Cutting Strips of Balsa

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There are several reasons you should cut your own strips of wood:

  • It saves money
  • It saves time
  • Helps you get familiar with the wood
  • Increases your skills as a builder

Video Tutorial

Video is about 4 minutes long.

I am not responsible for any injury caused by someone using this technique. I recommend that students cut strips of wood only under adult supervision.

The Tools

Here is a list of the tools you will need:

  • Table
  • Cutting board
  • Metal Straight Edge
  • Cutting Tool (Exacto or razor)
  • Ruler with no extra metal before the beginning of the marks

You will also need the sheets of wood. I recommend buying sheets of Balsa at Specialized Balsa. The quality of the wood sheets is important. Learn more about Balsa wood.

The Process

Begin by placing your sheet of wood on the cutting surface. Place your straight edge on top of the sheet. Now place a C-clamp at each end of the sheet of wood, but do not tighten.

Take your ruler and measure one end of the sheet to the desired width. Lightly tighten the clamp on that end. Now measure the other end but firmly tighten the clamp. Go back and re-measure the first end to double check that it is still good. Make sure both clamps are fairly tight. You don’t want to over tighten.

Now take out your Exacto knife and make a light cut along the straight edge. Be sure to keep the blade perfectly vertical and keep the blade firmly against the straight edge. You do not have to push hard for this first cut, since it is simply a guide for additional cuts.

Now make additional cuts along the straight edge until you have cut all the way through.

Sometimes the first strip of wood from a sheet will not be the same width all the way along, and may need to be scrapped. With practice, you will be able to make very fine cuts. Eventually, the quality of your cuts will be better than what you can buy at a hobby store.

Where to Buy Balsa

You can find Balsa wood at most any local Hobby store. In fact, I would recommend looking local first before buying online. Micheals, Hobby Lobby, and Hobby Town USA all stock Balsa wood. You may not be able to find what you want, but it is worth a try.

The reason I say it is better to go to a local store before buying online, is because you can actually see the wood.
You can look and see what type of grain it has, make sure it is straight, and possibly weigh the wood yourself. Nothing compares to actually getting to see the wood before you buy. But, the second best thing is to buy online.

There are numerous places online to buy Balsa wood, but not all are equal. Jake Zimmer runs a great business at Specialized Balsa. Specialized Balsa is the place I recommend buying Balsa from. The quality of the cuts is excellent, and they offer pre-weighed Balsa sticks. The shopping cart is slightly unconventional, but works great once you are used to it.

For other online stores, see this list:
Online Stores that Sell Balsa Wood

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