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KMS - Kite Reel
by Karsten M. Schneymann, Germany
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One of my first home-built kite line winding-devices was a design very close to the 'Deep Sky Reel' shown in 'The Penguin Book of KITES' by David Pelham. Since I didn't like to operate the reel just by slipping my hand through a webbing loop, so I changed the webbing for a kind of welded steel frame right away. Overall the design was pretty heavy for its size, but really sturdy too. Last winter (to be exact: late December 2006) I switched to a kite reel comparable to the one shown in the following. I built it as a birthday present for a kiting-friend in June 2005.

The basic design is well known: Two round wooden discs (with or without holes) and lengths of doweling glued in to form the core. I disliked the usual way of holding and operating the reel by means of grabbing a central handle inside the wide circular opening of the outer disc. Instead I had the idea of a two-handled 'frame' made from hardwood. This way I could use a bicycle spindle as an axle, like on my old sky reel.

Front View
KMS-kite reel front
Side View
KMS-kite reel side
Back View
KMS-kite reel back
Click on pictures to see full size! (New window)

Front view
The reel doesn't have revolving handles. It proved more reliable to have lengths of steel rods welded on ground plates, which in turn are bolted to the wooden disc.
A few days after I had given the reel to my kiting-friend I discovered, that he had laid the reel flat on its 'face', so that the steel rods stuck in the soft ground. "This way I don't need a ground stake for my delta!" he explained with a grin.

Side view
You can see the bicycle spindle in the second picture. And the picture discovers something, that later turned out to be a bad design fault. The lengths of doweling are set up equally slightly tilted. I wanted to make the empty reel look more interesting, especially when turned. But by doing this and in addition of choosing the doweling diameter too thin, the core of the reel has become too weak to withstand the pressure of kite line wound in under tension. Every other day either a length of doweling pops out of its drill holes, or another one simply breaks into pieces.
Now here comes the question: Will you ever see an empty kite reel turning unless it is brand new?!?

Back view
The mounting of the bicycle hub is fairly easy, a centered drill hole is all it takes (and of course washers and nuts). Note the reinforcement bars glued to each side of the main arm to prevent breakage of the frame due to the large drill hole for the axle.

disks Film-faced plywood, 8mm (5/16″)
This plywood is used for trailer boards or other vehicle housings (mainly in the kermis scene) and is therefore glued to be waterproof; you can get it in different thicknesses like 4mm (5/32″), 8mm (5/16″), 15mm (19/32″), 20mm (13/16&Prime).
(Sizes of manufacturers vary...)
core dowelingbeech, 8mm (5/16″)
frame / handleI'm not sure about the exact wood here, but I believe it is beech, too. This wood comes from an unused potato lattice, made for storing freshly dug potatoes in the dark cool cellar for wintertime. I took it apart, closed the remaining nail holes by drilling 4mm (5/32″) holes and gluing in lengths of doweling that matched the drill holes.
The cross section measures approx. 20mm by 25mm (13/16&Prime by 1&Prime).
The frame actually does not have any me tall parts in its design, everything is glued waterproof. All joints are reinforced by glued-in hardwood doweling.
bicycle hub lightweight aluminum type (The only thing that's lightweight here...)

MeasurementsAll given non-metric sizes are approximately!
 outside disk diameter298 mm11 3/4&Prime
 inside core diameter160 mm6 5/16&Prime
 core width75 mm3&Prime
 minimum line take-in  (one turn on empty spool)502 mm19 3/4&Prime
 frame length450 mm17 3/4&Prime
 handles200 mm7 7/8&Prime


The kite-reel introduced here doesn't have any brake system. Due to its large diameter it is comparably easy to stop. The maximum capacity is still unknown. Last summer I heard my kiting-friend say, that he had 800 meters (more than 2600 feet) of dia. 1.7mm (little more than 1/16″) line on it, and it was filled just a little over a half.
Once a kite is hauled down to the ground and the line has been removed from the kite it just takes him a few seconds to wind in the complete length of 100 meters (328 feet) by letting the reel spin pretty fast. (Kite flying here in Germany usually is limited to a height of 100 meters, so we use several separated 100m-lengths of matching line on the same reel.)

As I mentioned at the top of this page, I switched to a large kite-reel in late 2006. Even if I started out building my own kite-reel earlier than the one for my colleague, it took me 18 months longer to get it to a working state. (I know, I'm a slow kite-reel-builder...)
This time it has become a complete reel-system, including three interchangeable reels, and a working drum-brake (!!!) from an old bicycle. But that's another story... (Sorry, no pictures yet, due to not using digital equipment; the negative roll is still in my old X-700, and not completely used up yet.)

Electronic Mail

If you would like to send me a mail, just punch in the address shown to the right. I'm giving you my address in this strange way to avoid spam-mail. As far as I know, robots and programmed address-collectors can't build an email-address from a graphics-file...