Kites: Index > Projects > Tetra Index > 'Tetrahedron Flyers'
While driving to the Weymouth Kite Festival on the 2nd May 1999, with my best (and life long) friend - Rob (his website is out there somewhere) - we talked about the beautiful hot'n'sunny weather and total lack of wind! Somewhere along the journey Rob mentioned that he would like to build some of the classic kites, but rather than the ones that are seen regularly at festivals why not the more neglected classics.
During our visit to Weymouth, we looked round the various single line kites on display (the lack of wind meant not many were flying) and talked about what we saw - or more to the point, what we didn't see! Our conclusion was that one of the most influential and fascinating classic kites was missing - Bell's Tetrahedron's. We then spent the journey home discussing how to build, transport and fly tetrahedron's.
Shortly after Rob got home to Wakefield, he decided on the specifications we were going to adopt and I built my first cells. These early cells used a 48cm length of 6mm dowel for the poles, with small curtain rings screwed in the ends - after several split dowels I also started using a short piece of aluminium tube to strengthen the ends. The cell fabric was a single piece of rip-stop nylon of two 50cm equilateral triangles back to back, with a 4cm edge that folds over and is sewn to form the pocket for the poles (after sewing the tips are cut off). Rob had found that formed cells stacked OK for transportation, so for my first cells I linked the poles together using wire ties to form each cell and then used more wire ties to build the individual cells into a flying kite.
Even though Rob finished building his initial set of cells first, I flew the ten that I had built first - on the 20th June in about 10 knots breeze. After several adjustments to the bridal I had the kite pretty stable - I even got away with only snapping 4 poles!
The first festival that I flew at was the Southampton Kite Festival on 26th June at the Lordshill sports ground. I had replaced the 4 broken poles, but the 15 to 20 knots breeze was enough to cause stability problems again, and I broke another 5 poles - by this time I was pretty good at working out which poles could be removed to a different location without effecting the integrity of the kite.
After Southampton, we had to source another material for the poles, and I found carbon fibre! a 4mm carbon fibre tube was half the weight of the dowel, but many times the strength and the curtain rings glue straight in the ends.
By the time of the Brighton Kite festival on 10th July I had 16 cells, all with carbon fibre spars. After a couple of false starts, and bridal adjustments, the kite stayed aloft most of the day, being much more stable than the 10. Another tetra was 'built' by a German couple down by the trading stalls and crowds - a commercially made design - after 30 minutes of construction (compared to my 10) it managed one brief flight in the air before landing heavily and smashing 3 of its 8mm carbon fibre spars.
I now had been bitten by the Tetra Bug, and by the time of the solar eclipse on 11th August had 32 cells - Rob still hadn't flown any cells yet, but had also increased to over 32 cells - this gave us the magical 64 cells required for a 4m tetra! The first flight of this monster kite was the afternoon of the eclipse, unfortunately there was very little breeze but after a few false starts we found that we could fly it by pulling the line through a ground stake at a walking pace - but it flew!
Now all we had to do was sort out the colour scheme for the next festival. This was not long coming - and we launched our 64 cell wonder at the Hengistbury Head festival on 15th August in about 10 knots of breeze. Compared to the 16 cell kite, 64 was a rock - it just didn't move - and spent the next 3 hours dominating the skyline. In fact when we eventually brought it down (the 150lb line was bar tight, singing and the wind was picking up!) we drew an large crowd of admirers - some of whom had missed it and asked if it was a kite and did it fly!
We were now ready for the big one - Southsea common on the August Bank Holiday - Rob had even got us prepared with 'Tetrahedron Flyers' T-shirts! We arrived early on the Saturday and built the 64 cell kite. The wind was light, so we didn't immediately launch which made us a talking point with many people coming over for a chat. By the end of Saturday, we had had so many requests about how we had made our tetrahedron's that Rob set to work and produced a set of plans that we gave out on Sunday. Sunday evening we took it one stage further - Rob literally threw together a website, so for Monday we had the plans, a website and the sunshine.
So how did I finish the season? Well I needed to be able to fly a 64 cell kite when Rob wasn't able to make it... so I built some more cells! Between us we now have over 130 cells - with at least one other UK flyer, Terry, who has a set of 4 and our US contingent (yes, our plans went abroad) being represented by Bob Hogan of Kites Over New England, the Tetrahedron Flyers are an International group!
Rob has now re-vamped the Tetrahedron Flyers website, with additional bits... oh and I've made this site!
Two more examples of an alternate construction
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