Balsa wood - the craft wood

Balsa wood is probably the hobby wood par excellence. Above all, the light and very simple workability in connection with an almost unbelievably low weight make balsa an excellent wood for model making. You can find out what else you should know about balsa in this post.

Names

Balsa wood is one of the few woods that actually has only one name. It also comes exclusively from a single tree species, namely Ochroma pyramidale. Many of the common botanical names (such as Ochroma lagopus) for the balsa tree are just synonyms that denote one and the same species, overall most species are very similar.

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DIN EN designation

  • DIN EN 13556 (international) balsa
  • international abbreviation OHLG

Look

Grain

Balsa has hardly any annual rings, only trees in less than ideal locations can the grain be clearly seen. Broad, easily recognizable medullary rays, also the vascular grooves can be clearly seen.

colour

The color of balsa wood is light yellow but can go as high as white. A light pink color is possible. Reddish and light brown colorations in the heartwood usually indicate older trees, the sapwood remains white. The coloring of sapwood and heartwood is almost the same for all other balsa woods - which is an exception among the types of wood.

properties

General properties

Balsa is the lightest known wood with its low weight and its low density. From its weight, this means only one third of the weight of spruce wood. Polystyrene hard foam has about the same weight as Balsaholz. The best features has the so-called "Quarter Grain ", which is Balsa cut from the regular center. Typical is also a very broad scattering of the densities - one distinguishes for Balsa:

  • Ultra-light (less than 70 kg / m³)
  • soft (70 - 125 kg / m³)
  • Mittelhart (125 - 175 kg / m³)
  • Hard (175 - 250 kg / m³)
  • Extra hard with over 250 kg / m³ (rarely)
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strength

In relation to the low weight and low bulk density, the strength behavior of BALSA is excellent in all areas. Balsa is particularly resistant to bending and has a very high compressive strength compared to its weight. This applies to all bulk density classes.

resistance

Balsa is very susceptible to insect infestation. In addition, it is also very susceptible to fungi, in particular to blue stain, but mainly when freshly beaten or moistened. Balsa has only a low durability (class 5) and is not weatherproof.

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particularities

Extremely high proportion of pores

The proportion of pores in balsa wood is over 90%. This leads to excellent insulation properties in the area of heat and noise protection, but also makes it ideal for (traditionally used) raft construction.

High pulp content

Balsa wood has a very high pulp content and can therefore be used particularly well for paper production and pulp extraction.

use

The main use of balsa wood today is in the field of model making. It is also often used as a substitute for cork. In the field of wind power, rotor blades are often made of balsa, in the technical field it is also often used today in the field of composite materials

traditional use

Traditionally, balsa wood was used to build rafts in Mexico, the country of origin of the balsa tree. The Hawaiians also made their traditional surfboards (the first of their kind) out of balsa wood. A famous application is probably Thor Heyerdahl's raft, the Kon-Tiki, which was mostly made of balsa.

origin

Balsa trees grow mainly in southern Mexico, but are also widespread in the rest of Central America. In order to obtain its wood, it has been introduced into more and more tropical areas in the last few decades, so that its distribution is increasing.

Technical values

Measured value description value
Bulk densities 0.06-0.38 g / cm³
Medium density 150 kg / m³
Compressive strength 3.5-28 N / mm²
Flexural strength 5.3-39 N / mm²

price

In the case of sawn timber in the timber trade you can start from around 1.Go out to 700 EUR per m³. That is about twice as expensive as acacia wood and oak.

All types of wood at a glance Tips & Tricks There are a few tricks and tricks for working with balsa wood in model making, such as bending with steam or using soda powder when gluing balsa.

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