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Hard-core kite-flying affectionadoes claim that given enough wind and a strong enough cord, they could fly a manhole cover. Most kite-flyers, however, are satisfied with a moderate breeze and a two-dollar kite from the local discount store.

There are dozens of kinds and shapes of kites available today -- delta wings, parafoils, sleds. There are even super kites that will carry a person or scientific instruments aloft. But the easiest kite for an average person to fly is constructed of two slender pieces of wood supporting a loose cover in the shape of an elongated diamond. The so-called two-stick (or loose cover) kite consists of two pieces of light wood, fastened in the middle to form a cross. A paper covering (sometimes plastic) is loosely tied to the framework by cord.

A kite flies when the wind blows against it’s lower surface with enough force to keep it aloft. When the string is taut and the angle of the kite is tilted upward, the covering works like the sail of a boat. A light ground wind of only two or three miles per hour is sufficient to launch a kite. But the trick it is to force it to climb to take advantage of stronger, more constant winds that blow 25 feet or more above the ground.

Kites should be launched into the wind. A simple method of determining wind direction -- that is, if it is difficult to feel a breeze -- is to simply wet your finger and hold it aloft. Even if there is barely a perceptible current at ground level, there are stronger winds just a few feet over your head. On very calm days, you have to provide the lift for your kite. This is done by running.

Hold the kite by the long wooden brace that goes from the front to the back, where it meets the crosspiece. Then start running. As soon as you feel a slight tug on the kite, let go. While still running let your string out a little at a time, keeping it taut. Before long, the kite will catch an air current and will rise steadily. Let your line out slowly. Do not let it slack. It the kite starts pitching around like a drunken buzzard, it probably needs a tail.

The tail is nothing more than a long strip of cloth attached to the back end of the kite by string. In a wind the tail acts like a rudder, keeping the kite from pitching. A certain amount of experimentation may be necessary to determine the proper length of the tail. Too long a tail will impede the kite. Too short is as bad as not having a tail at all.

To make a tail, cut two strips of cloth from an old bed sheet, three inches wide by about eight feet long. Cut one of the strips into eight to 10-inch lengths. Tie the shorter pieces, about three feet apart, to the long cloth strip. If the tail proves too heavy for the wind conditions, remove a foot of tail at a time until the kite flies correctly.

The line that you choose to fly your kite is important. A string that is too heavy -- like heavy wrapping twine -- is useless because of its weight. Likewise, string that is “fuzzy” catches the wind and increases drag. The best is 28-pound test (in other words, it takes a 28-pound pull to break it) nylon monofilament fishing line, found in any sporting goods store.

It probably goes without saying that kites should not be flown in the vicinity of trees. Select an area that is reasonably clear of obstructions like electric light poles, buildings and the like. And if there are other kite-flyers in the area, give them plenty of room. There is nothing more discouraging (or maddening) than tangled lines.

Flying a kite can provide hours of fun for young and old alike. People have enjoyed the sport for hundreds of years. Learn to fly a simple kite correctly and, as your skill increases, you can graduate to larger and more complicated kites.