GO FLY A KITE!

An excerpt from Healthful Sports for Boys: The American Boy’s Ultimate Guide to Building Confidence, Strength and Good Moral Character Through Sports, Games, Camping, Boating, Swimming, Cycling, Skating, Sledding, Sleight of Hand Magic and More!, by Alfred Rochefort

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KITES: WHERE FOUND; HOW MADE;THEIR PRACTICAL USES; CLOSELY RELATED TO AEROPLANES– A GREAT SPORT

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Spring winds favor kite flying. This is another world-wide sport, and it was popular with old and young in China – the land of the kite – at the time when the Egyptians were cutting stones for the pyramids. Everybody knows, or should know, what the great Ben Franklin did by means of a kite, though the kite through which he learned the nature of lightning was of a model that is not often seen at this time. This was the old bow kite, the kind that every beginner learns to make, and which needs no detailed description here.
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The hexagonal or coffin-shaped kite is more reliable than the old sort, and is quite as cheap and as easily made. Kites of both these kinds have been used to get a line from a stranded vessel to the shore, and engineers have used them. They did it when the first suspension bridge was built at Niagara, to get a line across the chasm, which gradually grew into the great suspending cables.
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Kites have been used to draw light vehicles over smooth ground, and they make good sport when made to draw sleds over the ice, or as “top – loftical” sails for small boats. I have seen in New York a tandem team of ten kites used for advertising purposes.
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The Star Kite is easily made and is well worth doing. Get three sticks or sections of light string, both of equal length. These are fastened in the center, so that, with the ends of the sticks equal distances apart, they will form a six-pointed star. The covering should be of thin, close cotton cloth, or, better still, of light, strong paper, which must be pasted so as to present the side of greatest resistance to the wind, else it will soon be blown off. The tail band is simply a loop fastened to the sticks at the bottom so that it will hang below the kite, and balance it when it ascends. The belly-bands for support and steering – in the latter case two lines are used – must never be attached below the central cross-piece.
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Boys often find fun in sending “messengers” up the strings to the kites. After the kite is up a good height, round pieces of colored paper with a hole in the center and a slit by means of which they are slipped on the string, are sent up. They travel with the speed of the wind till they reach the kite, where they stop. If too heavy, or too many, the messengers may get the kite out of balance.
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A messenger has been sent up 6,000 feet, or over one mile. That is the height to which American scientists have sent kites with thermometers and barometers attached, so as to record the elevation and the temperature.

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THE HARGRAVE, OR BOX KITE,

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.The Hargrave or Box Kite is something new and hitherto unheard of in the kite line. Rigidity and strength, without too much weight, are the prime essentials of the Hargrave. It may be made by a boy with a knack for mechanics in the following way: Take eight stiff, slender pieces of bamboo, eighteen and three-quarter inches in length, such as are sometimes used for fishing poles. These pieces must be of uniform weight and length, and as nearly alike as possible. Next cut six sticks, each eleven inches long, and as nearly alike as possible. These are for the middle uprights and end stretchers. After finding the middle of the longer sticks, lash them together in pairs by means of stout waxed thread, or light brass wire. Notch the ends of the sticks and make the spread between A and C just eleven inches. This will give you four pairs of crossed sticks. Next take one of your eleven-inch uprights, and bind it to the two pairs of cross-sticks. Take the other eleven-inch upright and fasten the other two pairs of cross-sticks in the same way.
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This done, cut two spines, or connecting rods of bamboo, each thirty inches long and as nearly alike as possible. Next, with waxed thread, or light wire, bind the two spines over the ends of the eleven-inch stretchers. The spine must fit like the top of a letter T over the stretchers and be square; that is, at right angles with the stretcher. Each end of the spine must project beyond the uprights five and one – half inches; that is, the ends must each be five and one-half inches long, which leaves nineteen inches between points named. Bind the other four stretchers to the ends of the sticks. Now string the frame so that all the sticks, except the diagonals, shall be at right angles, or “perfectly square,” as boys say. This done, paint all the joints with glue.
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The frame when finished should measure 11 x 11 x 30. This is the measure for each of the two boxes or cells, which should have eight inches between. Cover the frame with a strong, light cloth that will not stretch, and sew it on so as to form two boxes covered at the top, bottom and ends. The two broadsides of each one are left open to receive the wind. On the bottom boom, at or near the edge of the cloth cover, fasten a small brass ring for a belly-band. If the foregoing be well done, you will have a kite on the principle of a flying machine, and you will be up with the times.
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Kite string must be considered. In a light wind and with an ordinary kite, good, strong twine answers all purposes, but with large kites and a stiff breeze, the best string is a twisted linen line. Learn how to tie knots that won’t come undone, and take care not to cut or blister your hands in letting out or hauling in.
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TAILLESS KITES

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Tailless kites are fast superseding the old-time kind, and they are quite as easy to make and are much easier to manage. Here are directions for making it: They can be made in different sizes and flied tandem, from twenty to hundreds of feet apart. The longitudinal stick should be of strong spruce, sixty inches in length and about three-eighths or one-half inch in width and thickness. It can be of any size, if these proportions are maintained. The cross-piece should be a similar stick and of equal length. When in position it is slightly bent, say four per cent, of its length. The frame should be of light spruce, the same size as the cross-pieces. Care must be taken to have the angles right. When the frame is finished, cover loosely with manila paper, so that there will be some concavity on the face of the kite on each side below the cross-stick, so that it will belly like a sail; bind the edges with thin wire which stretches less than string. This kite will fly in a very light breeze. The string, particularly if you have a tandem, should be flexible and strong. In a stiff breeze, and with more than one kite, it is well to have a reel, as in a fishing rod, for hauling in.
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The best way with tandem kites is not, as is usually done, to fasten one kite behind the other on the same string, but to hitch each kite by means of a separate string to the main cord. The tail kite will do for tandem, but as the tails are apt to get snarled, it is not so desirable as the tailless kind.

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THE BARREL KITE

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As the bird and the butterfly kites of the Chinese can be bought at a low price, I shall not attempt a description of them here, but the barrel kite, which is distinctly American, cannot be ignored. This kite was tried some years ago by the U. S. Weather Bureau officers in California. It is cylindrical in form, about four feet long, and two feet in diameter. The frame is made up of four light hoops, braced together by four or more thin strips of wood. The twelve-inch space between the pair of hoops at either end is covered with a collar of paper, and the string, by which the kite is held, is attached to a stick, which passes diagonally through the inside of the cylinder from end to end. When this kite catches the wind it lifts quickly and gracefully. As it is easily made, I should like some of my young readers to try it.
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I have not seen a barrel kite in a tandem, but I can’t see why it should not work. Between kites on a tandem line, flags of same size, and of any designs that may be thought of, may be strung with good effect.
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An excerpt from Healthful Sports for Boys: The American Boy’s Ultimate Guide to Building Confidence, Strength and Good Moral Character Through Sports, Games, Camping, Boating, Swimming, Cycling, Skating, Sledding, Sleight of Hand Magic and More!, by Alfred Rochefort, which is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book download editions from Better Days Books. Find out more at www.BetterDaysBooks.com.

Originally published in 1910, Alfred Rochefort’s HEALTHFUL SPORTS FOR BOYS is an optimistic “Can Do!” prescription for the kind of vigorous, competitive, yet thoroughly wholesome boyhood that for more than two centuries has reliably bred great American men of character, courage and good common sense. In our 21st Century, “post-modern” era of video games, virtual reality and “couch potato kids,” Rochefort’s vision of active boys creating fun with their own minds and muscles is a reminder of everything great about boys and about America, and a Clarion Call to a new generation to “get up and get great!” — Before it’s too late!

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