you need is a 4 x 3 square grid.

Step 1: cut off the handles and the bottom seam of the bag.

Step 2: Cut the bag open so that it is one layer.

Step 3: Fold the bag in half and draw half of the template on it.
This is so that your kite is the same on both sides.
Then cut out your kite shape (the outside line of the template).
You can choose to decorate your kite before or after you cut the shape out.

Step 4: Punch a hole on two sides of the kite (see picture for location of holes).
Before making these holes, place tape on that area to make sure the holes don't tear / break.

This kite was decorated with sharpie markers.
Step 5: Add bamboo or straws with tape.
Also add your kite string to the 2 holes on the sides.

Step 6: Cut the tail about 10 to 12 times longer than your kite.
The picture shows how Glenn rolls / folds the plastic bag into a long tube so that he can easily cut loops to make his kite tails out of. The loops then would be cut to make a long strip. You can use tape to attach the strips together to make them longer.

Here is Glenn with a kite that was made from different plastic bags.
The bags were taped together to get this look and size.

Wrapping paper kite.

Typing paper kite.

This kite was made out of a dry leaf.

I love this butterfly kite.
The tail is made out of plastic bags.

Wrapping paper kite.

Candy wrapper kite.

Fruit wrapper kite.

It can fit in the palm of your hand.

Even this dry cleaning bag can make a good kite.

Oreo cookie kite.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite is the oreo kite I have to make kite for school.