50 Clutch of Bluebirds
Scott Skinner, Lindsey Johnson
Design and build a unique 50 cell Tetrahedron kite
Use 3d printing technology to create a simplified yet unique kite with special fittings
Building a tetra kite with Til Krapp and Peter Malinksi. Til designed the original fittings, Peter was the aspiring artist.
tools or applications used
3d Printer, sewing machine, facebook messenger. The beauty on my end is that all I had to do was to produce sails to the proper size for the fittings and sticks used. Lindsey and I coordinated our efforts by mail, I sent him the old fittings, example sails and example spars, he engineered the connectors and sent them back, I constructed a test cell and then went mad on the sewing machine. We had no time crunch, so this was done old school,
The making of a new collaboration, 1993 to 2018. In the early years of my attending the Fanoe, Denmark, International Kitefliers Meeting, I was greatly impressed by the tetrahedral kites of Til Krapp and Peter Malinski. Malinski, an inspiring artist had become a close friend and, along with Denmark’s own Jorgen Moller Hansen, had convinced to come to Fanoe in the first place. Til Krapp had a background in medical and dental equipment and he was the one who developed the plastic fittings used in their tetras. So, with something to trade (sewing skills), I proposed a trade with the two of them; I’d make 50 sails for each of them if they would make me enough connectors for a 50-cell tetra for myself. The following year was the payoff, three, fifty-sail tetras, all made with sails made by me, and tetra fittings by Til and Peter. 25 years later, the tetra-bug bit me again and I felt that I might go another direction of the critical fittings that make this project possible. Enter Lindsey Johnson, longtime kite maker and innovator, who was demonstrating a great aptitude for 3-d modeling and innovative kite hardware. Using Til’s original fittings as a guide, Lindsey developed a 3-d-printed fitting that could serve the same purpose. As I had done in the first collaboration, I had Lindsey make fittings appropriate for Easton arrow shafts (1/2 a shaft for each stick) for this tetra design that features internal, 4-stick cells. I would add, that it was at about this time, as fittings were being made, that I decided upon the sail design that would make this a once-in-a-lifetime tetra; bird-shaped sails that would make a flock of birds instead of a simple, geometric, tetrahedron. (By the way, my flock of bluebirds is a “clutch”, although “hermitage” can also be used) So, almost a full year later, my almost-50-sail clutch of bluebirds is finished. Thank you to Lindsey Johnson, I know I’ll be seeing his interpretation, soon.
Ah ha moment for the project with Lindsey was falling onto the idea of "Birds instead of Diamonds”, for the tetra sails. I know I wouldn’t have had the lasting power to make the sails if they hadn’t been unique.
These projects are always a process – for Lindsey, more than for me, because he might be asked to make these fittings again. I’m convinced that the modeling plastic we used is a bit brittle, and I’m sure the next generation made by Lindsey will be in a different plastic. Additionally, the fittings can be made in a variety of geometries: flatter, wider sails; bigger cells; different spar materials; or, perhaps, a full new development for a specific project.
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ideas for next generation?
Each iteration of a process like this will produce new results. I know for sure, that if we did the project tomorrow, we’d choose a different plastic for the fittings.