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Old Dec 03, 2012, 06:54 PM
20+ years of RC flying
BigIron357's Avatar
United States, FL
Joined Aug 2012
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Is buying balsa online actually cheaper?

I have a few parkflyers in the works and need to get enough balsa to get them finished. I've seen some of the balsa sites and am wondering if I'd actually save any money once shipping is added to the price.

And I really don't want to buy a bunch of bulk stuff that will sit around the house for months or years awaiting a project. I have other uses for the funds, especially this time of year!

Thoughts please.
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Old Dec 03, 2012, 08:43 PM
Scale Builder
United States, AZ, Litchfield Park
Joined Jul 2002
2,501 Posts
Chances are if you're buying more than half a dozen sheets (maybe less than that) you will save money by ordering, even with the shipping costs. What I do when I only need a sheet or two is use a 40% off one item coupon at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. That gets the price down to about the same as ordering online. Of course you may have to make a couple of trips or take your wife with you if you need a second sheet! The only down side is that the craft stores usually don't get much in the way of light weight balsa stock.
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Old Dec 03, 2012, 09:28 PM
The Prez....... again
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United States, IA, Rockwell
Joined Jul 2011
4,051 Posts
The down side to buying on line is shipping. I guess that goes for ANYTHING "mail order" . Does anybody actually mail order anything any more?

I would price it both ways. If the quantity and quality of balsa you buy is sufficient to making the shipping worthwhile I say go for it.

Ken
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Old Dec 04, 2012, 08:24 AM
NMPRA 86T
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United States, FL, Winter Haven
Joined Jan 2008
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I agree that for most people it doesn't pay to order online, but it may for you if you need light wood and consider gas and sales taxes. I live in Lake Wales and I have to travel to Orlando to get any good quality, light weight wood from either Graves or Bob's hobbies. The gas cost is $20 plus I have to pay sales tax. If I need it right away, I go that route. If I can wait a few days, I can get better quality wood and have it shipped to my home. (I can order from Graves and it is delivered next day also!) I haven't been able to find any local craft stores locally that carry any wood that I can use for R/C. I do larger power planes, but If you are doing electrics, you really don't want to use a lot of heavy type balsa wood.

Best wishes,

Scott Smith
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Old Dec 05, 2012, 07:08 AM
Da' Cajun
Boogie_'s Avatar
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Joined Jun 2009
2,871 Posts
+1 what Scott said.

If you want good quality light wood, on-line is probably going to be your best bet. I put a bulk order in about once a year and (think) I come out a little ahead over what Micheals or Hobby Lobby craft stores are selling their crappy heavy wood for.
Mostly order the super light stuff too. If I need the odd sheet of hard balsa I'll run down to the craft store and buy a sheet.




And now a thread hi-jack:

I placed an order with National Balsa on Nov. 24.
Just got an email notice that is finally shipped yesterday Dec. 4.

I've ordered from National many times and never had this happen. Shipping was always prompt.
Anybody else had this problem lately?
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Old Dec 05, 2012, 10:20 AM
A man with too many toys
United States
Joined Feb 2001
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenh3497 View Post
The down side to buying on line is shipping. I guess that goes for ANYTHING "mail order" . Does anybody actually mail order anything any more?

I would price it both ways. If the quantity and quality of balsa you buy is sufficient to making the shipping worthwhile I say go for it.

Ken
Most of the time shipping is less than sales tax but it all depends on where you order it from.

.
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Old Dec 05, 2012, 07:03 PM
20+ years of RC flying
BigIron357's Avatar
United States, FL
Joined Aug 2012
1,407 Posts
Thanks for the replies guys. I went to my not local hobby shop (60 miles each way) today while I was down that way and bought all the balsa I needed for my next project... promptly breaking a 1/4 x 1/8 stick for a wing spar when I got the wood home. Duh. But there's a Michaels nearby and I may be able to get a replacement there. The other hobby shop is 15 miles each way but has very limited selection. Ugh.
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Old Dec 06, 2012, 06:37 AM
Registered User
United States, TX, Leander
Joined Sep 2003
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I order $300 to $400 of wood at a time to keep stock. I have an old high school wood shop bench (bought a long time ago) where all the new wood is stored. Right now, I have enough to frame up 5 or 6 .60 sized planes. I've always got something on the work bench.
Edwin
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Old Dec 06, 2012, 08:41 AM
20+ years of RC flying
BigIron357's Avatar
United States, FL
Joined Aug 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edwin1 View Post
I order $300 to $400 of wood at a time to keep stock. I have an old high school wood shop bench (bought a long time ago) where all the new wood is stored. Right now, I have enough to frame up 5 or 6 .60 sized planes. I've always got something on the work bench.
Edwin
And that pretty much confirms what I suspected. In my purchase yesterday, the total balsa cost was just $18 and with a sheet of basswood, it came to $26. That basswood sheet will last me for years, I suppose. I'll use less than 10% on the current model I'm building. And probably just 80% of the balsa after cutting. So, the wood costs for my parkflyer will be about $16. Not bad at all.

Gas costs were negligible since I drive down to within 5 miles of that shop once a month. And I get reimbursed for driving costs, so I actually come out ahead in that deal.

So it looks like in my case that online ordering probably won't save me much, if anything. On the other hand, if I'm picky about balsa grades and quality then I'd do better to order from the 'net so that I can get what works best for a given model.

Thanks guys!
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 06:12 AM
Balsa builder and balsa basher
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Joined Apr 2012
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buying balsa online is good becuase it tends to be cheaper but the consistenty isn't there. One day you'll get a piece that looks like the picture of the product and the next day you will get a piece of wood thats has a thousand holes in it.

I say go with the LHS it maybe a few dollars or pounds more but in the long run you will have wood just like how you want it.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 07:36 AM
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United States, NJ, Browns Mills
Joined May 2005
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I buy in bulk (usually under $100, though) by mail about once a year. I use a Master Airscrew balsa stripper to make my own strip stock from sheet, plus I use the same stripper to cut down bass for spars, etc.

I always buy more than I'll need, so I can sort out the wood for different uses. "Iron" balsa (i.e., the really heavy, hard stuff) gets put aside for use under the nose of a model, etc., whilst the lighter stuff gets used for ribs & sides, etc. I rarely can't find a use for any of the sheet I buy.

Over the years (I started scratch-building around 1983), I've found I do better buying sheet and making strip stock than buying strip stock to begin with. I have more control over the quality of the wood, have less wastage, and break less in handling/storing.

CD
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 11:14 AM
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Estonia, Harju, Tallinn
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Buying balasa online is cheaper when you know where to get the stuff you want. It will be useless, if you get heavy material when you need light balsa. I like local hobby shop, because I can choose my balsa. Price there is same regardless of weight. If I would need balsa in large quantities, I`d probably order online.
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Old Jan 01, 2013, 02:57 PM
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Windsor, Canada, near Detroit
Joined Jul 2007
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another source

Quote:
Originally Posted by Recce View Post
Buying balsa online is cheaper when you know where to get the stuff you want. It will be useless, if you get heavy material when you need light balsa. I like local hobby shop, because I can choose my balsa. Price there is same regardless of weight. If I would need balsa in large quantities, I`d probably order online.
agree. i have learned that if there is no other choice, going to hobby shops could work, if you know what you need-and they carry it . for instance, the weight. you can bring your pocket scale for that. but i have another choice: i found a reliable supplier to whom i can order specifically for grain (like quarter grain-also called 'c' grain), and for weight too. this way saves me the time and gas consumption going from hobby shop to hobby shop. recently purchased some so-called 'balsa' from the lhs, marketed by midwest: it ended up being heavier than basswood! and more difficult to work with.
the source i have been buying with great results, is this:
Specialized Balsa Wood, jake@specializedbalsa.com, 405 8th St SE, Unit 2, Loveland CO 80537
Phone 970 461 9663, Fax 970 461 9662
and the prices are really good. for instance, 1 sheet of 1/16x3x36 is about $1;
if i ask for 'c' grain is another buck, and if i ask for certain density (like 6#) is another buck. and this is specialized balsa that when getting it from a hobby shop-if you find it-(called 'contest grade'), costs about the same or more.
and ordering about 10 assorted sheets the shipping is not overly expensive.
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Old Jan 01, 2013, 03:38 PM
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Atlanta, GA USA
Joined Sep 2001
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I know at Lone Star Balsa you can request the grade/type of balsa you need and they will hand-pick it for you. They do a damn good job of it too! Yes, there is a small up-charge for hand picking, but I find it is still a lot cheaper than paying hobby shop prices. A while back I bought $100 worth of balsa and found it to be about half the price of hobby shop balsa including the shipping. Saving $50 is nothing to turn your nose up at. And in this area (Atlanta, GA) there aren't many hobby shops anywhere close by anyway.

Planeman
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Old Jan 26, 2013, 03:41 PM
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Central Lake, Michigan
Joined Dec 2002
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Quote:
Originally Posted by planeman View Post
I know at Lone Star Balsa you can request the grade/type of balsa you need and they will hand-pick it for you. They do a damn good job of it too! Yes, there is a small up-charge for hand picking, but I find it is still a lot cheaper than paying hobby shop prices. A while back I bought $100 worth of balsa and found it to be about half the price of hobby shop balsa including the shipping. Saving $50 is nothing to turn your nose up at. And in this area (Atlanta, GA) there aren't many hobby shops anywhere close by anyway.

Planeman
I have to agree with you. I've purchased balsa from them and was very pleased. I've also bought balsa from Sig and Balsa USA as well and always received very well cut stock which was for the most part of very good quality. I personally do not buy balsa from the LHS as they most often sell Midwest balsa which is not of very consistent quality, too heavy and only one type usually C grain. Unless the LHS you buy from sells something other than Midwest, you're better off buying from people like Lone Star, BUSA Sig, or other balsa suppliers who generally produce better product.
Another point about Lone Star Balsa is that they weigh and label each piece of wood you buy especially the sheeting so you know how much the piece weighs. Nice touch. As for Michaels, well, they sell Midwest so you take your chances. Besides you will generally pay less for the wood at these suppliers. I've found that Midwest balsa is always more expensive and since they sell only one type of balsa you have no choice.
Most scratch builders buy from reputable balsa suppliers where quality is always consistent.
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