Home Plans Kite Plans: Single-Surface Making a Cocktail Napkin Kite

Making a Cocktail Napkin Kite

Napkin Kites




Kites in the size range of about 1 1/2 to 4 inches can be made from cocktail napkins.† They are reasonably light and stable fliers when a suitable tail is attached.

The cocktail napkin kite originated after a birthday party I attended where they had some napkins with a funny gorilla on it.† The graphics on the napkin looked like it would be good on a kite.† It was easy: cut the sail from the napkin and glue skinny bamboo spars to the back, attach the flying line and a tail and it was ready to fly.† Some adjustment of the bridle point was necessary, but it was made to fly reasonably well.† Since that first kite, many more have been made in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials.† Some adjusting of the bridle point, the tail, and some tweaking of the dihedral and sail angles is sometimes necessary to get good flying, but this is true of much larger kites too.

Paper napkins, and the cocktail napkins in particular, are available in a variety of colorful designs and patterns.† There are special patterns for Holidays, special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations and retirement.

Materials and Tools

For this sample project, I recommend the following:

†† 1. Good lighting.
†† 2. A magnifying glass.
†† 3. Paper napkin.
†† 4. White glue.
†† 5. Bamboo or nylon bristles for spars.
†† 6. Good tweezers.
†† 7. Very sharp, double-edged razor blade of the old carbon steel type (that snaps when it breaks instead of bending like the stainless steel type).
†† 8. Flying line.
†† 9. Clear tape.
† 10. Reel.
† 11. Storage box.

Construction Procedure

Preparing the sail:

†† 1. The type of kite that you make is up to you and what you see in the napkin pattern you choose.† The Eddy, Diamond, Edo, Hata and Shield (modified Eddy) are the shapes I typically use, but you are limited only by your imagination (see illustration on last page of this article).† If you like, you can trace one of these kite shapes to use as a template for this project.
†† 2. Cut the sail to the shape of the kite by the method you prefer.† I like to use transparent plastic templates of the different kite shapes.† This way I can be sure the kite is positioned with the graphics on the napkin centered on the kite sail.
†† 3. I use a single-edge razor to cut the napkin around the edges of the template.† Some people prefer to draw the outline of the kite with an appropriate colored marker around the template and cut the napkin with scissors, outside the drawn border.† I draw my borders after the kite sail is cut out with the razor blade.
†† 4. Then, I remove the extra layers of the napkin tissue.
†† 5. Lightly crease the kite sail on its vertical spar.† This also puts some dihedral into the sail to help the flight stability.

Preparing the spars:

†† 1. Follow the instructions earlier in this article for selecting and preparing material for your spars. †

Gluing the spars to the sail:

†† 1. Use white craft glue.† If the glue is a bit thick, it will work better if it is diluted with 10 to 20% water.† The thinned glue is easier to apply and to remove excess glue.
†† 2. Monofilament or bamboo spars can be pulled through a small puddle or drop of glue to wet the sparís surface with glue.† Then pull the spar across your finger tip to wipe off the excess glue; spread the remaining glue more evenly along the sparís length.† Only a thin film of glue is needed along the spar.
†† 3. The spar must be carefully placed on the napkin so that the glue goes where you want it.† Using tweezers might help in placing the spar.† If the spar is set in the wrong place, pick it up and move it.† If more glue needs to be added to the spar, use the tip of a straight pin to pick up a small amount of glue from the puddle.

Flying Line

†† 1. Iíve used two methods of attaching the flying line to the kite.

a)††††† If the correct bridle point is known: Thread the line on a needle, wrap the flying line around the vertical spar and tie it in place in the front of the kite.† †

b)††††† If you are trying a different design or new materials, some adjustments may need to be made.† In this case I tie a knot in the end of the thread line and tape the line to the face of the kite.† A piece of clear tape 1/4-in. to 1/2-in. long and 1/8 in. wide goes on the line just above the knot.† The tape is put on the sail with a pair of tweezers.† Donít push the tape down tight until after it is test flown and you are sure of itís placement.

Kite Tails

These kites can have too high a sail loading for their size to be stable without some help.† Dihedral and tail take care of this problem.

The kites with fishiing line cross spars can have dihedral added just by bending the spar sharply.

There are a number of materials available that work well for tails.† A metallized curling ribbon 3/16 in. wide is effective for kites that are at least 3 in. square.† Depending on the specific kite, 12 to 18 in. long tails will do the job.† For the smaller kites strips of gold or silver tinsel from Christmas decorations, about 1/16-in. wide and 18 in. long provide stability and add sparkle to the kite.† A single strand folded in two might do the job for the 1 1/2-in. kites, but as the kite size goes up more strands are needed.† A 4 in. square kite might need 6 or 7 pieces.† The tinsel is attached to the kite by first sticking them to a piece of clear tape 1/4-in. x 1/2-in. and then sticking this to the bottom of the kite.† Tweezers help to put the pieces of tinsel just where you want.† Wait until a test fly before pushing the tape firmly in place.

Flying Cocktail Napkin Kites

Warning:† Donít try to fly these kites outside in damp weather Ė they get soggy!

It doesnít take much wind to fly a small kite; 3 to 8 mph is about all that it can handle.† If itís too windy outdoors you can fly your small kite indoors.† No, donít run around pulling the little kite behind you.† Itís much easier to fly the kite from the end of a 3 ft. long, 1/4-in. dowel.† A pin or screw at one end of a dowel holds the thread.† The length of the line should be shorter than the dowel for good control.† By moving the dowel so the tip does a large figure-eight, the kite will follow.† It does take some practice to get the kite to fly smoothly.† The stickís tip must move faster at the ends of the figure-eight and bit slower at the center.† For a fancier stick, use a telescoping rod or antenna.† Mount an alligator clip to the end (to hold the thread).† You should be able to carry it in your pocket or purse and be ready to fly at a moments notice.

Storing your kite
Keep the kite and reel in a suitable box for storage.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:36)

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Tip of the week
Alligator clip tabletop picture holders make a simple helping hand to hold your kite while working.† Put a small piece of folded tag board or heavy paper over the edge of the kite where it slips into the clip to make sure the alligator teeth don't hurt your sail.