It might come as news to many people but not all kites around the world come packaged in a box, requiring assembly before being flown. In fact not all kites are factory made with synthetic materials and sold by the manufacturers. In fact in many countries people make their own kites with natural materials and fly them just like you would fly your diamond delta kite out of its box. The great part about this is that these kites are completely customizable and there is a certain amount of pride in knowing that your own creation is soaring up in the sky.
As a side note, China is not the only country where kites are hand-made, several other countries have hand-made kites, and this article is going to describe the making process of the bat kite in Sri Lanka. This kite is called a “Vowla” which in Sinhalese (the Sri Lankan language) means “bat”.
Of the dozens of different hand-made kite designs, the bat kite is the least complex and easiest to make. It is also one of the most maneuverable and for a single line hand-made kite can perform some very acrobatic dives and recoveries.
We start by cutting out 2 straight, strips of dry bamboo. One is 1.5 to 2 times longer than the other. The longer piece will be used as the crossbar while the shorter one will be the up-right. They are both carved and shaved with a knife until smooth and light. The longer piece must then be balanced about its center on a knife-edge. both sides are shaved until pin-point balance is achieved. Failing to do this will result in the kite angling and even diving to one side uncontrollably in high winds.
Once this is done, the cross bar is tied between the top 2/3rd and 1/4th of the upright. The ends of the crossbar are then drawn down with a string to the bottom of the upright making them curve downward and inward. This will make the original plus sign look more like an arrow drawn backward in a bow.
Another string must tie the crossbar at a point 2/3rd to 1/4th the distance away from the upright to the top of the up right. This results in more tension in the crossbar and gives the kite a bowed out shape, which is essential for aerodynamic reasons.
Depending on how large the kite is, more strings are tied symmetrically between the bamboo strips in the empty spaces.
Finally colorful oil paper is cut and pasted into various designs and then pasted firmly onto the frame with rice paste. Left a few minutes to dry and then another thick nylon thread is used to create the bridle lines after which the kite is ready to fly.
This is how to make a bat kite which is commonly seen in the Sri Lankan skies in kite season which usually runs from July to September. It is a simple design that flies and handles very well.