|Lastufka Labs -
How To Cut Balsa Wood
Balsa wood is an easy wood to work with. It cuts easily with an
exacto knife. It sands easily. It accepts paint and other finishing
products well. Thin boards of many thicknesses are available in
most hobby and hardware stores.
Before cutting, draw your pattern on the using a ruler, curve,
or other stencil and a sharp pencil.
As with other woods, balsa has wood grain. When cutting with an
exacto knife along a pattern line, the grain tends to lead the
knife off coarse. To prevent this, tilt your blade and cut from a
part of the line that runs across the grain to a part that is more
in line with the grain. That way, you will be able to stay on your
With this in mind, here's how to cut balsa well:
- Mark the cutting line with a fine line pen or sharp
- Begin your cut where the line lies across the grain the
- Do not attempt to cut through the wood, just skim the line on
the first pass.
- Holding the knife so the blade is vertical but slanted forward
at a 45 degree (or so) angle, cut along the line toward a place
where it runs parallel to the wood grain and stop. If there is no
such place, stop at the end of the line.
- Repeat steps 2 to 4, possibly moving the knife over the line in
the opposite direction on parts of the line, always cutting from
across the grain to where it is parallel (lined up with it).
- Repeat steps 2 to 5 pressing deeper into the wood until it cuts
- Collect together pieces of the same dimension or shape and
stack them up so along common edges align.
- Using medium rough sand paper (80 - 60 grit) lightly sand the
aligned edges square. If the pieces are to be the same shape, sand
them to the same size. If they are slightly different sizes as
airfoil ribs in airplane wings can be, you can still shape them all
together. Cut out the right number of them using the pattern for
the largest size. Cut out only one at the smallest size. Stack them
with the smallest on one end. Sand making the largest at one end
and the smallest at the other. All the ones in the middle will vary
smoothly in size. After shaping, sand each individual part flat on
edge if necessary.
|Lastufka Labs -
|Copyright © 1998, 2002 by Michael Lastufka, All rights reserved worldwide.