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Future balsa supplies in UK

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Eric Robson28/10/2020 23:31:56
451 forum posts
95 photos
Posted by Geoff S on 28/10/2020 23:21:26:

One of the reasons I went for both the CNC cut parts and additional wood pack for Peter Miller's Rans Chaos was because it looked like buying the wood for myself would be difficult and using wood I already had would deplete my stock (realtively modest as it is) and make repairs or mods more difficult.

I haven't tried recently, but are 'proper' (ie balsa/ply) kits in short supply too?


Looking at the Tony Nijhuis balsa packs to complete the plan packs are no longer available.

Nigel R29/10/2020 09:27:48
4278 forum posts
711 photos

I'd imagine the all-wood kits are either going to have to re-engineer with mostly liteply & veneered foam, or hold off any production until balsa becomes viable again.

GONZO29/10/2020 10:18:01
1393 forum posts
14 photos

Yes, I imagine many, if not all, of the part kit sellers and rib set sellers on the bay will have a hard time of it. Even company's like Bellair, who no doubt keep a reasonable stock of balsa, will eventually run out. It's a regrettable fact of life but I guess we will loose some kit providers to this issue.

Edited By GONZO on 29/10/2020 10:19:08

perttime29/10/2020 11:55:09
211 forum posts
11 photos
Posted by ken anderson. on 26/10/2020 17:06:25:

I've ordered some balsa from Slec…….they only had "hard" balsa available....

ken dept.

So, you should consider using less of the stronger material. If the design calls for 2mm, go for 1.5mm, etc..

Capt Kremen29/10/2020 16:21:44
410 forum posts
169 photos

And remember went it used to cost 'd' pennies a sheet/strip !!!


Capt Kremen29/10/2020 20:04:26
410 forum posts
169 photos

I realise Wind Turbines are not on a model builders most liked list at the moment but for a fascinating insight into their construction, (with balsa !) and the operation, checkout BBC 2 'Powering Britain' - 'Wind' on iPlayer. (The programme was broadcast this evening at 07:30).

Bob Howard30/10/2020 18:20:46
79 forum posts

Has anyone looked into the possibility of using Albezia Wood as a substitute to Balsa? I understand it is comparable in strength and weight to Balsa, although it apparently is much slower growing than Balsa.

Bob Cotsford30/10/2020 18:29:44
8845 forum posts
496 photos

According to the wood database albizia is around 37 lb/cu ft dried, about half as much again as obeche!

Bob Howard30/10/2020 18:57:34
79 forum posts

The website I found when I googled "alternative to balsa" also mentioned Pawlonia as another option.

I recently stripped & recovered the club trainer wing. I have no idea what the wing ribs & cap strips were made of, but it certainly was not balsa or liteply. There must be comparable timbers out there somewhere. They just need looking for.

Maybe tree experts would be the ones to consult.

Jon Walter01/11/2020 10:37:47
1 forum posts

Just a thought, guys. When I started out in 1974 with my Horizon 2 channel and then OS Cougar Mk 1 gear, I seem to recall that servos weighed about 2oz each, the Rx the same, switch was another ounce, and the battery pack weighed 4 oz. All in all around 15 - 16oz. Some contemporary stuff was around the 20oz mark eg FLC, Digimax etc. Servo outputs were around 2lb, roughly the same as a 9g servo. Modern 4 channel stuff weighs 36g for the servos, 6g for the Rx, no switch and battery is in the ESC. To my addled brain this represents a weight saving of 14 to 18 oz. Factor in the massive power available from brushless electrics, and I find myself wondering why we need balsa as a material. We all love working with it, true, but in the 40s people were still building with spruce, bamboo etc because there as no balsa available. We can use different materials and still get the same performance as we had in the 80s and 90s, which wasn't shabby. it make take different techniques and a bit more work but it can and will be done.

Having said all that I do hope we can still buy balsa in the future; I suspect that technology will move on, and providing structural damage hasn't been done to the balsa industry, we will see prices stabilise as well as supply. Here's hoping!!

RICHARD WILLS03/11/2020 17:42:07
655 forum posts
97 photos

This whole Balsa Crises thing has made me think .

There was a best selling book written a few years back , by Spencer Johnson , called

"Who Moved MY Cheese?" Sold millions of books . It was about knowing when to move on when things had changed through no fault of your own .

So I'm thinking of a sequel

"Who Stole the Bleeding Balsa ?" (Bleeding is a verb moderator )

Could follow it up with

"I can tell you who stole the Balsa , the same bloke that was previously obsessed with selling us progressively expensive models made of packing foam ."

Too far ?

Ron Gray03/11/2020 17:44:11
2452 forum posts
992 photos

Not far enough IMO.

RICHARD WILLS03/11/2020 17:47:45
655 forum posts
97 photos

Any ideas for a title to make it a Trilogy ?

Careful lads , the moderator is watching and I dont want to incite unrest or cause a pandemic .

ken anderson.03/11/2020 17:50:42
8791 forum posts
814 photos

if you wish to see what expensive balsa looks like, have a look in a hobbycraft store or check out their web site......I was in yesterday with mrs A...….

ken building dept.

Ray Wood 403/11/2020 18:27:34
256 forum posts
44 photos

All the things in Hobbystore can not be found any more expensive anywhere, but they do a a great range of bits & bobs 😀

Regards Ray

Eric Robson03/11/2020 18:45:43
451 forum posts
95 photos

Hobby Store prices could kill off hobbies altogether. Richard an interesting book title would be "How to start a Balsa Plantation in Deepest Essex".

RICHARD WILLS03/11/2020 20:11:06
655 forum posts
97 photos

Great Idea Eric ,

So what you are saying is that the third book in the trilogy could be named , along the lines of the film "Krakatoa East of Java "


"Borneo Balsa, East of Brentwood " ( The only way is Essex) ?

Genius .

Fancy Ghost writing it ?

Bruce Collinson03/11/2020 20:50:46
576 forum posts

We should all be mindful of this. Lithium might be next.


John Bisset03/11/2020 20:52:25
237 forum posts
6 photos

Maybe we are being overly pessimistic.

Looking at what, for example, Balsa Cabin and SLEC are saying, there should be supplies of balsa in future. These will be more expensive, so looking for alternative woods & materials is sensible of course.

I suspect some of the rapid emptying of supplies at SLEC has been aided by to members on here doing a wee bit of - dare I say it - panic buying. (or 'stocking up, just in case'. Remember the toilet riol follies!

Started to do the same, then realised I haven't got a clear idea of what I need. So, I will wait.

The sad thing is that I bet quite a bit of that now stored balsa will not be used. Eventually some will return via local club sales etc.


John B

RICHARD WILLS03/11/2020 21:13:56
655 forum posts
97 photos

The obvious solution is to legalise Cannabis making it supermarket cheap .

That way, the Hydroponics "Experts " with their home based Nurseries will have to turn their hands to fast growing wood ......Balsa Wood !

We will be able to visit the shadier side of town and try to "score" some sheets of cross grain from the back of a dodgy transit parked in a layby .

I'm getting strangely excited about the prospect .

You always want what you can't have ...

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