I thought it was about time I answered one of the questions I'm often asked: "how do you make those?". Here is a short video of my latest rebuild project. I've cut out the tedious stuff, the scanning and printing, etc, so what's left will give you an idea of some of the work involved in making one of my kites. It's HD so press play, pause it to let it load up, then hit full screen for HD loveliness.
Mine wasn't the prettiest Sputnik you'd ever have seen, my sewing skills not really being up to the task of building what was, back then, quite a complex foil. It ended its days high in a tree behind my house having been ripped out of my hands by a particularly savage gust.
It started something though. Shortly after building and losing that kite, I splashed out on a Flexi Stacker 6, and being an impoverished student of dubious moral fibre, promptly took it to bits & made two more (ehem, you didn't hear me say that, right).
On a day of buggy experimentation in Richmond Park, long before the ban and subsequent permit system, I saw what was unmistakably a Sputnik in the sky; and what's more, a beautifully made Sputnik at that.
I don't now remember the name of the person I met that day - I just remember him as Sputnik Man, but I do remember him giving me a telephone number.
I have been making kites for almost as long as I've been flying them. At first it wasn't through choice; I simply couldn't afford to buy the kites I wanted to fly, but I could afford some ripstop, and had picked up a battered old Singer for £20.
My first attempts were, ah, dreadful, really, if I'm honest. My kite making, (this was back in 1994), was a hit & miss affair: I'd try something once, find it didn't work, then have another go.
I'd even bought a copy of "Stunt Kites 2" and had a go at building the infamous "Sputnik". That was the kite that first introduced me to the concept of the "power" kite. It was a curious affair, fairly small at around a 2 to 3 sq metre, 2 control lines leading to a bow bridle. It packed a punch though.
The number belonged to a chap called Chris Sands, someone to whom I will be eternally grateful: it was from his work on his four line foils (yes, that's right I'd been introduced to 4 lines!), and his enthusiasm, and willingness to sell plans for his kites (for a fiver as I recall), that my kite making turned from necessity to desire. It was like having my eyes opened.
My kite making came on leaps & bounds having met Chris: the mysteries of correctly sewing profiles became clear; the importance of clean trailing edges, of accurate bridle dimensions, etc, etc, etc...
And so, after a steep learning curve I was eventually able to build my own quiver of four lines foils as the engines for my buggying (which by this time had become a lifelong love).
Moving on from building kites to Chris's plans I began taking what I'd learned and experimenting again. But the vagaries of aero-dynamics remained beyond me, leading me back into hit & miss territory.
At this point, I was unfortunately subject to life getting in the way, and having graduated with mounting debts, needed to find a job, the pressure of which kept me away from kiting for a number of years.
By the time I came back to it things had moved on considerably. Kiting had become a much more popular sport, and had as a result also come the the attention of various councils and subject to reactionary bans here there and everywhere. I was distressed to learn that some of by favorite sites, such as Saunton Sands, were banned.
Thankfully my local site had been through its ban and emerged the other side with a permit scheme.
Time had also take its toll on my collection of foils, time, and mice. The little feckers had chewed there way through three of my six foils: for nesting material presumably.
Strange, the influences we're subject to; who'd have thought that mice would be largely responsible for getting me back into making kites!
This time round I also come to another conclusion: I'd discovered Foilmaker by now and realised that there was a great deal more to the aerodynamic design of foils than I'd ever imagined; I'd also realised that I wasn't interested. The thing that really makes me smile, I'd discovered, about having one of my kites in the sky, was the sense of uniqueness, of seeing something up there that no-one else had ever seen, nor would again. More than this I wanted that sight to be spectacular, to stop people in their tracks and turn heads.
That's why I decided to rebuild some established designs - my particular favorites being from Ozone (having discovered and become an avid de-power fan by this point). In doing this I could focus on the visual element rather than having to go through the agony of hundreds of hours spent on a kite with a beautiful design, only to find that the damn thing won't fly properly, no matter how much tinkering I did with the bridle. Grrr.
So, over the last couple of years I've begun keeping eye out for battered old kites on ebay (the Frenzy '05 being my particular favorite - and in my opinion one of the best de-power foils ever made). I've now got a 3m, 7m and 10m, just the 5m missing to complete the set.
The 7m was the first kite I ever rebuilt from the ground up, and the success of that one lead me to buy a 10m and rebuild that one...
I think it's important to point out that in rebuilding these old kites I'm not trying to represent the aerodynamic design as my own: they are still Frenzys through and through; all I've done is take off the old front & back panels and replace them with ones of my own.
So, there you have it; a potted history of my road into kite making. If you haven't already check out the video at the top of this page to see how I do it. Also, have a look at the photos of my newly finished 10m Frenzy '05.
I am now taking commissions for custom built kites, so please feel free to get in touch if you have a project in mind: contact