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Taking the plunge, blue & green for my lights (went with dark+florescent green)

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I've grown tired of attaching and detaching my lights, so I'm building one for a permanent home. Fingers crossed.

11 panels (5/1/5). Based roughly on the B-series because of the straight lines, but slightly different dimensions to help with the weight of the rig, plus some other refinements.





Planning on midnight blue, fluorescent green, and white/reflective trim. The lights will ring the kite and be held in with the sheer trim. Here are the lights in action, held with packing tape on a Djinn


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Looking forward to see the future details of this project, especially observations/comments/details about the permanent LED installation (though my own LED test was limited to clips only...). How much will lower wind range performance be affected e.g.? Imagine KL becoming a kite building forum (i.e. many build projects lately on KL)?

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Wow I had no idea that the lights had come so far. The little video shows a ton of settings.

Can one reset them remotely while flying? What does the system weigh?

Never tried it. (My only encounter with night lights was when Gary Engvall came to my town more than 20 years ago and showed me night lights on a rokkaku he had built. It was a neat flight at the time but somehow flying at night didn't take off for me thereafter.)


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Wireless connection that's good for about 200 feet or so, as well as sensors for gyros, accelerometers, and compass. I have patterns that respond to each, and combinations of them. 

They add about 100 grams. It's quite a lot, as the kites themselves weigh about 230-250 grams.  I could probably trim off another 10-20 grams with a narrower light strip, but it's difficult with 300 LEDs on a 5 meter strip.

I first saw lights back in the very old kite magazines in the late '80s when I was young and couldn't get to anything kite related. I was disappointed that everything was static lights or blinking Christmas style lights. I wanted something that could react and respond. Many of my current patterns react to kite velocity, to rapid acceleration/brakes, for their animation speed. Most have options where colors depend on orientation, and I've got some where colors are based on compass direction. Flying a stack of them where both the pattern and colors are orientation-based look amazing, as they're changing in sync to each other.

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Making the cuts tonight, using green instead of blue, and this feels like a lot of waste. I suppose following the fabric is essential, but @riffclown's patchwork designs make a lot more sense. 

I am trying various rotations to see if I can use less fabric or make better scraps. Between the two colors it hurts to leave that many scraps on the cutting board. 

The pattern pieces fit together nicely, hopefully it all works out. 


Any last minute suggestions before slashing into it? 

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Randy Tom method,

sew all the fabric colored pieces full sized together, back-cut front and back layers away until reaching a single thickness, .... front side darkest color on top! Why? Nothing slips on expensive icarex, no hot tack holes, no spray adhesive removal, sewing is thru all the layers, back cuts are angled,.... this is your excellence, not for sale, for entry in competition against other like minded builders, national champ maybe?

almost all of the fabric is waste!

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@frob  As stated, I use both sides of the fabric and have very little waste. I let my patterns work themselves out as you already know. I've played with the grain and created kites where specific diamonds flash in the sun at a different point than the rest of the sail.  I'd rather have 3 great sails than one perfect one and a bin of waste. Especially at the end of 120' lines, the 3 Stack looks better.  I've even started taking the trim from my mesh kites and making tails I hate waste so much..

Since I know this kite is for you and a specific purpose, I'll just say, given when you'll be flying it, I'm not sure most people will notice which panel is in front or back. Make it what you want it to be..

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1 hour ago, Paul LaMasters said:

almost all of the fabric is waste!

Ouch. True, but painful. 

Thankfully this isn't for competition. If I was comfortable with the cost I'd rather modify a professionally made kite. It's just a side project grown bigger and bigger. 

28 minutes ago, riffclown said:

Make it what you want it to be.

Sadly I can dream far better than I can create. 

In my dreams it's all laser cut, perfectly stitched by professionals on high end equipment, with better lighting pieces than I could ever create, and is the luxury model of everything. 

In practice, I'm just hoping it mostly flies okay, isn't too lopsided, and is something I am not embarrassed to show off. 

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Dark panels cut, but the rest will need to wait for another day. 


I guess in my wish list I should include unlimited free time, and no need to be up before the sun. Anyone willing to give up a few million bucks so I can retire tomorrow? 😂 I think a lot of us would wish for that. 

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  • frob changed the title to Taking the plunge, blue & green for my lights (went with dark+florescent green)

More progress, figuring out sewing tension and stitching the body. 


There are some puckers and places where the zigzag ended up longer or shorter based on the feed, but more progress. I figure with the first few flights those will more or less settle in as fabric stretches and takes form, but I worry it might make little cups or bumps for a while. I guess time will tell. 

I will need to study my other kites for insight, but what are preferences for ordering for stretch strips, wingtip reinforcements, leading edge attachment, and hemming? I imagine doing them in that order, but is another order better? 

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And of course, can't forget the vented version because nobody knows what the wind will be.


Vented version of the body is now cut and taped together, sewing will take place later in the week.

And after sewing this second sail body will be the leading edge creation, I think.

Originally I thought this would be better than buying two premium kites used and modifying them, saving myself around $500 or so, plus whatever effort went into the modifications.  Now that I'm doing all this work, I'm wondering if it is all worth the work. I'm learning a lot, but it's a lot of hours.

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I can't speak for everyone but at least for me, the moment I flew something I made for the first time, it was worth it.. and that does not go away..

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Okay, both the "standard" and vented sail bodies are done. Am I the only one who thinks of "standard" as "full sail"? The vented one has fewer puckers, fewer variations of wide/narrow zigzags, and the pieces with venting are slightly short but still within my tolerance.


When I took the pic I was surprised at just how much the perspective changes their apparent size. Dragging them atop each other, they're the same within a few millimeters, except for the vented panels where I must have overlapped by too far or maybe had some other issue. When I built the pattern I planned on a half-inch hem plus an extra half inch on the LE side to give a bit of "wiggle room", and maybe to even put in a slight LE curve if it works out. 

Next up is the leading edges. I've got to re-read everything on the forums here, and on other sites, and re-re-re-watch Riff's video for leading edge construction, and maybe scour the web for any additional information. Sewing all the LE tabs and getting the various positions correct looks tricky.  I'm also going to need to read up on how to make a non-fraying leading edge boundary, I think I saw those details in the video but that's something that bugged me after receiving my first Rev. Even though it doesn't materially affect flight, it's something that feels better, I think.

Then when the leading edges are constructed I'll know exactly where to attach the stretch strips, sew in the reinforcements, attach the leading edge, then hem up the remaining bits, then pull out an old ruined soldering iron tip (icky copper that won't silver up any more) and melt the holes for the bridle. Does this mean it's about 50% complete?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the info.  I've delayed leading edge construction until ... well, until today.

I've had tons of interruptions and real life events that pulled me away from this project, but I managed to get a good chunk of sewing in.  


Stretch strips sewn on the back, reflective strips sewn at the same point in front (which should be visible with some lights at night), then as part of hemming sewed in the tip reinforcements and middle V reinforcements.  Finally, double-stitched the rolled hems along both kites. Along the way applied fray check to the reinforcements, stitching endpoints, and stress points.

And during some breaks, I applied tape and cut out a bunch of leading edge pieces, ready to assemble them.


No knot covers, in part because it's yet another piece, and in part because with lights there is no chance I'll be doing tricks that will need them.  

Clicking on those images and zooming in shows a bunch of details.  Five more checkmarks, but still have so much to do...

✔ Figure out paper prototype dimensions
✔ Cut and tape paper prototype
✔ Verify paper prototype, refine template
✔ Cut pieces for full sail
✔ Sew full sail body
✔ Cut pieces for vented sail
✔ Sew vented sail body
✔ Prepare reinforcements
✔ Sew reinforcements on both sails
✔ Sew hems on both sails
✔ Apply fray check and check all the details
✔ Cut leading edge pieces
Sew both leading edges
Attach both leading edges
Sew on LED light strips on both kites
Final soldering for joints on LED light strips on both kites (48 solder points total, but I am considering some solderless clips)
Attach bridles, elastics, and endcaps
Create kite bags for both kites



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