Selecting Materials

The framework of classic Chinese kites consists mainly of bamboo, partly supplemented by reeds, Sorghum rods, etc. At the moment, wood, fiberglass, synthetic carbon fiber and light metals are also used.

Bamboo has many advantages. It is light, the fibers are straight and dense, so the bamboo can have considerable strength and elasticity. Bamboo rods come in many different qualities, types and specifications. The processing is very easy:  You can easily bend them over an open flame without exposure to heat. When the final shape is reached, the cooled and bent bamboo retains its shape and largely its elastic properties.

The dimensional stability is excellent, but you should note that bamboo is more flexible and elastic than wood. This can be a disadvantage with kite elements that require high rigidity.

The bamboo belongs to the same grass family as sugarcane. There are many types of bamboo in China. In China there are 20 genera in over 200 species. The bamboo grows mainly south of the catchment area of ​​the ChangJiang River.

1. Selecting the right kind of Bamboo

(1) Mao Bamboo

Main places of origin: Qinling Mountains, the catchment area of the Hanshui River and south of the catchment area of the Changjiang River.
Main characteristics: This type of bamboo is distributed most extensively in China, the yield of this type of bamboo is greatest, this type of bamboo is of the highest economic value. It is thick and straight, its pole can be over 20 meters high, its diameter can reach 16cm or more. The bamboo wall is 0.5-1.5cm. The length between two bamboo knots is 40cm. The material is hard, firm and elastic and easy to divide. Thus, this material is very suitable for the construction of various types and shapes of kites. Mao bamboo is the main material used for Chinese kites.

(2) Gui Bamboo

Main Place of Origin: All provinces in the ChangJiang River basin and Henan Province, Hebei Province, Sichuan Province, etc.
Main features: The height of the bamboo stem is 15 meters, its diameter reaches 14-16 cm. The greatest length between two bamboo knots is 40 cm. Its rod is thick and large, its material is firm and hard, it can be easily cut and split. The Gui bamboo is well suited as a material for force-absorbing construction components in kite building.

(3) Shui Bamboo

Main origins: All provinces south of the ChangJiang River basin.
Main features: The height of the bamboo rod is 5-10 meters. Its diameter reaches 4-6cm. The largest length between two bamboo knots is 20-40cm. The bamboo wall is relatively thin. Its rod is straight, its material is firm and elastic, it can be divided easily. Shui bamboo is a good material for frames of small or large kites.

(4) Ci Bamboo

Main origins: South of the ChangJiang River basin.
Main features: The height of the pole is 5-10 meters. The diameter reaches 4-8 cm. The largest length between two bamboo knots is 60cm. The bamboo wall is thin, its material is soft and elastic. The mechanical strength is weaker, but the material is lighter. You can make middle spars or other straight rafters from the sticks cut from Ci bamboo into medium-sized kites. Ci bamboo is not only more rigid, but also lighter than other types of bamboo.

Other types of bamboo of minor importance are Mong bamboo, Qian bamboo, Shi bamboo, Huangruo bamboo, Jian bamboo. Details of their use cannot be discussed here.

When choosing the bamboo material you should also consider the durability of the material when choosing the type of bamboo.

In Europe most types of bamboo are only available through special shops. Collective orders (kite club!) Are sometimes possible through larger flower trading companies.

2: Choosing the right Bamboo material

(1) The tip of a bamboo pole is quite thin and has many branches or twig attachment points (knots), so the tip cannot be used. You can only use the middle part of a bamboo pole, and only the part where the diameter changes little from knot to knot. With the ready-made bamboo rods in Europe, this of course no longer plays any role, since only the middle parts are offered here. Only in flower shops you may sometimes find uncut natural bamboo rods.

(2) After cutting through a bamboo pole, we look at the cross-section: the outside is the bamboo bark, further inwards, immediately adjacent to the bamboo bark, there is a zone with dense fiber organization. It's called bamboo green. Further inside, next to the green bamboo, there is a zone with loose fiber organization. It's called bamboo yellow.
Bamboo bark and green bamboo are normally used to make kites. The bamboo yellow is generally cut off, but how much bamboo yellow is cut off should be decided according to the detailed construction situation (see Figure 6-1, bamboo in cross section).

(3) The freshly cut bamboo contains too much water. Therefore, it is easy to bend and shape. Prior to use, it should be stored in a shady and cool place. Bamboo, which has been deposited over several years, contains very little water and is brittle, firm and rigid. It is difficult to bend, can split easily and is normally not used for building kites. Of course, the freshly cut, young bamboo and the already split old bamboo cannot be used either. The storage of the bamboo is already a small art in itself.



Copyright 2002 ff: Hans P. Boehme