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Author Topic: Old Balsa, worth using? Your experience?  (Read 1031 times)
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KDus
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« on: March 30, 2017, 01:27:23 PM »

I've been using Balsa stock that is probably from the 60's. It seems more dry and brittle than materials I just got in a new kit and at the local hobby stores.
Is it my imagination? Maybe I'm just frustrated by my current skill?
My excitement for building vintage kits will be damaged if that is true.
My current project is a C/L Spitfire with plywood fuselage and sheet covered-plywood- rib wing. I started with plans and was hoping to just use old materials.
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faif2d
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2017, 02:18:08 PM »

I just stripped and used some Sig 3/32 x 3 x 36 that was marked 35 cents that was from the early 1960's.  I had no problems at all.  This was stripped into 3/32 sq sticks and used to build several stick fuselages, so the use was about as bad as you could get from a wood perspective!
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USch
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2017, 02:42:36 PM »

Yes with age the wood dry's out but that does not seem to harm. In any way the water content does not go below the normal room humidity.

As faif2d said also I did cut the spars for the last models from a 1/16x2x36" sheet market "Testors 10cent". Dont even remember when I got it, for sure not later than the '60.

Urs
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Bell Models
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2017, 04:25:07 PM »

Other than sometimes it stinks, it should be OK.

John Bell
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packardpursuit
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2017, 01:29:33 PM »

Old wood like old modelers, just gets better with age!

I've still got balsa selected over 40 years ago for grain and weight. It's as good as it ever was. Most was stored for over 20 years thru hot summers, out I'm my oven of a garage and cold humid winters. I'll bequeath what ever is left when I die, to some poor sap.

I once worked with a whole room full of WWII era spars, taken from Pt-13's etc. They made excellent rib caps, stringers, and spars for homebuilt projects. I'd kill for a find like that today. I've heard that aircraft used in desert conditions had their spruce parts ruined by North African heat. However I've seen old spars from Arizona based aircraft still as good as when manufactured 40's and 50's. If kept out of the sun, I don't see age as a huge detriment to quality wood.

it's been my experience wood (balsa and otherwise) that errant moisture causes the greatest damage to wood and wood products.
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kwikfly
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2017, 02:30:06 PM »

An old modeler friend of mine gave me a present: a kit, a Graupner Kwikfly, that had been sitting on his shelf for at least 45 years. Apart from the smell, the funny thing was that the balsa had turned brown. Glueing and covering was no problem whatsoever though.
(wonderful model. That's why I use 'kwikfly' as nickname on all sorts of forums.)
Cheers,
Jo
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John Webster
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2017, 02:55:40 AM »

What about old kits stored in a damp basement? Does the balsa absorb water? Does it dry out when stored in an above ground room?
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packardpursuit
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2017, 06:27:38 AM »

None of my stored wood has darkened with age, that I'm aware of. I have seen kits where it did. Also models left hanging up for years can have the covering crack and peel back, exposed wood there will darken. I suspect sunlight, even reflected and indirect can do odd things to wood color.

I suppose it's possible, but I've not observed balsa absorb moisture from the air, but my "special FF grade stash"  has always been stored in kit boxes, in California, mostly in the Hot in summer cold and wet in winter of Central Valley.  About five years ago I inherited the remaining balsa from a small kit manufacturer. that particular balsa has seen extensive storage in SF Bay Area, Arizona, and Washington state. My current storage is my garage in a coastal environment. Eight years now, and no dire changes observed. The colors are covering all the known colors of balsa in sheet, block and stick. From white/cream/gray thru green, reds, and darker tans and browns. A few sticks look old to me, and they do appear to be much darker.  Is it ruined? I don't think so. IMHO "harder" grained pieces seem to darken more than the light colored stuff. This old wood does not offend the nose.

"Wet" water damage promotes rot. There is no such thing as "dry rot"! It's usually a  white, spidery web looking fungus(?).  More common is mildew, which is mold and often stains the wood with dark gray, green, or black streaks and spots. Mildew definitely makes the wood smell! Warps and raised grain are other common moisture related issues. These latter can render printwood parts sheets, etc., un-usable. Common laundry bleach can often restore mold damaged wood, eliminate smell, and staining. Start with weaker strengths, diluted with water. You can always go stronger(straight bleach , liquid or gel drain cleaner or paint removers, etc.). Just make sure to let the wood dry thoroughly and " flat", if you can.

Oh yeah, super strong bleaching agents can be quite nasty. You may want to use adequate protection for your skin  eyes  etc., not to mention your work area. Anything stronger than straight laundry strength Clorox will probably require a neutralizing step. This usually means flooding the piece with plain water, after scraping off the vile goo.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 06:46:11 AM by packardpursuit » Logged
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