Saturday, April 16, 2011

Making a Wau: Trimming the Bamboo Techniques

1. Trimming the bamboo for making the frames of a wau is an important aspect in Wau making. It will determine whether the frame is strong enough to take strong wind or flex enough to fly during light wind condition.

2. Before trimming the bamboo, one must establish on the conditions the Wau is to be flown. Even in a small country like Malaysia, the wind conditions is different depending on the time of the year and the location where the Wau is flown e.g. at the beach or inland.

3. There are a couple of techniques that a skilled Wau maker used to trim a bamboo. The simplest and easiest technique is as pictured above. The steps are as follows:

a. Cut the bamboo strip to the length required ensuring that there is a node in the centre and the culm length on either side is of the same length to ensure balance.

b. Split the bamboo near to the size required so that lesser trimming job is needed.

c. Sit on the floor or a stool; whichever is more convenient.

d. Place a piece of rag on the lap (left or right depending) so that it will not cause abrasion or spoil your pants.

e. Hold the bamboo strip at the centre node with one hand and the trimming knife on the other.

f. Decide the amount of bamboo to be trimmed by adjusting the angle of the cutting edge of the trimming knife and the amount of force to be exerted. Note that the steeper the angle of the cutting edge of the trimming knife and the greater the force applied will trim the greater amount of bamboo.

g. While holding the trimming knife static, draw the split bamboo against the cutting edge of the trimming knife.

h. Adjust the angle of the cutting edge and the amount of force as required. Roll the bamboo regularly so that a near cylindrical pencil like is achieved; tappering towards the end. Do not remove the bamboo skin as it will reduce the strength of the bamboo.

i. Regularly change trimming the left and right side of the centre node so that there is balance.

j. Repeat the process until you have achieved the desired size and flex.

4. Trimming a bamboo require skill but it is not too difficult to acquire. Practise will make perfect.

5. Split bamboo is sharp. Handle with care and take precaution. Happy trimming.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making A Wau: Dealing with the Bamboo

The bamboo forms the main component of the frame of a Wau. A good type of bamboo will determine the quality of a Wau. Most literature about making Wau in the Malay culture would give you the following pointers to select and prepare the bamboo: Selecting the Bamboo

a. Preferably select Bambusa Blumenea - Buluh Duri, Dendrocalamus Asper - Buluh Betung or Gigantochloa Spp - Buluh Brang.
b. The bamboo clump selected must be located on high and spacy ground.

c. Select an old and seemingly dry bamboo that is located in the centre of the clump.

d. Select the bamboo pole that is leaning towards sunrise as it is belief to have high spirit.

e. Determine the length and the spot where the bamboo is to be cut to ensure that the node is in the centre, and the culm on each side of the centre node is about the same length. The length of the bamboo must cater for the longest part the Wau e.g. the lower tailpiece of a Wau Bulan.
f. Cut the bamboo on the afternoon of a dry spell so that the water contents of the bamboo is lowest.

g. Avoid cutting bamboo with sheaths or young shoots as it is still young and has high sugar contents in its sap that is prone to pest attacks.

NB: If you are making the Wau for pleasure, DO NOT get bogged down with the above pointers. ANy type of bamboo from the nursery, hardwares or DIY stores with the desired thickness, length and flex will meet the requirement.

Treating the Bamboo
a. Traditionally, newly cut bamboo pole is submerged underwater (or mud) for weeks. The aim is to bleach the sap which attracts pests.

b. The bamboo is then placed under indirect sunlight for slow drying. Sometimes, it is smoked. The aim is to dry and to eliminate the sugar content in the bamboo.

NB: Unless you intend to keep the Wau for years, there NO need for you to treat the newly cut bamboo. For normal use, the newly cut bamboo can be split and dry out in the sun so that it can be used quickly. Turn over the split bamboo while drying so that it gets dried evenly and avoids bent.
Trimming the Bamboo
a. The bamboo is cut to the desired length. A four feet Wau span may require a 54 inches long bamboo strip to allow for the arch and bend.
b. Split the bamboo from the smaller end, to near required size so that trimming job is lessened.

c. Trim the bamboo using appropriate trimming knife. Alternatively, use a paper cutter. It is not easy to trim a bamboo. On the same note, it is not difficult either. But be extra careful.

NB: The upper part of the spine of the Wau is stiff but the lower tail part is flexible. The bamboo strip for the spine is comparatively bigger than that meant for the wing. The center part of a bamboo strip for the wing of a four feet Wau is nearly pencil-like size, and the tip of the bamboo is nearly that of a matchstick. The size of the bamboo strip for the tail is much smaller than that of the wing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Types of Wau: Wau Bulan (Moon Kite)

Wau Bulan is a buzz word in Malaysia's traditional kite's world. Perhaps, you landed at this blog because you too search for 'Wau Bulan". Therefore, it is imperative that I blog on this subject at the onset. I will not dwell into history at this point of time. There are so much uncertainties and myths with regards to the origin of Wau Bulan.

Wau Bulan literally means Moon Kite. It derives its name from the shape of its tail that looks like a crescent. It is the most stable Malaysia's traditional kite and an easy flyer suitable for light and moderate wind condition. As a single liner and a flat kite, strong wind will cause instability. A suitable size of a Wau Bulan for recreational flying purposes is a four footer (about 1.2 m). Smaller is unstable and bigger gives much drag, unless you are a seasoned kitesperson; the more drag, the greater the fun.

Like any other traditional kites of Malaysia, the frame of Wau Bulan is made of bamboo strips. The purpose of the Wau will determine the type of material and the extend of the decorations. A Wau meant for display is made of glossy flint coloured papers and will be decorated elaborately; but is too heavy to fly. A Wau meant for recreational flying is made of kite papers with only light decorations, or with a more durable materials like plastics sheets or ripstop nylon fabrics.

However, at national competitions, both beauty and flight performance were considered, and the materials used are limited to those of a traditional Wau only. Therefore, it is up to the Wau-Maker to strike the balance between the decorations and the weight of the Wau. There have been innovation in the construction of a Modern Wau Bulan. This is due to the need of bigger Wau to capture spectator's attention; but at the same time is easily assemble and dismantle. In this context, the use of modern kite materials such as carbon rods and ripstop nylon fabrics come into play. I am among those who subscribe to the innovative idea and have won several awards at national competitions in that category.

The 10 footer Wau Bulan The Launch The Pull The Flight The Reading The Victory!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Types of Wau: Wau Daun (Leaf Kite)

This is one of my handmade Malaysia's Traditional Kite called Wau Daun (Leaf Kite). It derrives its name through its shape; unlike that of the Muna Island in Sulawesi which are made of leaves. Wau Daun is an easy flyer during the least wind condition. The frame is made of bamboo strips and the sail is of kite paper. This Wau Daun is handpainted using Fabric Dye and Poster Color.
I am not an artist but this Wau Daun of mine is too beautiful to keep or to fly. So, I donated it to the Pasir Gudang Kite Museum in Johore Bharu for display and safekeeping.

How To Make a Malay Kite

This is a Malay Kite Fighting Competition. The idea is to cut off other participants' kite string. Whichever kite remains the last in the air will emerge as winner. Note that the kite string is standard, issued by the organizer.
This is a Malay Kite or known as Wau Kikik in Malay. It is a tailless diamond-shaped kite. History states that this is among the earliest kite design in the East. It is similar to Eddy Kite or Holland Kite. A Malay Kite is the easiest kite to make. It is an easy flyer provided that it is light, big enough and well balanced. Pictured above is a 3 feet Malay Kite. It is the standard used in the national Malay Kite Fighting Competition.

The vertical stick is the spine. It should be slightly stronger than the cross stick. The cross stick which is just slightly longer is attached to the spine (ensure the balance) by a string at a quarter distance from the top. Then tie the strings at the end of the spine and the cross stick to make the shape. Reinforce with another smaller diamond shaped in the center with a string to provide support to the sail and the frame. Glue on the sail. The sail could either be of kite paper, plastic sheet or the modern ripstop nylon fabric. Attach one point of the bridle where the sticks crossed and another point of the bridle slightly short of the bottom tip of the kite. Finally, attach a kite string and you are Ready To Fly (RTF).

Wanna Fly a Kite?

Assuming that you have made or got a kite; pictured above are the basic kiting gears that you would need to fly a kite. The most important of all is the kite string and a spool to wind the string. Attaching a fishing swivel at the end of the string before it is hooked to the kite's bridle will help to avoid the string being twisted. The strength of the string is dependent on the size of the kite and the strength of the breeze. A simple kite string is good enough for a small kite whereas a bigger kite will require a stronger braided type of string. Avoid using monofilament fishing lines for flying kites as they are sharp and easily cut off when brushed against or crossed lines. You may require a pair of gloves as a taut string can easily hurt your fingers. A multipurpose tool will be handy if you need to cut the string. Happy Kiting.

Wanna Make A Kite?

Having landed at my blog, have you fell for making a kite? It is easy to make a kite and relatively inexpensive. But most all, you will arrive to a satisfaction. All you need are kits that are pictured above; wooden sticks (or bamboo strips), kite papers (or plastic sheets), a pair of scissor, paper cutter, glue and/or adhesive, chord/thread, sand papers and a measuring tape. If you are innovative enough, you can do away with some or replace them with other similar kits.

Google for Kite Plans and enjoy making your very own kites this weekend. Go on, and try it. You will love it.