Kite Camera Reel #1: Day 1: No Rush...

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Blog entry by CaptainSkully posted 10-30-2009 05:49 PM 3501 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Kite Camera Reel series Part 2: Reel Pressure... »

I have a buddy who won a sailboat charter in the British Virgin Islands. I started off promising him to teach him how to sail well enough to go on his own. Long story short, we ended up chartering a sailboat too. The other night (over a few adult beverages), he said he wanted to build a camera kite. For those of you that don’t know what the heck he’s talking about, it’s a contraption that allows you to literally fly your expensive, digital camera, usually over the Pacific ocean, and take breathtaking pics and/or video of yourself. The trick is of course to put your subject matter in frame. Here’s a pretty cool example of what he wants to do in the BVI (they’re even using the same design we’re using):

NOTE: For you sailors out there, that’s a Sparkman & Stephens designed Catalina 38 from the early 80’s.

The interesting part of the whole situation is that I only had about two days in my sailing instructor schedule before we leave to build one, and one of those days was yesterday. We decided it would be almost as easy to build two, so I ran out into my shop yesterday morning after my cup of coffee and started working on a rig from this site:

By the time he got over to my place, I was already knee-deep in the hoopla. Here’s a series of photos showing the progress. I’ll explain what each part is underneath:

^The two round pieces are part of the spool that will hold 1000 feet of 100 pound test line. The other two are part of the frame that you can rest against your thigh (hence the saddle) and using your body weight, resist the drag of the kite.

^Closeup of the bridle joint we used to attach the frame backbone to the saddle.

^Dry fit of frame.

^Frame sanded and all edges eased.

^Yo-yo profile of spool sides after routing.

^Spool sides (notice reel handle built in). There will actually be two handles on the reel, one inside the circle, and one on the jutting part. This in effect gives you a two-speed reel, one to take up more line quickly, the other to give you more leverage.

^Views of the brake cam lever. You grab either end and squeeze, which causes brake pads to engage between the frame and the spool. I made these tapers on the jointer by setting the starting point on the outfeed table, just past the high point of the cutter arc and sliding the work across as usual. It took several passes, but the end result was a very controlled, safe, smooth taper. I really impressed my buddy with that little trick.

^Frame assembled showing the brake lever. The pins glued into the frame act as guides for the brake lever and keep it aligned with the frame.

^Spool drum rough cut. We glued these up early in the morning, hoping they’d be cured by late afternoon.

Spool loosely assembled after sanding.

^Entire rig showing how it all comes together. A strong, ergonomic handle will be mounted on the right end, sticking up.

So that’s where we are after one day. We’re still working on hardware (i.e. handles that rotate, axles, etc.). I’m going to use the spool parts as templates to make the other set after gluing up another blank wide enough. Sometimes I’m amazed what my girlfriend puts up with.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my newest foray into madness. Part of me feels like I should go build a treehouse now and read “Dangerous Book for Boys” again. If this actually works, we’re going to have some pretty kicka$$ pics/video of ourselves sailing in the Caribbean. We’re always looking for our next Christmas card photo. We’ve already got a waterproof enclosure for our older digital camera (the one I’m allowed to take out into the shop). I also think it’s important to note that I used almost all scrap from the shop to build these. Wish me luck…

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

2 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3539 days

#1 posted 10-30-2009 05:56 PM

A most unique project can’t wait to see the rest of the story

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4039 days

#2 posted 10-31-2009 04:45 AM

when are you going to teach me to sail??

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

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