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Balsa Shortage

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ashley needham26/09/2020 17:27:05
7121 forum posts
206 photos

Damn!!! Another urban myth busted.

Like Tim, I thought....or did I? I didnt actually think, I was just parroting what is common knowledge, and if DM is right (obviously he is) then the common knowledge is rubbish.

Absolutely agree that sustainable rainforest harvesting AND using the wood for ecologically sound products, sort of, makes good sense.

Rather that than level millions of acres of hardwood just to make posh front doors.


Dave Milbourn26/09/2020 18:18:01
4025 forum posts
282 photos

Liteply is made from laminations of Ceiba; it has no balsa content. Apart from the uses for the timber its seeds are a source of kapok and they can also be pressed to produce oil. The tree is also known as the silk-cotton tree.

Just because something is upheld as 'common knowledge' doesn't make it factually correct.

Happy to bust another myth!


Chris E26/09/2020 18:59:40
226 forum posts

Balsa has been used as a core material for a very long time. When I was involved with expensive full size yachts in the 1970's Balsa was often used as a core material between the skins of decks to make them light & rigid. I guess that foam is used now. It was available a balsa plywood.

I had also heard (apparently wrongly) that Lite Ply contained Balsa.

I agree that growing balsa is preferable to clearing the traditional forest for crops but I suspect that if demand increases greatly it will be "as well" as rather than "instead of". I doubt that modelling use makes much difference but I can imagine that the quantities that you could use in Wind Turbines would be enormous.

Charles Oates26/09/2020 21:19:03
616 forum posts
50 photos

I suspect the myth came from one website that comes up on google. Whether it was correct once upon a time, or a one off or just plain wrong I don't know. What I can say is that I love lite ply, it just has to be used with a bit of common sense. My last two fast scale models sail well largely because of the light weight structure lite ply makes possible.

When I first bought some, I knocked up a little box, just to get the feel of it and try different glues. Then I tried different finishes for the same reason. I'd recommend most people to do something similar, A bit of practice before using it for something important can pay dividends, in my case I learnt not to over sand it, and that basic surface preparation and a light surface filler make life a lot easier.


Chris E27/09/2020 09:32:15
226 forum posts

I will repeat something that I said some time ago. A tutorial on successfully using Lite Ply would be very welcome. There seem to be lots of misapprehensions and simple ignorance around (including mine).

Charles Oates

What did you learn ?

Colin Bishop27/09/2020 09:40:31
4876 forum posts
6087 photos
407 articles

What did I learn? Don't squeeze it!


Ray Wood 227/09/2020 11:16:47
2357 forum posts
829 photos

It's Lighter 😀 the clue is in the name 😎

Regards Ray

Charles Oates29/09/2020 11:16:09
616 forum posts
50 photos

Hi Chris E, what did I learn? I'm not sure I can be much clearer than I was in my post, but I'll have a go. Lite ply is just another type of wood, it's slightly different to other types, but it's still wood. I learnt to use Balsa as a boy, thanks to Vic Smeed and his famous designs. I learnt how to use modeling ply thanks to aerokits, it wasn't difficult, I was just a kid and I managed ok.

It's much the same with lite ply,, get some, try it out on something to learn on. I'm only talking about a few minutes effort, their isn't anything magical, difficult or wierd about it.

To summerise, surface preparation helps, I got that from another poster on this forum some time ago. Use a favourite glue, I like aliphatic resin glues, but pva works too, just like other woods. Finishing, so many different ways to do this, just like other woods, the most popular is probably a finishing epoxy resin often used on Balsa models. I do my own thing, just because I'm a bit set in my ways. Handle it with care, store properly, again just like other modeling woods ( or plastics) . It's all common sense.


Chris E29/09/2020 11:48:01
226 forum posts


Thanks for that. When you said "a bit of practice" I thought that there might be something specific.

Dave Milbourn29/09/2020 11:52:14
4025 forum posts
282 photos

I think that the main problem folk have with liteply is that they try to handle and use it as if it were birch ply. It isn't.

I wouldn't disagree even a tiny fraction with what Chas has written, but I certainly would take issue with the man who rang SLEC and told them what a pile of junk it is; that he would never buy another of their liteply kits, and that he would say so to al his friends. I doubt if that will take him very long, whereas SLEC aka Balsacraft aka Precedent Kits has been making liteply-based kits for 40 years and continues to do so.

The only other significant thing to mention is that Liteply will bend very easily under the influence of a little steam, and hold the curve well. That makes cutting and fitting skins a doddle. You can even sand off one lamination and it will bend like card! I've dealt with finishing it in an article elsewhere on this website, which was updated in an issue of MB earlier this year.

Dave M

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