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Author Topic: Old Balsa, worth using? Your experience?  (Read 1901 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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« 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
NiteSeer
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2018, 12:32:56 PM »

I’m a woodworker and When I am selecting a piece of wood for a project I want it to be true and seasoned. The same goes for balsa.
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ZK-AUD
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2018, 02:00:17 PM »

Interesting discussion. Of related interest, HMS Victory was laid down in 1759.  The practice was to build the frame and then walk away and allow the ship to settle and season for several months before continuing,  however the end of the 7 years war meant that Victory was no longer a priority.  She was laid up 'in ordinary' for a further 3 years before construction resumed and her incredible longevity is attributed to this length of seasoning time.

I too have inherited some very old balsa from time to time and have not experienced any issues other than that the quality of the milling and finishing could be a bit ropey back in the day.

PackardPursuit please feel free to remember me in your bequest!  Grin   
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FF Bruce
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2018, 03:36:48 PM »

I have received a lot of older balsa from friends that have passed away and have found no problems with it's use.The spruce is a little different most has become much harder and a little more brittle,also a much darker color.   
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Flyguy
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2018, 04:28:31 PM »

I've had some mixed experience recently with some of my old balsa. I have a nice selection from Micro-X all stored in the original box from 1970, so it's over 47 years old. There was another thread on HPA that noted that it's probably OK, so I've used it for several planes and it appears to be fine. Some pieces are perhaps a little brittler and darker, but I was still able to wrap sharp curves with some of it.

However, I've also hit some pieces, all stored in exactly the same box, that were too brittle, they also tended to be a little darker. Couldn't wrap with them even after a good soak, they just disintegrated. And some c-grain that was too brittle. So I had to get rid of some pieces. Now if they are kinda dark I get suspicious. So it seems like some pieces lasted, but others didn't make it! But I still ended up using most of it.
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Blazingstar
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2018, 10:14:53 AM »

I’ve noticed C.A. glue not working as well on old blasa.

Maybe it’s beca the glue was old also?

But I was told that the moisture content in old wood gets so low that C.A. glue does not activate as usual.
I’ve got around the problem by adding a drop of the C.A. accelerator to the joint first and then applying the C.A.  or use regular wood glue.

Has anyone else had the same experience?
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packardpursuit
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 11:58:33 AM »

Old wood is often dusty/dirty/ etc. I think CA might fire off better if the wood were cleaned. Vacuum and or wipe down with alcohol or dope thinners/acetone-let dry.
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fred
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 10:42:48 PM »

I simply rehydrate my old wood. Wiping a damp rag over it is all it takes.
The Balsa seems to inhale the moisture and dries in  minutes.
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F4FGuy
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« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2018, 05:14:05 PM »



   Re reply #13,

   The fastest way to cure CA glues is to introduce impurities. Dirt, dust, water,microballoons, etc.

   Acetone, dope thinner (acetone with plasticizers), alcohol, etc, will slow the cure.

   Ron Burn (F4FGuy)
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pch
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2018, 01:40:04 PM »

Many years ago, when working in the model trade, I found an old discontinued Radio Queen kit which had been in stock for several years with no sign of selling.

I acquired the kit and made quite a nice job of it, covered in blue nylon with white paint trim, and fitted with a Merco 35.

Second flight the wings folded and it plummeted to earth to become the proverbial bag of nylon.

At the post morten it was found that the fairly large section wing spars had failed, which although looking very sound were nearly all crumbly & powdery in the centre. So for old balsa or kits treat with care & probably replace with known good stock for critical bits.

Yes I still have old kits in the loft and intend to make & fly them despite previous experience.

..............Paul Harrison
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