How to Cut Balsa Wood
Have you ever made a model airplane? You may have wondered how amazingly light the wood used to make it, right? This is balsa wood and is known as one of the lightest and the most efficient wood to use for making toys and other light wooden products.
Balsa is extremely easy to work with but if you don’t know how to cut it then you might end up wasting precious material. This guide will help you cut balsa wood for hobby or building use.
Cutting balsa wood the easy way
Balsa is soft and light but it is actually a hardwood. The balsa tree hails from South American countries like Brazil, Bolivia, and Mexico.
It has broad leaves instead of needles like conifers and in nature, it is a very hard tree, almost invincible from strong winds and sunlight because of its huge moisture content.
But once it is cut, dried and processed, balsa wood becomes the perfect model airplane building material.
Read More: How To's & Woodworking Techniques [List 1]
Because of the softness of balsa, it becomes an easy material for crafting, models, lightweight traveling cases, fishing lures and also as musical instrument because of its exceptional tonal qualities.
Read More: How To's, Techniques and Tips [List 1]
- How To Stop Sap Coming Out Of Wood
- How To Seal Wood Without Changing Color
- How to Make Cardboard Hard Like Wood
- How To Round Wood Edges Without Router
- How to Bend Wood Without Steam
- How to Transition Between Two Different Wood Floors
- How To Make Wood Drawers Slide Easier
- How To Stencil On Wood Without Bleeding
- How to Flatten a Workbench
- How To Make a Wood Table Top Smooth
- How To Age Wood With Baking Soda
- How to Whitewash Dark Wood Furniture
- How To Make Slime With Wood Glue
- How to Burn Wood with Electricity
- How To Apply Water Based Polyurethane To Wood Floors
The techniques used to cut balsa vary from cutting larger pieces with power equipment and cutting thinner pieces by hand using sharp knives.
The best kind of blade to use
Keep in mind, the only kind of blade and knife to use is the sharpest. Sharp blades are recommended for cutting balsa thicker than about 1/4 inch. You may also use hardened steel blades if these are new, or have recently been sharpened. Another good option is carbide-tipped blades because these hold a sharp edge longer compared to using high-speed steel blades.
You must use hollow ground cabinetmaker’s blades to make the best cuts on balsa. You must never use ripped blades. This can result in chipping and splintering and this is no good for making model crafts and toys.
Hollow-ground or cabinetmaker’s blades have a square, flat teeth. On the other hand, ripped blades by jagged, pointed teeth that can tip back and forth alternately.
Read More: How To's & Woodworking Techniques [List 2]
Thin and thick balsa
Bandsaw and scroll saw blades are described by the tooth count. To use on ¼ inch thin balsa, blades with 12 to 14 teeth per inch teeth is the ideal saw blade. For thick balsa, you must use a band saw with lower tooth counts of about 10 for balsa thicker than 1/2 inch. If the balsa you are working on starts to burn, smoke or resist cutting then you might have to use a saw with a lower tooth count.
Things you will need
- Balsa wood
- Scroll saw
- Craft knife
Making cuts on 1/4-inch or thinner balsa is done mostly by hand using a craft knife or utility knife. Here are the steps:
MUST SEE: Make 16,000 Projects With Step By Step Plans
Ted's Woodworking Plans contains complete instructions from start to finish, leaving absolutely no guesswork. Here is what you get:
- Step-By-Step Instructions
- Cutting & Materials List
- Detailed Schematics
- Views From All Angles
- Suitable For Beginners & Professionals
Read More: How To's, Techniques and Tips [List 2]
- How to Remove Nails From Wood
- How to Resharpen a Japanese Ryoba’s Rip Teeth
- How to Sharpen Woodworking Tools
- How to Whitewash Pine Wood
- How To Modge Podge Pictures To Wood
- How To Apply Shellac To Wood
- How To Take Apart A Wood Pallet
- How To Install A Wood Accent Wall
- How to Do String Art on Wood
- How to Remove a Stripped Screw from Wood
- How To Upgrade Wood Frame
- How to Get Nails Out of Wood
- How to Refinish a Wood Table
- How To Make Vinyl Letters Stick To Wood
- How To Measure A Cord Of Wood
1) Establish the lines
You can use a template or use a pencil to draw a pattern on the wood. Draw on a 1/8 or 1/4-inch-thick balsa wood.
2) Remember proper knife position
To cut properly, you must hold the knife correctly. Hold the tip of the knife at 45 degrees to the wood. Apply very light pressure to the knife. Create the first cut perpendicular to the grain only.
Move the knife on the pattern, start making all other initial cuts perpendicular to the grain of the wood.
Read More: How To's, Techniques and Tips [List 3]
- How To Start A Fire With Wet Wood
- How To Stencil On Wood
- How to Finish Wood With Polyurethane
- How to Refinish Wood Dresser
- How To Age Wood Grey
- How To Apply Gold Leaf To Wood
- How To Apply Polyurethane To Wood
- How To Bend Wood With Water
- How to Burn Designs Into Wood
- How to Carve a Face In Wood
- How to Carve Wood By Hand
- How To Replace Wood Siding
- How To Split Wood With A Wedge
- How To Transfer Pictures To Wood
- How To Treat Pallet Wood For Indoor Use
Read More: How To's & Woodworking Techniques [List 3]
- How To Sand Wood
- How To Season Wood
- How To Spray Paint Wood
- How To Stack Wood
- How To Stain And Seal Wood
- How To Stain Wood
- How to Carve Wood
- How to Hand Plane Wood
- How to Paint Wood
- How to Cure Wood
- How to Petrify Wood
- How to Pickle Wood
- How to Preserve Wood
- How To Screw Into Wood
- How To Split Wood
- How to Find Wood Studs
3) Join the lines
Start to cut the remaining parallel lines, to join up the other perpendicular cuts. The initial cut should be no deeper than 1/32 inch.
Repeat the steps as many times as needed until the knife goes through the pattern and releases the knife.
The Janka Hardness Scale
Balsa is the softest and lightest commercially available wood. This ranks only 90 to 100 on the Janka Hardness Scale. This is a scale for wood density worldwide. You can use this scale to easily find out the hardness of the wood you are working on. Red oak is a common domestic hardwood and ranks 1290 on the Janka scale.
Cutting delicate, soft and light balsa takes special tools and a lot of patience. If you want to become a better model plane builder then you need to learn how to work with balsa especially cutting it without breaking it.