Balsa selection for Peter Rake 33" Nieuport - RC Groups
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May 07, 2012, 03:28 PM
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Balsa selection for Peter Rake 33" Nieuport

Hi everyone,

I am planning to build a Peter Rake-desgined 33" Nieuport and can't seem find any notes on the plan about what balsa weight/density to use for various parts or the plane as a whole.

Perhaps the man himself can answer my question, or maybe someone else on here knows what balsa weights would be best for various parts.

I'm not sure if it is best to do what I have read in my old David Boddington book, that is, heavy balsa for spars, medium for ribs etc. (perhaps the 'standard' way), or whether Peter Rake designed this plane to use medium weight balsa everywhere.

Also, is the grain of the balsa an issue? i.e. tangent cut for spars. Seems to be that it is difficult to get balsa of a specific cut, only random grain, which perhaps would be OK for every part in this model.

Many Thanks,

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May 07, 2012, 04:26 PM
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Hi Milo,welcome aboard.
As I may have said before, your wish is my command.
For longerons and spars use hard balsa. If you can't find any hard enough, use bass. Obviously, the straighter the grain, the better and all the bass I've seen has very straight grain.
Bass, unlike spruce, is a nice light colour (similar to balsa) and is no heavier than hard balsa. The trouble with balsa, if cutting your own strip, is that by the time a sheet is hard enough to make good longerons and spars, it's too damned hard to cut easily. The strip cut from sheet always seems to be softer than the sheet it was cut from.

I'd suggest medium hard for things like leading edges, including the tailplane leading edge, but medium or medium soft is fine for pretty much everything else. Just make sure to avoid the very soft stuff you see so often, it's so soft that it's difficult to get reliable glue joints (the surface just lifts away with the glue).

I hope that helped to some extent. I never weigh my wood, prefering to get strange looks 'fingering' the shop's stock. I know what I'm looking for and can feel when I've found it.

May 07, 2012, 05:00 PM
Registered User
Hi Pete, thanks for the reply, very helpful. I think I know mostly what to do now re. balsa hardness.

Got to admit that I have literally no experience with bass for model making, is it the same thing as lime, like the lime trees that grow in the UK? Is it possible to cut it with a craft knife like balsa ?(must depend on the thickness obviously, but what is the thickest bass you can cut with a knife?). Essentially I am wondering if it possible to make your own bass strips from a sheet, using a craft knife, or if it is better to buy ready-cut strip.

Plan looks good btw. Pete, is the grain type of the balsa ever an issue for you, or do you make do with the 'random cut' grain?

Thanks again,

May 07, 2012, 07:45 PM
Registered User
Bass IS lime mate. My father, who knew his wood, always reckoned bass was just the US name for lime. It cuts very smoothly indeed but is more like a very hard balsa . It's probably easiest just to buy ready cut strip. IIRC from when I worked in a model shop Perkins, Ripmax and SLEC all sell it in pretty much the same sizes as their balsa.
If you did want to strip your own, I'd say 1/8 was probably as much as you'd want to cut with a knife.

I've never specifically used any particular grain type. As long as the grain is even and the sheet flat it works out just fine.

May 07, 2012, 09:48 PM
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portablevcb's Avatar
The key to stripping bass (lime for you over the pond ) is to cut along the grain, not parallel to the edge of the sheet. I'll cut once along the grain with a straight edge, then use that as a reference for the rest of my cuts.

Or, if you have a fine saw you can rip the sheets. For thicker stuff (like 1/4") I will rip the pieces about 1/16" oversize. Then use a small block plane to get them even (I can't saw a straight line ).

Best is if you have one of those nice (and pricey) micro table saws from someplace like MicroMart..


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