Balsa or Balso Wood (Ochroma pyramidale) is a tropical species known for its lightness and flexibility. This combination makes it ideal for some uses, even industrial ones, such as the manufacture of blades for small wind turbines.
It originates in the jungles of Central and South America, where it is increasingly common to find plantations for your exploration. In this sense, Ecuador stands out as the main producer. It’s a kind of rapid growth, which can be slaughtered in less than 4 years.
Characteristics of Balsa Wood
Color: The sapwood of balsa wood is clear, on the white side with pink tones. The heartwood is slightly darker, slightly reddish, although this part is not normally marketed.
Fiber: In a straight line.
Grain: Medium to thick.
Density: It is one of lighter woods that exist, approximately 100-150Kg / m3. Even more than cork.
Toughness: It is a very soft wood with 0.3 in the Monnin test. According to the Janka Scale (another classification of wood according to its hardness) it also has a very low coefficient, 300N. To get an idea, paulownia has 1330N, American cherry 4230N, white oak 5990N and Ipé 15620N.
Durability: It is not a very durable wood and is susceptible to attack by fungi and insects. It must be treated.
- Volumetric shrinkage coefficient: 0.21% slightly edgy wood.
- Compressive strength: 112 kg / cm2
- Static flexural strength: 245 kg / cm2
- Modulus of elasticity: 11,600 kg / cm2
Workability: In general terms, it is an easy-to-work wood, which also barely produces wear on the tool due to its low density.
- Sawn. Easy, although if the saw is not sharp enough the edges are not well defined.
- Drying. Slow drying, with risk of deformations and cracks. It is recommended to use drying chambers to control the process.
- Brushed. Easy.
- Glued. Easy.
- Nailed and screwed. It is preferable to glue rather than nail and screw, as the grip is bad.
- Finish. Well, although it absorbs a lot of product, it is advisable to initially use a sealant or filler.
- Allergies May cause allergic reactions.
Price: As with everything, there are different qualities. In the case of this wood, the most required is its lightness, as it is understood that the lightest is the highest quality and, therefore, the highest price.
Isolation: It has excellent properties as thermal and acoustic insulation.
Uses of Balsa Wood
- Blades of electric wind turbines.
- Models and toys.
- Fishing buoys and signaling.
- Rafts, surfboards and other light boats.
- Musical instruments.
- Sandwich panels for light roofs.
Where to buy this wood?
It is not the hardest wood to find, in fact, we can buy it in DIY centers and stationery stores. The latter because, as we have already mentioned, it is used to make architectural models among other uses.
However, the price is usually high in this type of center. It is best to go to a nearby lumber company and buy in quantity, which would allow us to have much more competitive prices. Although, on the other hand, volume is not always necessary.