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Profile of shomemagic
The title says it all...I am needing some tips on working with balsa wood..what kind of tools are needed etc..also where is a good place to get balsa it only available in flat sheets or 2 x 4 size?

Mike King - Sho-Me Magic

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Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
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Profile of Michael Baker
I have never used this company, but it took me all of 20 seconds to find this link.

Google balsa and you'll probably find a lot more.

~michael baker
The Magic Company
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Newark, CA
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Profile of EsnRedshirt
Balsa wood is really soft- I mean really soft. Although you can work it with just about anything (including your fingernails), it's obviously not too durable. If you're making a prop you want to keep around, use a harder type of wood.

It's avaliable in pretty much every model and hobby shop, in all sorts of sizes and shapes, from long, thin rods to flat, wide sheets. 2x4 size is rather large; I've primarily only seen it used for making models. You can work it with an exacto knife, or any tool you'd use on soft woods.
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Profile of mvmagic
Yes, balsa wood is REALLY easy to work with. Some sandpaper and a knife are plenty of tools.

Its possible to use balsa in magic props just like in model building, by laminating it. You construct a frame-a skeleton if you will-from balsa and then laminate it with sheet styrene, using epoxy for glueing. Granted, styrene is not the strongest plastic there is but in turn its cheap, very easy to tool, easily available and takes many finishes. A clear polyurethane coat protects finishes really well as its pretty tough.

Balsa in itself is a fantastic material and with stains (or modelling inks) one can achieve a really great wood look. A stage play about a haunted house required a table that flies away and I did that from balsa, staining it with model ink topped with glossy polyurethane clear coat. It looked like a real heavy table, even up close.

Like with any material, experiment with balsa, do different things, get to know the material. If you need more info, drop me a PM.
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Profile of gerard1973
Go down to your local model and hobby shop. They will give you all kinds of tips and information for free about working with Balsa wood. R/C Airplane modellers work with Balsa wood all of the time and they would be another good source of information.
"Confusion is not magic."
Dai Vernon
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Profile of kregg
Balsa was how my Grandfather started me out in woodworking and carving. These days I don't use it unless I need to build fiberglass forms.
Michael Berends
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Profile of Michael Berends
Hi All,

Throughout my life I've been heavily involved in Model Aircraft and have extensively used Balsa wood to build many things.

Balsa sheets can be readily found at your local hobby shop and can even be found at a lot of craft stores like "Michael's"

It is VERY EASY to work with.....

It cuts with a razor knife, with the grain and a razor saw, against the grain. it also sands very easily. One thing that is crucial when building with balsa is the orientation of the grain. It takes a little experience to figure this out but once you understand grain orientation it's pretty easy.

There are also 3 types of cuts (A,B,&C) that can be found. Each of them has their pros and cons. Depending on the application the type of cut can determine the stiffness and strength of your project.

Balsa also glues together really well with various types of adhesives. Standard white and yellow wood glue (Alphatic Resin) works great. It has the ability to soak into the grain of the wood and create a strong bond.

Another type of glue that is widely used with Balsa projects is Cyanoacrylate (Crazy Glue) It can be found at your local hobby shop in a variety of thickness. The only downfall is that you must make sure your pieces have a close fit because the glue is so thin.

Balsa is also like a gigantic sponge. So when looking for lightness in a prop. It can easily start packing on the weight if you're hevy handed with the glue. Espescially the Crazy Glue type.

It is also prone to warping if exposed to heavy humidity. So sealing the wood ,after the project is completed, is essential. One of the lightest and easiest ways of doing this is with a Water Based Polyurethane.

I hope that this has answered any questions for those of you that are thinking of working with Balsa on one of your projects.

I have designed and built many model airplanes designed for lightness and duration. Some which have held Canadian Endurance Records. If there's any questions any of you might have that come across this post. Feel free to PM me anytime. I love talking shop.

Michael Berends
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Profile of Zazz
Micheal's craft store sells an aircraft birch plywood at .4mm thick. It has a beautiful grain. Has anyone used this plywood laminated over balsa wood? I am building a floating table and am playing around with the idea of this. I think with a good stain and finish this would make a nice looking and light table.

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Profile of ClintonMagus
If you look carefully, you can find several different hardnesses of balsa in the same batch at the hobby shop. I used to look for planks with darker streaks running through them, which usually indicated a harder wood. If you can compress it easily with your fingernail or fingers, it is probably too soft for anything useful.

Also, get yourself a metal straightedge, a #1 X-Acto knife, and a BUNCH of #11 X-Acto blades. The blades will dull after a few cuts and will tear the wood if used too much.

This site should give you a lot of information:

Working with Balsa Wood
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