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Future balsa supplies in UK

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Andy Meade21/09/2020 22:39:01
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2787 forum posts
717 photos

Thankfully we're only making toy aeroplanes. As said before, correct settings and a well tuned printer creates a MIRROR finish inside moulds after a spray and sand back of pre face.

Peter Christy22/09/2020 07:56:27
1905 forum posts

This isn't the first time this has happened! Those of us of "a certain age" will probably remember the last balsa shortage - back in the 70s IIRC!

Back then, it was blamed on a new generation of massive oil tankers which required balsa for "insulation" of the tanks. I've no idea if that was fact or fiction!

I do know that it was followed by a sharp rise in the cost (and drop in the quality!) of balsa!

In the last seven years (since I retired!) I've built a few models from plans, mostly 5-footers and designs from the 60s. I was staggered by the cost of the wood alone! Were it not for the satisfaction factor of flying something I've built myself, I would stick to ARTFs, which are much cheaper than building your own!

If only most of them weren't so fragile and UGLY....!!!

--

Pete

Nigel R22/09/2020 09:57:19
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4173 forum posts
698 photos

You can always re-engineer the structure and keep the outline.

Lots of old designs seem to rely on taking a small forest and reducing it to the shape of an airplane using razor plane and sanding blocks... Top of the fuselage? Inch thick slab. Bottom? 3/8 slab. Corners? 1/2" triangle. Cowl area? Blocks, great big ones! Now get sanding!

Maybe I need to brush up on my planking skills.

kevin b22/09/2020 10:59:56
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1925 forum posts
152 photos

Nigel. You and me both !

Modellers have always been resourceful people and fortunately these days there are alternative types of materials that can supplement balsa.

It amazes me when people complain about how "expensive" things are. Compared with what ? Historically speaking the materials we use in our hobby are really no more expensive in real terms, than they always were. In fact many items are a lot more inexpensive (I hate cheaper). Radio equipment being the best example.

Maybe some people are not happy unless they are complaining (I know a few). Maybe it's because these days they have more time to do so. wink 2

malcolm woodcock 122/09/2020 12:10:36
412 forum posts

Over the past couple of days I've been looking at kits and ARTFs, most seem to be 'out of stock'. Don't know if this and balsa shortage are connected?

Richard Acland22/09/2020 12:31:08
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138 forum posts
70 photos
Posted by Nigel R on 22/09/2020 09:57:19:

You can always re-engineer the structure and keep the outline.

Lots of old designs seem to rely on taking a small forest and reducing it to the shape of an airplane using razor plane and sanding blocks... Top of the fuselage? Inch thick slab. Bottom? 3/8 slab. Corners? 1/2" triangle. Cowl area? Blocks, great big ones! Now get sanding!

Maybe I need to brush up on my planking skills.

My recent Spitfire built was built along the same lines. I am sure the designer who shall remain nameless has shares in a balsa company. Of my £100 worth of balsa I reckon about a quarter of it ended up on the floor in shavings.

Phil Green22/09/2020 13:35:17
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1658 forum posts
344 photos

I'm usually the odd one out when I turn up at the slope with a balsa glider... wink

Robin Colbourne22/09/2020 14:52:44
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697 forum posts
17 photos
Posted by Peter Christy on 22/09/2020 07:56:27:

This isn't the first time this has happened! Those of us of "a certain age" will probably remember the last balsa shortage - back in the 70s IIRC!

Back then, it was blamed on a new generation of massive oil tankers which required balsa for "insulation" of the tanks. I've no idea if that was fact or fiction!

I do know that it was followed by a sharp rise in the cost (and drop in the quality!) of balsa!

In the last seven years (since I retired!) I've built a few models from plans, mostly 5-footers and designs from the 60s. I was staggered by the cost of the wood alone! Were it not for the satisfaction factor of flying something I've built myself, I would stick to ARTFs, which are much cheaper than building your own!

If only most of them weren't so fragile and UGLY....!!!

--

Pete

Pete, the tankers to which you refer were probably Liquified Natural Gas Carriers, which needed the insulation around the tanks to stop the gas (methane) from boiling off. They originally got the gas from Louisiana, then later from Algeria. Modern LNG carriers have a capacity up to 9.4 million cubic feet.

Liquified Natural Gas Carrier

I guess the letters LNG on the side were a warning to other ships, 'You really wouldn't want to bump into this one!'

A bit more here: LNG Carrier history and engineering

Peter Christy22/09/2020 16:14:10
1905 forum posts

Thanks for that, Robin! Yes, you could be right! It was a long time ago!

But as I say, not the first time this has happened, and I doubt it will be the last. I do recall being horrified by the quality of the very expensive balsa being sold after the last round of shortages...!

--

Pete

Doc Marten22/09/2020 19:45:52
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872 forum posts
27 photos
Posted by Peter Christy on 22/09/2020 07:56:27:

This isn't the first time this has happened! Those of us of "a certain age" will probably remember the last balsa shortage - back in the 70s IIRC!

Back then, it was blamed on a new generation of massive oil tankers which required balsa for "insulation" of the tanks. I've no idea if that was fact or fiction!

I do know that it was followed by a sharp rise in the cost (and drop in the quality!) of balsa!

In the last seven years (since I retired!) I've built a few models from plans, mostly 5-footers and designs from the 60s. I was staggered by the cost of the wood alone! Were it not for the satisfaction factor of flying something I've built myself, I would stick to ARTFs, which are much cheaper than building your own!

If only most of them weren't so fragile and UGLY....!!!

--

Pete

....but were the major balsa suppliers and plantations being bought up wholesale by a corrupt and sinister Communist government which had already bought up a major chunk of global industries to expand their huge and rapidly expanding economy, giving them a frightening and unhealthy influence on global policy and economics or did they just buy the available stocks leaving the scraps for the rest of us until they'd finished kitting out the tankers?

Robin Colbourne22/09/2020 20:22:11
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697 forum posts
17 photos

The difference between balsa and things like copper, lithium, cobalt and the various rare earths metals that China is also gobbling up, is that provided you have the seeds, it should be possible to grow balsa wherever the climatic and soil conditions are not wildly different to those in Ecuador. Papua New Guinea was probably chosen as it is one of the more politically stable countries along the Equator. It would probably grow in Northern Queensland, although the labour costs in planting and harvesting may make this prohibitive.

Andy Hall23/09/2020 22:40:55
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13 forum posts
44 photos

Time to start my own mini balsa farm smiley

https://www.gardenguides.com/12471142-how-to-grow-a-balsa-tree.html

PatMc23/09/2020 23:46:00
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4481 forum posts
548 photos
Posted by Robin Colbourne on 22/09/2020 20:22:11:

It would probably grow in Northern Queensland, although the labour costs in planting and harvesting may make this prohibitive.

IIRC there were some balsa trees growing in the Brisbane botanic garden when we visited it in 1988. thumbs up

leccyflyer24/09/2020 07:34:22
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1628 forum posts
339 photos

Good point about the capabilty to grow balsa anywhere with suitable soil and climate. I can confirm that the UK isn't suitable. I've been planting balsa for many years and it doesn't seem to matter how deep I bury the aeroplane,I never seem to get the cuttings to take.

McG 696924/09/2020 07:46:16
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3413 forum posts
1296 photos
Posted by leccyflyer on 24/09/2020 07:34:22:

Good point about the capabilty to grow balsa anywhere with suitable soil and climate. I can confirm that the UK isn't suitable. I've been planting balsa for many years and it doesn't seem to matter how deep I bury the aeroplane,I never seem to get the cuttings to take.

... +1 on trying to create your own balsa farm. yes

You could give it another attempt, but just remove the covering first...

Cheers & stay 'covered'

Chris

Gary Murphy 124/09/2020 09:39:52
477 forum posts
22 photos

Don't think it will be much of a problem in the long run. In the UK the hobby is dying anyway,no new blood. the only ones worried about the balsa saga are "true" modellers, what little new blood there is around now certainly are not building. By the time any of this new blood comes of age I presume 3D printing etc will have progressed to lighter and stronger and bigger? Look at IC ,that's seen a dramatic drop and of course the dreaded drones don't need or use balsa.

Robin Colbourne24/09/2020 11:45:30
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697 forum posts
17 photos
Posted by leccyflyer on 24/09/2020 07:34:22:

Good point about the capabilty to grow balsa anywhere with suitable soil and climate. I can confirm that the UK isn't suitable. I've been planting balsa for many years and it doesn't seem to matter how deep I bury the aeroplane,I never seem to get the cuttings to take.

laughlaughlaugh Leccyflyer, you're not alone! If only we could build models out of brambles and stinging nettles, I would be onto a winner.


Gary Murphy 1, I can't say I share your pessimism. You only need to look at the various Facebook specialist groups to see that traditional construction still has a following.

To be honest, why should models only be built from what was available in the late 1930s? Did modellers at that time bemoan the reducing use of split cane and oiled silk?

We have a vastly increased range of materials and adhesives available to us now, so why not use them? Its great to see the models of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, in the same way the cars and motorbikes of the time have a following, but they aren't the be all and end all.

Flite Test have demonstrated that foamboard can get teenagers building models from scratch. They may not all look great (the models, not the teenagers...) but its the first successful step, which is what matters.

Edited By Robin Colbourne on 24/09/2020 11:46:48

Nigel R24/09/2020 13:06:33
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4173 forum posts
698 photos
Posted by Robin Colbourne on 24/09/2020 11:45:30:


To be honest, why should models only be built from what was available in the late 1930s? Did modellers at that time bemoan the reducing use of split cane and oiled silk?

Flite Test have demonstrated that foamboard can get teenagers building models from scratch. They may not all look great (the models, not the teenagers...) but its the first successful step, which is what matters.

 

In order;

I agree.

Of course they did.

Exactly. Foamboard is brilliant stuff. As a demographic, we've been quite slow to adopt it.

For wood fans, the stuff sold in Hobbycraft is about the weight and strength of 3/32 balsa, but 1/3 of the cost by unit area. Providing you dress the edges with some thin timber, time its covered, you'd never know it was there.

Edited By Nigel R on 24/09/2020 13:10:38

Peter Miller24/09/2020 13:52:01
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11489 forum posts
1366 photos
10 articles

I remember quite a few years ago there were some kits for cardboard models.

We even had one in the club for review a bit over 10 years ago.That one had serious gluing problems.

The way things are cardboard could make a comeback.

Oh and think!!! Cardboard is recyclable! Electric power, models that can go in the recycling bin which foam cannot!

Doc Marten24/09/2020 14:07:05
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872 forum posts
27 photos
Posted by Nigel R on 24/09/2020 13:06:33:

Exactly. Foamboard is brilliant stuff. As a demographic, we've been quite slow to adopt it.

For wood fans, the stuff sold in Hobbycraft is about the weight and strength of 3/32 balsa, but 1/3 of the cost by unit area. Providing you dress the edges with some thin timber, time its covered, you'd never know it was there.

Edited By Nigel R on 24/09/2020 13:10:38

.....and when the Chinese decide to buy out foam board producers and their suppliers for their own needs?

I use foam and other materials in my builds without any qualms at all, blue foam is now unavailable to us as uneconomic so white foam has made a comeback but for how long, what next?  

Edited By Doc Marten on 24/09/2020 14:13:15

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