Sunday, December 13, 2009

Delta Experiment in Progress

I've been wanting to get back to the roots and now i have an excuse, which is this fascinating story of falcon training.

I'm off my mark with the color, but i think this kite is on it's way towards what i'm looking for with it's ability to climb high, hang out, and lift a weight.

It is not finished, as i'm not completely satisfied yet, so not ready for sale yet, but getting there. This is a peek at what's been going on.

I had occasion to drive south to drop my Mom off at the Sanford Airport, and go meet Bruce Flora from Kiteman Productions recently at Malcolm Jones Wallaby Ranch where Bruce does a lot of testing. Winds were very low which is what i've been trying to find to test this kite, and it didn't disappoint. I'd still like it to hang up there a little longer, and to that end maybe trying to kick the nose up a bit.

The problem with designing a kite that works really well these days is to do it without copying someone else's ideas. Tim Elverston has solved a lot of these problems and would license his inventions to me, but i'm stubborn and want to re-invent the wheel. It's possible, right!?

Anyway, here we go. Photos by Bruce Flora!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Custom Printed Delta

Well i've neglected this for to long, discipline, discipline!

I got a referral from Bruce Flora last week, a customer needed a custom delta could i help them out?


We exchanged email, then got on the phone.

customer: 'Yes, we need a three color kite for a photo shoot.'

" No problem, what three colors?"

'They'd have to be these pantone colors, I'll send them to you in email.'

"Okay, well fabric does not come in these colors, and the only colors i have that come close are red, orange, and yellow."

'Nope, they have to match the clothing'

"Ah, right, well there is one way we could do it, but it would double or triple the cost of the kite"

'How much?'

We agreed on a price, talked some more, and i got to thinking, "who will fly the kite?"

'....................uh, well, I'm not sure'

"Because if you are thinking of shooting the kite, while it is flying, with a model in the picture, that usually takes a professional kite flyer to help you get the shot. I mean, you could spend all day and not get it, and usually, when it's an outdoor shoot, they only have like an hour to get the shot, usually in the evening or early morning."

'uh, right, well I'm just the stylist, I'm not sure who will fly the kite. . .'

"Well i fly kites for living, and would be happy to show up with a van full of them, i'm sure out of all the kites i have, one would fit the bill, and we could set it up so the model was flying it, etc"

'We don't really have the budget for that...'

"No problem, i'm happy to make the kite for you, let me get your info, and we'll process this order!"

So another kite sold, and maybe, just maybe they will get lucky, and some how, some way, actually get the kite to be where they want it to be in the shot, with the model, the light just right, and all the elements the art director has in mind, right there for all to see and love.

Only, most likely, after this, when the word 'kite' comes up, anyone associated with this shoot will roll their eyes, and it will generally be known after this that the mere mention of 'kite' will cost you your job.

No one in the business would hire a horse, a motorcycle driven, or gun shot, a balloon inflated, or any of a zillion other things to be shot, in action, as a prop, without a handler, but every time 'kite' is mentioned, no one thinks that you need any knowledge for that, since, well, kites are just toys aren't they?

My fear, is that we get a bad name. I want them to get the shot. I want them to succeed! I live for seeing that shot, in print, on tv, on the interweb, wherever, whenever, i will bend over backwards to help them get the shot, but they have to actually ask me to do it.

Yes, i do build kites. It's a good one, fly's great, has twin 30' tails. It's color matched to the pantone colors picked by the art director. I just seriously hope it's not the last time this group of people want to do something with a kite.

You do what you can!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Millennium are now available!

This is a blatant commercial plug, but you've been asking, and though i had to be able to work on this for awhile, to make sure i got it right, i think we may be on to something.

I've not been able to fly these as much as i'd like, but they still fly sweet. They are a tiny bit heavier than the original ones due to difference in fittings and rods, but you know what!? I think it makes them fly better! They sure have no trouble flying in no wind, that's for sure! But in light wind, oh boy!

Now i'm not a Dodd Gross school of kite flying flyer, or Andy Wardley, but i do like to play, and for my old school sensibilities, this is pretty great stuff, though your milage may very. If you do get one, i'd love to hear all about it, warts and all!

I've known Corey Jensen since 1988 believe it or not, and he's been to my house and slept on my couch. He likes my stuff and has been asking me to work with him for ahwile. I made him a couple of Airforms recently, but i've really been itching to go back to my roots, and he was excited to help me out. I've entered into a very limited exclusivity deal with him for a very small number of kites. We'll see if there is any interest. ( contact him to get these! Linked by clicking on title!)
I can tell you that no two are alike, though i may make a few similar to these first three. The way i make them though is, one at a time. It is not efficient, and takes way to much time, but they look pretty good, and you can be assured that you have that rare something not available much anymore, a handmade thing, high tech/low tech, classic touches and for sure some aoxomoxoa built right in!

The name of the kites are this, at the top is the Tomoe, in the middle is the Razor, and here at the bottom is Black Fire. They are signed and numbered by me, and come in a unique bag. They have Sky Shark II's in them, with apa fittings, spectra bridle, along with the original tip tensioning system we first introduced to the sport kite world, as well as the closed leading edge, integrated wing tube system.

These kites are made not just to look at but to fly, and yes they are somewhat fragile, you can't step on them or fly them in high wind, but they are for sure not toys, they are high performance sporting equipment and as such demand to be flown!

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Millennium

So way back in the day, maybe 91 i was contacted by CNN Science and Technology, and even though i thought it was a joke, called them back, at which time i got into a very long conversation with a very nice gentleman that wanted to know about kite buggying. During the course of this conversation, and after we'd agreed to some filming, i mentioned that we also flew kites indoors. There was a long pause on the other end, and the whole thing started again. . .
A film crew did come, and i was shown on CNN buggying, but something that came out of the whole deal, the night before they came was i had to invent a new sport kite i'd been thinking about ever since i heard David Brittain had set his indoor record of having a kite aloft for four hours and four minutes. So, i went to work, and managed to come up with what would later be called the X-1 named after an old time radio show.

It flew great, and never mind that the first time i ever flew it was mic'd up at one of the University of Florida's gyms with the CNN camera's rolling. They would have never known either if they hadn't of asked me that one stupid question. "How often do you fly indoors?" uh, 'this is the first time, actually...'.

I digress. Somewhere along the line, i became aquatinted with Herb Weldon who was a fan, and really liked the kite, but thought it aught to have a different bridle. Herb began bridle development in earnest and sent us all kinds of cool hand made fittings and strange and exotic new bridles, but all the time, urged for a new design that he could fly sitting down in his wheel chair. It seems Herb had a crippling disease and couldn't stand for long periods of time, but dearly loved to fly his kites.

Thus was the Sierra project started, and on September the 16th, 1994 the first kite, named Luna C, or the Clone was made. The name was quickly changed to the Millennium thanks to my friend Dave Arnold of Arlington, Virginia, and a legend was born.

The kite was built using Avia G-Force Skinny's and weighed just over four(4) ounces! It had an 8.5' wing span, and an extremely cambered Leading Edge, with very deep wings and a very shallow nose. It's integrated wing tubes with closed LE windows for the rods was a first for a production kite, and it also had our patented tip tensioning system and a leach line, thanks to Tim Elverston.

Now it's back!

In it's current incarnation it weighs 5.5 oz. due to different fittings, and different rods. I'm going to be playing around with the weight but in general one of the things we learned(and other designers have concurred)is that you can for sure go to light. This New Millennium seems to fly really great. It turns really well, does flat spins so naturally and axles and of course i'm so old school i don't even know what any of the tricks are called.

I don't care, i still love to fly Ultra Light Kites and probably always will. I love to build them, i love to fly them, and i especially love that other people love them. If i can make a few more folks happy about some of my kites, it will really make all this stuff worthwhile.

Since i travel alot and always break my kites down to fly(on planes)i made the bags for these collapse as well. I hope that is something people will use, i'm already using mine!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Extreme Kites redux

Our new friend April, sent me a couple more pictures from the maiden flight on June 28th, 2009. Also, Rob Autrey sent the one long one down there, and promises to send more!

I'm ashamed to say that i've owed Daryl Drown the owner of Extreme Kites in St. Augustine this kite since January, and for one reason or another just have not had a chance to get it out to him. It's done now and i was able to fly it, and what a beauty! I was only able to call about two people before folks started showing up to ask about the kite!

The tails, the tails! Probably that was the biggest attention getter on this kite. What's strange is that the signature look of Jordan AirForms was born of my frustration with putting tails on kites i'd spent so much time on, only to have passer byes gush all over the tails. Rather than fight that trend, i decided to embrace it and go tail crazy, which is how i came up with the patented twin tapered tail design on these kites. There may have been a few long tails before mine, but they were usually one at a time, and for sure not tapered.

The tails on this kite are custom with the wave theme repeated just after the leading edge of the opening in black over white swelling into a significant bulge with three fins on each bulge, then continuing white towards the tip, and then in a progression turning back black again at the end. Each tail is just over 100'.

The kite itself has Daryl's low key logo on the bottom in white on a black background. I free hand drew this as my overhead projector has gone missing(whoever borrowed it, bring it back!). The flairs and side ribs have swoops appliqued on them to further the wave motif. Inside all the ribs are red with a leading edge of black to keep continuity. The red ribs makes a nice glow when back lit.

As usual there are little construction techniques all over the place that set this kite apart and of course with the horrible wind we often get here, we really saw how well the kite performed on Sunday. The wind was gusty and wild, but once the kite was above the trees(and 13th street)she was flying very stable and sweet with the tails dancing all over the place!
It's always such a joy to fly in public, as you never know who you are going to meet. We met up with April, who is a free lance photographer this fine day, and she managed to get a picture of us flying in the Alligator the local student newspaper here. Thanks April!

Finally, here it is, ready to go!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's been over 150 days, what's up?

I'm just going on the record here as being in complete agreement on this issue.

The fact that Barack Obama is continuing the policy's of George Bush should ring alarm bells across the land. Please honor your pledge Mr. President and return us to a true 'rule of law' nation.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

the Donuts

Many people have heard me say, 'got to go make the donuts'. . .This is where it originated!

It's something my brother and i used to always say to each other as we'd go off to work, so it sort of refers to work, especially when your work is not defined

You still know you have to make more 'donuts'!

I hope that clears this little mystery up!

Fathers Day 2009

On March 7th, after a short illness, my Dad passed away at the VA hospital with my brother Bill holding his hand. My Mom and sister waited outside the room. I was in Hampton, Virginia at the Wal-Mart about to go into the MotherShip to see Phish at their reunion tour, when my brother called.

"Dad's gone."

He had it tough the last years of his life. In pain, and not happy about how it all turned out, he was none the less proud of his family and glad they still talked to him.

It sure wasn't easy, but we loved him and i miss him today.

He leaves behind my Mom, Elaine, my brother Birkett and his family, Sandy, Birkett the fifth, Stephanie and her new baby, Jackson David. My brother Bill and his family, Wila my niece Julie and nephew Lucas Gabriel, my sister Kelley and her family, Mark, and my nephew Jordan.

He was one of the last Florida cowboys, grew up in this great state and taught us to love it if we didn't already. Took us hunting and fishing and to the beach and loved all things wild and free. We grew up never knowing we might be missing out on anything because we were way to busy having fun with each other or bringing a friend along on one of our family get a ways, and if that wasn't enough, there were always the times we had to ourselves, which were never dull.

He might not of been the best Dad on the planet, but he was far from the worst and could charm most anyone and at the same time piss off everyone. He was a rascal and a gentleman. He drank, gambled and raised hell, but he taught us lots of good stuff and sure gave us plenty to think about.

I'm thankful i knew him.

RIP Birkett Fry Jordan the 3rd, may you find those Ghost Riders in the Sky. . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soma Cube

I got an email last month about making a soma cube, a very interesting quantum mechanics reference which for some reason has been a reoccurring subject recently. Fascinating stuff, often merging great science fiction with what is leaning more and more toward science fact. Which begs the question, was Carlos Castendado's early work just a product of this really? Alas, i digress.

Back to the soma cube. This one was to be based on a 60cm cube, of which each piece that makes up the puzzle has three or more of. There are 240 possible ways to put the puzzle together and i've found at least half that many ways to make a giant one! If i thought this was complex when i first received the assignment, i have now been rudely awakened to it's reality.

With 71 three way joins, 25 four ways, 1 five way, and one six way along with 348 connectors not to mention the very complex skins i have to build to fit this frame within, i've wildly underestimated how much time this will take to build!
Naturally, with the making of all props, figuring out the estimate is actually one of the hardest parts of the job. You practically have to build the whole thing mentally, making very detailed drawings and or models to even be able to grasp what you are getting into. As a rule of thumb, i try to charge a certain percentage of the cost according to the materials, though that can get you into trouble as well.

On this job, the client wanted the piece to be portable and easy to assemble, robust and colorful. Was there a way i could make this, like a kite?

Well the answer of course is always yes. Naturally we treat all requests seriously, although only about a third are real. There is never any way of knowing which ones will actually go through with the deal, and many folks are just shopping i suppose, and that's part of my job really, to help figure this thing out. I realized years ago that you can only do your best and whatever comes of it is up to the other party.

Fortunatly these fine folks were up to the task and i got the job. Meanwhile how to do it!

First up was creating the frame. After a long talk with one of my suppliers we rekoned using p200 and joining them into a custom corner joint system would be the strongest. For some odd reason you can't buy these corner joints anywhere so i was going to have to make them. I have an old friend that has a machine shop outside of town, and i went out there to hire him to make the things, but he told me, 'no way! We're way to busy, but you can make them.'

Oh boy!~

So here's what i have made, and they look great! Or at least i think they do!
of course, they are so way labor intensive i can't even begin to think of what i'm being paid an hour to make them at, but no matter, it's fun and they are going to work!
Here's some shots of them being made. I'll be deep into it for the next few days making the skins, which should be pretty nice as the frame looks tight, strong and easy to assemble. All the joins are made but the two most complex, which i can't make as they are going to require some metal magic to work. A five way and a six way, up against a compound corner in what may be one of the most complex shapes i've ever sewn. No problem. More after it occurs.

This is going together nicely. Parts fit well and it looks like there are only going to be two sizes of rods, and very few of the second size.

The problem with projects like this is you are essentially prototyping how to make them, which of course is the hardest part of the whole job. Making the next set would be child's play, but rarely do you get to do that! Never the less it is a challenge and delight to get to do these new things!
Here is the next step, the first cube assembled with out cover, next the cloth enclosure and agonizing over the method of closure and assembly.
like i finally got the corners right! The phase 'sleep on it' sure has new meaning, as every morning i've awakened to new ideas of how to make this work. After countless attempts to make it all fit correctly and without using the cloth intended to make the thing, i've finally got what i think i can live with and will make the whole thing really pop!

It's all in the corners baby! Now for some lunch, and a whole lot of get down to it! Measure three times, cut once! Okay, i wish i could format this a bit better, but what do you want for nothing!? Anyway, here is the first one, precision sewing 101, and not fun to put together, took almost 30 minutes the first time, but i think with practice you could cut that in half. The problem is it all fits perfect, which means there is no room to pull the rods apart to put them together(that makes sense if you build kites). In other words, you need a little room and there just isn't any. I figured out a way to make it worth with not much pain, and without resorting to the Peter Lynn method of massive elbow grease!

I'm right pleased with the look, fit and feel. Once together it is tight and light, although i should have bought black velcro* rats *! Just means you have to put it together correctly, and i just wanted to sit down! The rest should go pretty fast, i'm going to try and knock out the next two tomorrow, so we'll see! The rule on the floor is six feet long.

I don't know what's going on with blogger, as i have the rest of the pictures of this amazing project, and far more of the story to tell.

If there is a limit, i wish the program would let you know before you spend a half hour loading pictures only to have them disappear!
I have no idea if any of this text will line up with any of these pictures, so here goes!

The fellow in the suit is Glen Witney one of the chief master minds behind the Math Midway a traveling carnival of Math made fun. How do i come to have a picture of Mr. Witney you ask, well, i met the gentleman this past weekend after trying to ship the Some Cube to him.

You see, this project went so far out of bounds i'm now calling it the most difficult project i've worked on. No kidding. How a seemingly straight forward build job turned into this is still a puzzle, but after meeting some of the other puzzle builders for the Math Midway i feel a lot better, as it seems these things are far from simple.

At any rate, falling further and further behind, the last two weeks saw me putting in an amazing amount of hours, with the realization on or around June 5th that i was out of my mind, and with the deadline looming large i went into high gear and never slept more than 4.5 hours at a time, with some power naps thrown in for good measure! Still, by friday June 12th i was not quite done and could see early on that i was going to miss UPS. I got on the internet to see if there were any shipping options, and there were, Southwest ships, and flys within 16 miles of the shipping address i was given by the client. Having done counter to counter airline shipping in the past, i knew i could make this happen.

Another all nighter, and off i go Saturday morning to Jacksonville to the Southwest shipping office.

'Did i make it in time?' i asked the counter person, who asked me where the package was going, i told her, and she said, 'May i see your TSA documentation please?' i was like' . . excuse me?' Well it turns out, you have to have some BS documents from the Thousands Standing Around agency headed by this idiot who couldn't secure Wal-Mart, Kip Hawley. I guess Mr. Hawley didn't know that the airplanes that crashed on 9/11 were not brought down by packages shipped, but by actual people who got on the plane, but hey, somebody must be shipping, how else do you explain our inability to take any luggage with us any more!?
So i ask the lady if i can go get on the airplane with the packages, and she tells me sure, if i buy a ticket! Brilliant! Rules and regulations that make sense, i love the new police state!

Nearing a breakdown of epic proportions, i call the client, Glen Witney, who asks me where i am. I tell him i'm in Jacksonville Florida, and he asks me if i can in fact get on the airplane and bring the package, which is in fact exactly what i did!

I had a lovely time in New York City at the Math Midway, where i met the whole team that put together a most amazing show, which was absolutely jammed packed with people all day Sunday in Washington Park. In fact, somehow, the kids mobbed the cubes and pretty much destroyed them, but that's a tale for another day! For now i'm just happy to be back home, cleaning up, starting the next project(i'll post as i go)and catching my breathe!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The making of Sippy Bird!

So this is a story of kite passion and how it manifests in this world of chaos and disaster to help put the perma-grin back on our faces.

All names are the same to protect the guilty.

So this friend of mine gets together with this guy in Malaysia named Ceewan. They design a kite.
Now Jon fly's this beautiful kite at a kite festival and Scott sees it there and is blown away! Scott thinks, 'how can i get this kite, i must build one of these kites' and has a minor brain fart and tells Jon, 'hey, you know wouldn't it be a great idea if all of us built one of those, and we could all swap each others kite and each end up with two really cool kites!?' .....and that's exactly what is happening.

I just finished my first one and wow, i can't say enough about it! What a fun project! I'd seen Scott's and Jon's out in the desert about a month ago, and have been working on my one since before that even. In fact i'm going to put some pictures up here that tell the story of the build. I've never done this before so this is also an exercise in blog building which Telverston says is good for me to do. So be it.

For some reason i had this idea to do a bird, maybe inspired by Scott Skinners awesome Ivanpah Owl kites, of which there are two known in the world. I knew i was going to be in some stiff competition for this and wanted something simple and doable since i was using basicly scrap icky from long ago and building the kite in between real work.

I started this in March! Drew a half dozen sketches, all in scale and put down on the floor a full size outline. Using pieces of cloth from back in the day of Jordan Air Sport kites, and old cloth from various projects i managed to piece together what Ruth now dubs, Sippy Bird!

This was sewn on my original garage sale singer, bought for $100 in 1989 that has sewn and been used to teach numerous people to sew, all sorts of kites big and small. Still kicking!

I initially tried to put it together inside, once it was all sewn, but that proved to be impossible, so i took some rods out and headed outside, there to be interrupted by passing motorist that wanted to know what it was. "Is that a wind surfing sail?" Then the phone started ringing, and next thing you know i have to leave to meet Chef Carl, and head Blade 2 Blade guru to get my check, go to the bank, get lunch, and man, am i ever gonna get to fly this kite???

By the time i made it to our secret kite field in the center of our town, Gainesville, Florida, it was the heat of the day. The clouds were mounting for the afternoon thunderstorm(remember when you could set your clock by these?)but i was determined to get this up. Assembly was pretty swift, following Jon's instructions, though some of my tolerances are a bit tight(looks good though!).

I actually took a picture of the kite as it left my hand with my iphone, though i don't include that here as i called Tim E. and he came by in what seemed like minutes with his very nice camera and took all of these outdoor pictures, thank you Tim!

The kite ascended nicely on the very swirly, squirrelly wind, found itself up in a low level and just planted itself there! I wanted to sit, and knew i had a chair with me, so looked for something to tie it off to, could only find the weeds, did that, went to the kite van, got chair, drink, and hat, and sat down for an afternoon of flying.
Tim and Ruth along with Tommy and a passing friend all seem to show up at the same time, and hung for about an hour. The kite was stable as all get out, sometimes flying straight over my head, but always behaving well.

Finally the storm from the east moved in behind me, the wind came up big, broke the top center spar, though the kite didn't seem to mind. I got it down as quickly as i could, had a bit of trouble taking it apart, as now the wind was gusting big and all over the place, but managed to take it apart without ripping it, get it in the van, and blast off to Tim's and get these photos.

Pure Aoxomoxoa! If you'd like to buy one of these kites, contact Jon or Marianne at SkyBurner kites! tell 'em i sent you!

Sippy Bird!

This just In!

I just found a number of super good photos of Scott Skinners entry: Scott actually completed his at NABX this year, with the help of Jon.

Here's Scott checking out the bridle and tension on the sail. You get a sense of how big the kite is with this. Also here with the new Dave Culp looking on.

So now how does it fly? It was amazing and the first time i'd seen one fly. Just glued itself to the sky. I can't wait to see some more of them. It's going to be interesting to see who comes up with what, and where they end up. I really think Scottie's got something going here.

Wonder if this kite has a name? I can see some butterfly's and
wonder if that's a bird i see in there? The work is incredible, and just makes you sort of take a deep breathe and wonder when Scott sleeps. Nice work Skinner-san.

Pura AoxomoxoA~!

I'll try to get more photos up from around the kite globe as they come in! Stay tuned.

and here is Jose Sainz stunning entry into this little party! Way to go Jose'!

I'm just sayin'!