By Dan Beard
A Strange Country and the Home of a Strange Kite.
In a land where street-car drivers on duty wear wreaths of flowers on their hat, or around their necks; where centipedes have lost their venom, where natives divide their time between decorating each other with flowers and working to heap up wealth from the white strangers who have seized their land; in a land where the eruption of a volcano is hailed with joy because, like the centipede, it has lost its sting and does its little eruption act apparently with the sole object of furnishing entertainment for the people;--in such a curious land we have a right to expect novelties in the kite line, and are not surprised when we find
that not only do not eat each other but are perfectly harmless and gentle in their deportment. If you happen to be at Honolulu and are taking a day off to see old Kinau, during an eruption, you will probably take the Kinau, the regular Hilo boat, and with a jolly party all bedecked with flowers sail over that wonderful sea under that wonderful sky southward. You will pass the extreme southwest point of Molokai, and skirt the emerald shores of Lanai and the rocky Kahoolawe, and then, turning in a northeasterly direction, enter the channel that separates Hawaii from Maui.
This is far enough for our purpose at present, for it is at Maui that the cannibal kites flourish. A number of Gilbert Islanders emigrated from their own island home to Maui and brought their kites, or the art of making them, with them. The whites call the Gilbert Islanders cannibals because of the supposed habits of these people's ancestors, and hence their beautiful bird-like toys have the terrible name of cannibal kites.
In form this kite is what might be termed a wide bow-kite. It is about five times as wide as it is high, and not at all like the stiff old fashioned English bow-kite. The bow has the curve of the spread wings of a bird, and like them ends at both ends in points, very much on the same plan as the wings of Lilienthal's wonder flying machine (Fig. 47).
But while the Gilbert Islanders, now In the Sandwich Islands, have evolved the wings of a flying machine, it has apparently never occurred to them to use their invention for any other purpose than a beautiful toy.
On a thirteen-foot kite the bow stick is half an inch thick, and the lateral cross stick is of the same thickness, but the bottom sticks are only a quarter of an inch in thickness. The longer sticks of this kite are made, like a split bamboo fishing rod, of a number of pieces or strips of wood neatly spliced together.
In place of paste the Gilbert Islanders use thread, and tie the sticks to the paper covering so neatly that it has the appearance of being glued on. The kite is a delicate affair, and is only used in fair weather, but much stronger wings can be made to suit the winds of the Atlantic coast, while the boys of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys can build their kites as delicately as the original cannibals did theirs.
How to Make a Cannibal Kite.
A piece of spruce wood well seasoned and absolutely free from knots is what you want for your kite frame. You can make the kite as large as you choose, but in this description we will suppose that the frame is to be only about four feet from tip to tip of the wings.
First select a good strong piece of wood of any kind, a little over four feet long, for a stretcher or measuring stick, and mark off on it, from the center both ways, forty-nine inches divided thus : Five and one-half inches, six and one-half inches, six and one-half inches again, then six inches (See Fig. 48).
Now make seven kite sticks, one for the spine or middle stick, ten and one-half inches long (Fig. 49); two more, each nine inches long; two, each seven inches long, and two short ones four and one-half inches in length (Fig. 50). Make all these sticks a trifle longer than the length given, to allow for slight errors in bending the bows and for protruding ends.
Next select the best piece of wood you have for the bow, and trim it so that it will bend easily and evenly into the required form. Make the bow five feet long. At the exact middle of the bow, lash the longest upright stick or spine (Fig. 51). Use strong waxed thread and tie in square knots (See Fig. 122). Seven and one-half inches from the top of the spine make a mark, and at the mark bind the spine to the stretcher (Fig. 51).
Now bend the bow until the two ends cross the stretcher at the two extreme points marked on it, fasten the bow in this position and bind the ends of the other sticks to the bow in their proper order, as marked out on the measure stick, five and one-half inches from the end marks for the two short sticks. The next ribs are each six and one-half inches from the short ones, and the longest ribs six and one-half inches from the last, and six inches from the middle stick or spine (Fig. 52).
Make another bow of good spruce wood a trifle shorter than the first, and lash the middle of this last bow to the middle stick or spine at a point six and one-half inches below the first bow. At a point six and one-quarter inches below the first bow make the lower bow fast to the two longest ribs. At a point five and one-half inches below the top bow make the lower one fast to the next pair of ribs. (See Fig. 53.)
Use the greatest of care during this process, and see that you keep the ribs and spine at exact right angles with the temporary stretcher or measure-stick. At a distance of three and a quarter inches below the top bow, bind the bottom bow to the two shorter ribs. Then bring the ends up slightly to a point on the top bow about three inches beyond the juncture of the short rib and the bow, lash it securely in place and then cut off the protruding ends. Make two more bow sticks, each about half the thickness and half the length of the first one described, and with your strong waxed thread bind the two ends crossed on the bottom end of the spine stick.
Then firmly bind the ends of the first pair of ribs in place, and bind the bottom bows to the remaining ribs at points nine, seven, and four and one-half inches respectively below the top bow, and to the top bow at the point four and one-ball inches below where the latter crossed the temporary stretcher. Cut off the protruding ends, and the temporary stretcher may now be removed, and your frame will have the form of Fig. 55.
Of course it is admitted that silk is the ideal covering a kite, but silk costs money, and that is an article usually absent from the museum concealed in a boy's pocket. But for big kites common silesia, such as is used in dress linings, is an excellent substitute. We will suppose, however, this to be a paper kite.
How to Cover the Cannibal.
Spread your paper smoothly on the floor, Lay your frame on the paper and hold it in place by some paperweight, books, or other handy weights. With a sharp pair of shears cut the paper into the form of the frame, leaving just sufficient margin to turn over and paste.
About every six inches make a cut from the outer edge to the frame. When this is done, you can begin pasting, using good flour paste and pasting one section at a time, pressing each down with a towel until it adheres firmly.
The Belly Band.
Attach each end of a piece of string, about six inches long, to the bow each side of the spine. Fasten another string to this, and connect it with the spine where the middle bow crosses. This string should be between eight and nine inches long. Attach the kite string to the belly-band at a point about three inches from the top loop (Fig. 56).
These are approximate figures for a kite of the dimensions described, but each kite varies so that the flier must by experiment find the proper manner of adjusting the string of the belly-band.
Mr. W. C. Bixby after some difficulty procured one of these kites from some natives and gave a short description of it in Harper's Young People of April 15, 1884. His kite had a spread of thirteen feet and a height of thirty-four and one-half inches.
For a fair weather kite for tandem teams the "cannibal" should excel the short, dumpy Eddy or the Holland kite. Possibly it will never be a favorite in the East, where strong winds blow, but it should fly beautifully in the central parts of this country.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.