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Old Apr 12, 2008, 09:58 PM
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Joined Feb 2008
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Bending 1/16" balsa wood

How would I go about bending this type of balsa wood?. I want to bend it so I can cover part of a plane I'm modeling. Ive read numerous methods of soaking it in ammonia, boiling it with water and steaming it. Which method would be the best? Is there a quick way? I'm not planning to fly this model if it matters.

Heres an example of what I mean.
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Old Apr 12, 2008, 10:39 PM
old pilot
Ickarusmelt's Avatar
Rapid City SD
Joined Dec 2007
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You'll probably get plenty of advice from older modelers, and there may be lots of ways. Many yrs ago I did it for planes and boats.

A big difference is whether desired bend is across the grain or with it. Bending with it is much easier and is usually the way models are designed. Usually for covering curved fuse and leading edges of wing, it is bent with the grain.

Before putting the curved balsa on the model I bent it around something sturdy with approximately same curve, like dowel, broomstick or tin can. Ammonia sounds nasty and seems to me boiling could waterlog it, and I never heard of those methods. I used Mom's steam iron to steam it. I put a gardening glove on my left hand to avoid getting burned. I held it in place until it dried with pins, rubber bands, string, wire, whatever was handy and worked. If bend is not quite exact final pinning and gluing on the model will work okay.

I hope this helps.

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Old Apr 13, 2008, 12:25 AM
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Joined Jan 2007
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I just boil it for a few minutes in plain water.
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Old Apr 13, 2008, 02:56 AM
Deletedfor proving Nauga wrong
Joined Mar 2005
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Warm water.. steam... and/or amonia.

Depending on what shape you are trying to force the wood to conform to.

1/16 balsa can be almost shaped to conform to 1/2 of an old "Leggs" egg. without cutting.
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Old Apr 13, 2008, 07:25 AM
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Kingston, Canada
Joined Jun 2004
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I built a P 40 using this method, just takes a while but it's worth it. Rough cut the balsa to cover one side of the fuse. Soak the medium soft balsa in the tub for about 15 minutes. I had a foam fuse for the mold/ finished fuse. Go to a farm supplier and get some horse leg bandages, not expensive. It's stretchy cloth about 2 1/2 in wide and a long strip. Lay the balsa on the fuse and wrap with the bandage. Let it dry overnight. the next morning it will be dry and peel off like an egg shell. Do the same with the other side. Cut and fit one side till you get a straight line at the top and bottom of the fuse. I used carpenters glue and glue the one side to the fuse with a bead of glue with a zig zag line down the fuse. Wrap it lightly with the leg bandage just to hold it in place. Make sure there's no glue on the outside Let it dry. then do the same with the other half. Hope this helps with some ideas.

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Old Apr 13, 2008, 07:26 AM
An itch?. Scratch build.
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South Wales U.K.
Joined Mar 2003
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It also usually involves selecting your wood so that is is easy to bend, some balsa is rather hard and prone to split.
If it's a kit, sort all the wood into similar grades of softness/flexibility, keep the best for the tighter bends.
Also try to do both sides to the fuselage at the same time with similar grades of wood to stop twist/warps occurring.

I have used hot water and ammonia, (not together), the ammonia works very well, for more for complex shapes, but the smell is appalling. Choose the grade of balsa and you may not need either method depending on the radius.
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Old Apr 17, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Joined Feb 2008
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Thanks for the help, boiling the wood for a few minutes worked for me.
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