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Brittle Wood Syndrome

Is it just me ?

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Jeff Adams04/01/2021 12:27:58
5 forum posts

Hi Folks. I used to fly R/C planes many years ago, and been looking after various full size yachts since then. I've just caught the boat modelling bug, so I thought I should sign up to a forum.

So - hello folks!

I've built the ubiquitous Chinese '1:100 Navy Ship' kit that my partner got me. Frustrating, fiddly, and no instructions or drawings! Strangely satisfying in the end though, with the help of some good scratch build books. Who knew there was a science to planking?

Now I'm trying the 'Ace Sloop Racer' kit which I'm going to convert to R/C.

One thing has struck me in both kits - the wood is soooo fragile. OK - fair enough in the cheap Chinese kit, but I expected much better in the recent kit. OK - it is a bit better, but there is no resilience in much of the wood to bending, even with a good dose of steam. The wood just seems to snap like a biscuit. It doesn't seem to work the same as balsa I remember from 3 decades ago.

I don't think I'm being unduly clumsy - is there anything to be done other than be prepared to swap out bits of balsa that seem brittle?

I wondered about soaking it, or oiling it. Not sure if those are good ideas or not.



Dave Cooper 605/01/2021 14:53:49
309 forum posts
32 photos

Hello Jeff and welcome to the forum.

What type of wood are you working with - balsa, beech, birch, ply's......?

The key may be time. If the wood is reluctant to bend you could try soaking first, then clamping one end whilst hanging small weights on the other, perhaps with some steam assistance - then let gravity do its thing !

Good luck,

Dave C

Jeff Adams05/01/2021 15:02:20
5 forum posts

Hi Dave,

Mainly the balsa. It seems as if a hard stare is enough to snap it. The 'hardwood' frames in the Chinese kit seemed to be made of hard cheese. Any stress on them would make them crumble.

In the Acer kit, I'd assume the frames are mahogany - purely by the colour. Even these are very thin and fairly brittle.

It's the way the wood snaps, rather than give any warning that it is getting too stressed. Soooo frustrating!

Anyway - I'm done with 'cheap' kits.

It's been good a good way to get back into building though.


Dave Cooper 605/01/2021 20:13:56
309 forum posts
32 photos

You could try making up some laminations. Taking the existing frames, for instance, as the centre piece of a 'ply' of 3.

Even using something like good quality 1/64" birch ply combined with a quality wood glue ( I use Titebond Original) may due the trick. Weight the 3 pieces down and leave for 24 hours to set at room temperature.

Before you throw the proverbial towel in, may be worth making up a few test pieces just to see what's salvageable...

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