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Future balsa supplies in UK

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Matt Carlton28/09/2020 13:29:06
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If spruce comes in at about 27lb/cu.ft, and hard balsa at around 9.

A 1/4 x 1/4 x 48 strip of hard balsa would weigh about 73g

That's roughly the same as a 3/16 x 1/8 Spruce spar.

Structurally, would they be equivalent?

Peter Miller28/09/2020 13:58:47
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Posted by Geoff S on 28/09/2020 12:29:57:
Posted by Matt Carlton on 28/09/2020 11:40:56:

In typical 'balsa sheet' sizes as well I see.

I wonder what 1/32" obechi wing ribs would be like.

I'm assuming that it could be laser cut just as well as balsa...

I would have thought foam board might be better?

There was a period when Correx was popular. IIRC Peter designed a model which was largely Correx - can't recall the name.

Geoff

THat was Blue Movie. It WAS indestructible.

A little story.

Sortly after Blue Movie was published R/C ModelWorld had the auditors in doing their checks.

They summoned the editor and demanded to know why a payment for a "Blue Movie" had been made.

They would not believe that it was for a plan until they were shown the magazine with it in.

AS for the name, well it was very crude and very ugly but the performance was amazing!!!

Barrie Lever28/09/2020 14:09:52
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Matt

You have to be a little bit careful making a comparison by weight, the balsa will have a lot more cross sectional area than the spruce and therefore will likely be stiffer.

Think of a cheap internal house door, quite stiff, does not weigh much but not really strong either.

You most likely realise that stiffness and strength are not the same, sometimes you see both properties in the same material sometimes you don't..

B.

Gary Clark 128/09/2020 14:11:40
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Hahaha brilliant Peter!

On a serious note though, I think richard said things very well earlier. We really need to support the UK suppliers of kits and materials. In the past 10 years, the only non uk kit I had bought is a Sig King Kobra. I am not trying to get all high and mighty but having seen the lack of quality in some ARTF aircraft from abroad versus the quality of materials put in UK kits, I just can't buy anything else. When you see the effort guys like Richard put into preparing his Warbird Replica kits and the real personal feel you get from his company, it gives me real pleasure in sending my money to them rather than a huge company paying its staff peanuts to produce as many kits as possible in little time.

This potential shortage is a great time to get behind these companies and buy some stuff now so they have a financial cushion if things do start going bad. If things do get expensive, I am very confident these companies will only mark up prices where they have to and not to make extra profit so I know I will continue to buy from them for as long as they are selling.

I feel like painting my face blue and shouting freedom now and running angrily at chinese wind turbine blade producers instead of an English army....my imagination got carried away with itself there.

Gary

Erfolg28/09/2020 14:14:46
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I do not pretend to be able to predict the future, other than, the older proportion of the population are more certain of their future. From what little I have seen, there is a large proportion of the Modeling population are over 60.

I also agree that many aspects of our hobby are now proportionally, adjusted for inflation, and so on, are much more affordable. Also much is of higher quality.

Recognising the various aspects, it is apparent that large increases in the cost of balsa will have an impact on many models, be it ARTF and kits. Normal influences on material costs will decided from what materials models will be made. The increased use of polymers seems a done deal, at least in the immediate future.

Cost and affordability does influences us all, all along the Modeling spectrum. In reality to what extent and where, I have not really got a clue,

Matt Carlton28/09/2020 15:11:52
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Barrie: I'm sure you're right, I don't have the figures for bending strength of balsa Vs spruce, so I'm not sure what the difference would be, as in what the equivalent would be in terms of strength. I assume that a spruce soar could be smaller than a balsa one in terms of bending strength, but by how much, I don't know.

I suppose one could also run a strip of unidirectional CF along the spars.

Barrie Lever28/09/2020 17:58:46
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Matt

Your suggestion of CF on either side of the spar would add massive stiffness.

Some spars in composite wings are made with CF either side of dense foam, you can practically walk along such spars such is the strength and stiffness.

Make no mistake balsa is a very good material and we know it's properties very well but there will be alternatives.

Good luck with your design projects.

Barrie

Matt Carlton28/09/2020 21:45:45
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I was just digging around and found the last model I designed. Got plans drawn up for it somewhere.

newaerocolour2.jpg

Stuart Z28/09/2020 21:59:39
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Matt,

Nice looking model. Did you ever fly it?

What size was it?

S

RICHARD WILLS28/09/2020 22:21:54
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If you had said this was going to happen a year ago , I would have said you're barmy .

But what have we had ? The cottage industries and designers (like Peter and others ) have kept the balsa bashers happy with good honest wooden models since before the war , and yet since the end of the nineties we have been constantly undermined by a deluge of cheap models made by people on a pittance of a wage on the other side of the world . And then , when the many have been decimated , and the last gallant lads are still standing , they send us a global pandemic which only they seem to benefit from and as the final straw , they nick our bloody balsa !

I , for one , will be opening a Chinese laundry tout suite, What goes around , comes around .

All that ranting has put me right off me spring rolls . Prawn cracker anyone?

Matt Carlton28/09/2020 22:35:12
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Stuart: Never built it. It's about 58" span IIRC, I had a .60 or .75 2 Stroke planned for it I think.

Callsign Tarnish28/09/2020 22:48:27
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I'm all for the noble suggestion of buying British but two things come to mind to add balance here:

First, and bear with my generalisations, society and behaviour has changed. People trying to squeeze more in have a) less time and b) less money. If buying an ARTF from the far east means you can do more with less it's naive to think people won't take the path of least resistance. Despite being an accomplished scratch builder my last three large models have been ARTF / composite because I just can't be bothered to build right now.

Second is the model shops. We cry about the rate they're closing but they just don't stock what they used to, unsurprisingly they're supporting the foam and ARTF market. This year around 80% of my fairly significant expenditure has been mostly to German shops and bit to Czech, Poland and Russia because they have what I want and excellent service to boot.

Sadly my experience is that many overseas model businesses offer better selection, better service and lower prices.

Robin Colbourne29/09/2020 01:21:57
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Whilst a three-fold increase in a raw material price is significant, just how much of a kit's cost is in the unprocessed balsa?

The labour that goes into achieving the bandsawn, die-cut or laser-cut parts must be significant, as is the cost of bought-in accessories, boxes, plans, colour labels etc.

Whilst there will be a price increase, if the cost of the balsa is the only thing that goes up, scratch builders will notice it for sure, but maybe kit buyers are getting overly worked up?
 

Edited By Robin Colbourne on 29/09/2020 01:22:49

Matt Carlton29/09/2020 06:17:14
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I think the margins that kit manufacturers work to are vanishingly small. Certainly at the smaller end of the market and here in the UK where production costs are already high.

Assume a kit is sold for £150, of which £30 is the raw cost of balsa. Again, assume that gross profit for that kit is £50. So there's £70 in fixed costs outside the balsa cost. Ok so balsa goes up 3x. So that's £90 + £70. That kit now loses the manufacturer £10 for each one sold, so to make it viable with a £50 profit, it has to sell for £210.

That's a 40% increase in the price that a kit maker has to charge, just to stand still. What happens to sales volume with a 40% price hike?

Kit buyers might be willing to pay a bit extra, but if the kit makers can't make a reasonable business from it, they won't be any kits to buy. The only ones that will, are those where those "fixed costs" are very much lower, and realistically, costs of hardware, packaging, energy, transport, rent, rates, taxes, wages, living costs etc are vastly different in China/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos etc than they are in the UK.

Barrie Lever29/09/2020 08:34:13
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Posted by Matt Carlton on 29/09/2020 06:17:14:

Kit buyers might be willing to pay a bit extra, but if the kit makers can't make a reasonable business from it, they won't be any kits to buy. The only ones that will, are those where those "fixed costs" are very much lower, and realistically, costs of hardware, packaging, energy, transport, rent, rates, taxes, wages, living costs etc are vastly different in China/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos etc than they are in the UK.

Matt

Your paragraph above is one of the reasons that import duties are imposed on imports from certain countries and correctly so IMO.

By the way your design looks good, in some ways it reminds me of quite elegant control line stunt models, get on and build it, for sure it will fly pretty well.

Barrie

Doctor Chinnery29/09/2020 08:41:32
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Back on the previous page someone mentioned Correx as a building material. By its nature the material is unlikely to produce much in the way of elegant airframes BUT - my go-to fly-in-any-conditions outrunner powered, aileron/elevator Bogey ( an r/c combat job ) is unbeatable and almost unbreakable, fast as you like and huge fun. There's a challenge to our designers, cheap and strong material, but can it be made into a thing of beauty?

RICHARD WILLS29/09/2020 09:17:38
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Matts appraisal from the kit manufacturer perspective is spot on.

The other factor is perceived value . If I converted any of my kits to a form of foam board for example(which for my own use I have extensive experience), Customers would not see it as the same value as balsa kits .

It is also ironic that the sale of traditional kits has been in decline for many years and only enjoying a brief resurgence when all of us old codgers are stuck in doors and in some cases finding it hard to obtain stuff from China.

Our cottage industries are not making much money anyway . Its 90% passion and 10% profit . But for me, if this continues it will be time to call it a day .

As many have pointed out on this thread , we are not a dot on the landscape in the world of global industry and to make matters worse , despite being a nation that has always had a passion for flight and modelling , we are all perceived as something of a joke by the rest of our nation , Germany and America spend far more on their sites and facilities and give the hobby a credibility closer to other sports . In this country we spend less ,hence the "sub standard " cottage industries with minimal overheads is the only way you will get to buy British products .

By the way , I dont agree with those previous comments. I know pretty much everyone in the trade and I admire them all , They put in maximum effort behind the scene for very little reward .

Chicken and Egg , Big buyers , big traders .

Dont expect anyone to come and save as . They will tolerate a village green cricket match with a hard ball batted through their window every week . Or a string of obscenities being shouted from the local park football pitch on a sunday morning , but if you want to fly a model aeroplane in the middle of nowhere ......

Robin Colbourne29/09/2020 10:15:17
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Posted by RICHARD WILLS on 29/09/2020 09:17:38:

As many have pointed out on this thread , we are not a dot on the landscape in the world of global industry and to make matters worse , despite being a nation that has always had a passion for flight and modelling , we are all perceived as something of a joke by the rest of our nation , Germany and America spend far more on their sites and facilities and give the hobby a credibility closer to other sports . In this country we spend less ,hence the "sub standard " cottage industries with minimal overheads is the only way you will get to buy British products .

Dont expect anyone to come and save as . They will tolerate a village green cricket match with a hard ball batted through their window every week . Or a string of obscenities being shouted from the local park football pitch on a sunday morning , but if you want to fly a model aeroplane in the middle of nowhere ......

Richard, You are dead right about the perception of model flying in this country relative to abroad.
Back in 1993 I had the opportunity to visit the Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, in Russia. They had a whole department with professional instructors devoted to teaching the skills necessary to build and fly competition model aircraft of all genres. They treated model flying with the same level of importance as Olympic events are treated here.

A large part of the problem in the UK has been the reluctance of clubs over the years to invest in their own facilities, even when land costs were relatively low. By failing to have a place a club can call its own, a perceived lack of professionalism pervades the sport, and club committees spend most of the time protecting the rented sites they have and sucking up to the landowners, or searching for new sites.

Edited By Robin Colbourne on 29/09/2020 10:20:36

Matt Carlton29/09/2020 10:48:51
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It is definitely a case of 'boys playing with toys' here, but there are also other issues, especially with site retention.

In my experience of talking to landowners as an Agricultural Consultant, it's not always a simple proposition for landowners.

Insurance liability rests with the landowner. Recently near me, there was an incident where a vehicle was hit with a model aircraft. Bear in mind that this vehicle was NOT on a public right of way but was pulled into a field. The landowner was found to be liable due to him giving the modeller permission to fly on his land. No criminal charges were laid, but the compensation costs were paid through the landowners insurance. That makes it difficult for farmers etc to allow 'lone operators' to fly on their land.

Agricultural subsidies and benefits are paid on the basis of land in production. If a farmer allows a modeller to use a package of land for flying, then it is technically removed from the area of land eligible for subsidy.

That may change in a post Brexit environment, but it is likely that there will be a significant pressure on farm income due to the way that existing payments are due to be ramped down to zero over the next few years.

We need to promote ownership of land rather than lease. We don't really need that much space to operate in, but we need to look carefully at how that impacts the agricultural sector. That's a conversation I may be able to have with the relevant bodies.

 

Edited By Matt Carlton on 29/09/2020 10:50:46

Pete Collins29/09/2020 11:03:27
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Anyone remember, back in the year dot, that Frank and Graham Stanley made model aircraft kits from cardboard? Despite all the jokes and leg pulling they actually flew very well! I agree that there's nothing quite like balsa but even if it disappeared completely, we would find alternatives. I've recently been playing with 3D printed models. Still not as good as balsa but they're improving. We modellers ate a resourceful lot!

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