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My large, lightweight Rokkaku

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Fresh with enthusiasm from my recent Fled III construction project and trying to make the best of a rainy period, I recently made a large, lightweight Rokakku. This one is sewn from 0.65 oz. North Sails fabric and framed with relatively light Sky Shark tubes. The idea was that my workaday 7.5 foot (2.3 M) tall Kevin Shannon Rokkaku would continue to serve the slot just below my Sutton 30 in wind range so this new kite would be very light to serve when the sturdier Rokkaku is insufficient.

The kite is 8′-2″ (2.5 M) tall by 6′-9″ (2.06 M) wide with a total weight of 15.5 oz (440 g) of which 6 oz. (170 g) is a lightweight frame made from SkyShark P400 and P200 tubes. I like these tubes as they have linear as well as radial carbon fiber reinforcement and can be joined with an internal ferrule.

My first substantial test flight was today and the kite was very stable. It developed sufficient lift for my Digital Elph rig when the wind was only 3.5 mph or so on the ground. Later when the wind filled in to 7.5 mph or so the frame was still holding its shape fairly well. I would guess that substantial deformation would set in by 10 mph or so.

2.5 meter, lightweight Rokkaku

This ground view shows me, at 6′-4″ (1.93 M) tall, for scale.

I started with a 3:4:5 proportioning system (height between cross spars, total width, total height) and ended up increasing the width by a small amount. This page from my sketchbook has the actual dimensions: The height of the kite was established by the dimension of three full lengths of Sky Shark tubing.

Rokkaku in sketchbook

And here are few of the kite’s details:

Rokkaku details

I am indebted to Kevin Shannon of Carlisle Kiteworks and the maker of my favorite Rokkakus for the general proportions and an approach to details.

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After posting the basic information on my lightweight Rokkaku there ensued a bit of discussion on the KAP Discussion Page about the role of such a kite. Here are my thoughts:

Michael refers to an 8-foot Rokkaku that I made at the beginning of the year. I think of this kite as a real specialty item, an exercise is very lightweight construction. My current KAP kite lineup runs Sutton 8, Sutton 16, Sutton 30, 7.5-foot Kevin Shannon Rokkaku, 8-foot lightweight Rokkaku, and Maxi-Dopero. I have a fair variety of other kites but the ones listed are the ones I use for KAPping. It is not unusual for me to carry all six kites but if the wind is fresh I will leave the framed kites in the car. In my lineup the Kevin Shannon Rokkaku has been a workhorse. I have flown this kite for hundreds of hours (perhaps over a thousand) and if the Sutton 30 cannot do the job the 7.5 Rokkaku, currently framed with Skyshark P400 spine and Skyshark P200 spreaders, gets the call.

The Maxi Dopero is fine for when the 7.5-foot Rokkaku doesn’t work except the Dopero is a bit more work to set up and the kite is pretty big when packed up. So, when I made the 8-foot Rokakku I had the notion that it might fit between these two kites with the benefits that is was easier to setup and (much) smaller when packed compared to the Dopero. To do this it should be really light since I would only use it when the 7.5-foot Rokkaku is inadequate. The 8-foor Rokkaku is, as Michael notes, framed with improbably small Skyshark P400 and P200 tubing. So far this has worked out just fine. If the winds fill in I am quick to pull the kite down and switch to another in the lineup. That said, I have had the 8-foot Rokkaku overloaded on a number of occasions without spar failure. In the geometry of 8-foot Rokkaku, the Skyshark spars deflect dramatically under load (which makes for an ungainly kite) but so far, for me, the spars have not failed.

If the 8-foot Rokkaku was the next kite in the lineup from the Sutton 30 I think I would be really disappointed in its performance. But as a specialty kite for winds below the 7.5-foot Rokkaku’s range it is a delight.

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In answer to a question about whether the 8-foot Rokkaku is my favorite KAP kite for the lightest winds:

The answer is yes and no. The 8-foot Rokkaku serves a narrow range of wind speeds that begin at the low end of the 7.5-foot Rokakku’s range (say 7-9 mph for my dSLR rig) and end at the 8-footer’s range (say 5 mph for the dSLR). If I have enough for the 7.5-foot Rokkaku I prefer to use it. If I do not have enough for the 7.5-foot Rokakku but enough fo the 8-foot Rokkaku then the latter is (for that moment) my favorite.

If the 8-foot Rokkaku doesn’t work then the Doprero comes out. I did not have the Dopero when I visited the Spiral Jetty and the 8-foot Rokkaku saved the day for me. For that alone I am fond of it. My little Kestrel anemometer indicated a steady 5 mph wind at ground level and the Rokkaku did get my dSLR and fisheye rigs in the air, although just barely.

Spiral Jetty

I made the 8-foot Rokkaku out of 0.65 oz/sq yard ripstop which is on the light end of the ripstop weights.

I guess in summing it up, the 8-foot Rokkaku’s narrow wind range would make it a great disappointment in a one kite KAP system. It would not be my choice for a two kite or three kite system. But when the bulk of the wind bands are covered and you want a specialty kite for light winds it is dandy.

One Response to “My large, lightweight Rokkaku”

  1. LDRodriguez Says:

    I don’t understand why the kite has to be so big. It only carries a small camera, right?