Considering balsa wood for carving? Balsa wood is a prevalent type of lightweight wood with an incredible strength-to-weight ratio. Its excellent floatation capabilities have propelled balsa to the forefront of many industries. It has top shock and vibration absorption properties.
This is one of the few kinds of wood you can well manipulate with standard tools, even human hands. You will find that this would contain specific cells that are large but then world.
This means that the amount of solid matter within the wood is minimal, although there is an exceptional amount of open space. The open space available is then filled with oxygen, allowing the wood to feel light and stay afloat. This is a bit of the scientific background surrounding the biology of the wood.
Properties of Balsa Wood
This is a natural soft tree that comes from central and South America. It can exist in these climates because of the humid rainforests that have grown over time and continue to cleanse the earth, right from the West Coast of South America. You will find this type of wood right up to Bolivia since it requires a warm climate.
In addition to the warm weather, the wood needs significant rainfall throughout the year and an excellent drainage system. Tropical Rivers are, therefore, a trendy place to find this type of wood. It is named after a Spanish term that defines the word “raft.”
This should give you some implication and understanding of the nature of this wood. It has an outstanding ability to float above water due to its soft texture. If you just met someone who knows a lot about trees, and you wish to impress them, then another scientific term that you can use to define this wood is “Ochroma Lagopus.”
What type of wood is Balsa?
Balsa wood is indeed very soft, although it has been defined academically as hardwood. It is a very thorny tree to gather from the forest because it is only found in very damp tropical areas. Since it is a weed tree that grows using scattering seeds, it can only grow individually or across a small space within the jungle.
You will not find entire forests that have been created out of Balsa trees. This tree proliferated and was chosen as an excellent substitute for building materials in short supply during World War One. It became the pillar of many Navy forces within the United States of America.
Once the tree has germinated, it will take about six months to reach about 10 to 12 feet tall. After 6-10 years, you can expect that this tree will have grown to a staggering 60 to 90 feet. This is what made it a suitable type of wood to begin using in mass production.
Things to carve out of balsa wood
Here are some things you can carve from balsa:
- Model Planes
- Human Figures
- Model Houses
- Model Cars
- Music Boxes
- Signs and Labels for Buildings
- Train Tracks
- Balsa Christmas Trees!
- Carving Boards or Cutting Boards!
What not to use balsa wood for?
Despite this product’s excellent floatation capabilities, it is not well renowned for being used outdoors. This is because it is not a waterproof type of wood. This means that it will likely expand and warp by absorbing all the water thrown at it.
This is although you may have used a water sealant. Therefore, you shouldn’t use this product to carve sculptures that you wish to put outside.
Since this product is easily flammable, it is not good to expose it to direct heat. You might be familiar with the knowledge that hardwoods are, in fact, not as explosive as softwoods. Therefore, you shouldn’t use it to build sheds.
This is a different scenario because even though it is classified as hardwood, the tree cell stores much oxygen, which becomes highly flammable. Therefore, it is likely to burn at a higher rate than regular hardwood would.
How does Balsa compare to other types of wood for carving?
It is not necessarily the professional choice to use when carving because it has a high water absorption and low heat resistance.
This, therefore, means it is not the most durable option that you can consider when it comes to carving out pieces that you wish would last for a long time. On the other hand, it is very softwood. Therefore, it is pretty easy to carve out for beginners and people who do not have significant hand strength. It is also instrumental as a carving wood if you do not plan on moving this sculpture around too much. If the environment is correct, then it will last you a very long time.
Tips for Carving Balsa Wood
To carve out Balsa wood, you will most likely require simple hand-cutting tools. It is a very soft and natural type of wood; therefore, you will be able to perform most of this work with your hands only. The wood’s friendly nature means that you can do away with heavy-duty power saws. Sanding blocks will also be essential to perfect your craft.
These are available often in a readymade package, or you can manufacture your own if you prefer that. You will need these to shape and lead different edges around the sculpture block when you are carving it out. This will stop anyone who handles the product from getting splinters in their hands.
We have included balsa in our: Best Wood For Pyrography Post. See how it compares to others on that list.