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Balsa Weight for Various Densities

Balsa density-weight charts by Al and Rod Clark - Airplanes and RocketsThis information appeared in a 1970s era Sig Manufacturing catalog that I had as a teenager. Sig also had an extensive article on balsa tree foresting and harvesting. They are as useful today as it was many moons ago.

Also, Al and Rod Clark created a very nice set of graphs that plot balsa density versus weight for wide variety of balsa sheet thickness, width, and length combinations. There is also a brief discussion on balsa grain (A, B, and C) and how it affects the wood's characteristics. It is hosted on the AMA's website.

Wood Properties
Species Weight
lb/ft3
Stiffness
Strength
Bending
Strength
Compression
Strength
Balsa 8 72 70 75
Balsa 10 100 100 100
Balsa 14 156 161 149
Spruce 28 230 260 289
Yellow Pine 28 222 277 288
Douglas Fir 30 241 291 341
Hickory 50 379 638 514
Oak 48 295 430 366
Basswood 26 261 288 288
Black Walnut 37 301 506 512

Balsa is one of the lightest woods available, and in many respects has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any wood - even oak. The chart at the right gives a comparison of a few familiar wood types.

Hobby grade balsa is harvested in the jungles of Ecuador, kiln dried, cut into large blocks, and shipped to the U.S. for final cutting and sanding. Most balsa from hobby shops is in the 8-10 lbs/ft3 realm. The rock-hard stock that nobody wants is sent to the airplane kit manufacturers ;-)

Before being discovered as an ideal source of wood for model airplanes, balsa trees were cut and assembled into raft for floating down the river. In fact, the word "balsa" is Spanish for the word "raft." Balsa has been widely used by the military for air-drop pallets, and in fact, during World War II, balsa wood for models became scarce because the Army Air Force needed it for operations. Bamboo and other reeds were tried by modelers as a substitute wood, but it never could replace balsa.

The charts below for weights of standard hobby shop balsa sheets, sticks and blocks were calculated from a simple formula that takes the density of the of each piece of balsa and multiply it by the Volume. For 48" lengths, multiply each 36" value by 4/3 (1.333).

Example:

A 3/16" x 3" x 36" sheet of balsa has a Volume of 20.25 cubic inches (in3), which is equal to 0.01171875 cubic feet (ft3). A piece of balsa with a density of 8 lbs/ft3 is the same as a density of 128 oz/ft3. So, to find the weight of the balsa sheet, multiply 128 oz/ft3 by 0.01171875 ft3 to get 1.500 oz. A 48" length would weigh 1.500 oz. x 4/3 = 2.000 oz.

BALSA SHEETS

Weight in Ounces, Density in Pounds/Foot3

36" Length 6 8 10 12 14 16
1/32"x2"
1/32"x3"
1/32"x4"
0.125
0.188
0.250
0.167
0.250
0.333
0.211
0.313
0.417
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.291
0.438
0.583
0.333
0.500
0.667
3/32"x2"
3/32"x3"
3/32"x4"
0.375
0.563
0.750
0.500
0.750
1.000
0.625
0.938
1.125
0.750
1.125
1.500
0.875
1.313
1.750
1.000
1.500
2.000
3/16"x2"
3/16"x3"
3/16"x4"
0.750
1.125
1.500
1.000
1.500
2.000
1.250
1.875
2.500
1.500
2.250
3.000
1.750
2.625
3.500
2.000
3.000
4.000
3/8"x2"
3/8"x3"
3/8"x4"
1.500
2.250
3.000
2.000
3.000
4.000
2.500
3.750
5.000
3.000
4.500
6.000
3.500
5.250
7.000
4.000
6.000
8.000
1/16"x2"
1/16"x3"
1/16"x4"
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.333
0.500
0.667
0.417
0.625
0.833
0.500
0.750
1.000
0.583
0.875
1.167
0.667
1.000
1.333
1/8"x2"
1/8"x3"
1/8"x4"
0.500
0.750
1.000
0.667
1.000
1.333
0.833
1.250
1.667
1.000
1.500
2.000
1.167
1.750
2.333
1.333
2.000
2.667
1/4"x2"
1/4"x3"
1/4"x4"
1.000
1.500
2.000
1.333
2.000
2.667
1.667
2.500
3.333
2.000
3.000
4.000
2.333
3.500
4.667
2.667
4.000
5.333
1/2"x2"
1/2"x3"
1/2"x4"
2.000
3.000
4.000
2.667
4.000
5.333
3.333
5.000
6.667
4.000
6.000
8.000
4.667
7.000
9.333
5.333
8.000
10.667

BALSA BLOCKS

Weight in Ounces, Density in Pounds/Foot3

36" Length 6 8 10 12 14 16
1"x1"
1"x1½"
1"x2"
1"x2½"
1"x3"
2.000
3.000
4.000
5.000
6.000
2.667
4.000
5.333
6.667
8.000
3.333
5.000
6.667
8.333
10.00
4.000
6.000
8.000
10.000
12.000
4.667
7.000
9.333
11.667
14.000
5.333
8.000
10.667
13.333
16.000
2"x2"
2"x2½"
2"x3"
8.000
10.00
12.00
10.666
13.333
16.000
13.333
16.667
20.000
16.000
20.000
24.000
18.667
23.333
28.000
21.333
26.667
32.000
3"x3"
3"x4"
18.00
24.00
24.00
32.00
30.000
40.000
36.000
48.000
42.000
56.000
48.000
64.000
1½"x1½"
1½"x2"
1½"x2½"
4.500
6.000
7.500
6.000
8.000
10.00
7.500
10.000
12.500
9.000
12.000
15.000
10.500
14.000
17.500
12.000
16.000
20.000
2½"x2½"
2½"x3
12.500
15.000
16.667
20.000
20.833
25.000
25.000
30.000
29.166
35.000
33.333
40.000

BALSA STICKS

Weight in Ounces, Density in Pounds/Cubic3

36" Length Qty. 6 8 10 12 14 16
1/16"x1/16"
1/16"x3/32"
1/16"x1/8"
1/16"x3/16"
1/16"x1/4"
1/16"x3/8"
1/16"x1/2"
16
16
8
8
4
4
2
0.125
0.188
0.125
0.188
0.125
0.188
0.125
0.167
0.250
0.167
0.250
0.167
0.250
0.167
0.208
0.312
0.208
0.312
0.208
0.312
0.208
0.250
0.375
0.250
0.375
0.250
0.375
0.250
0.292
0.438
0.292
0.438
0.292
0.438
0.292
0.333
0.500
0.333
0.500
0.333
0.500
0.333
1/8"x1/8"
1/8"x3/16"
1/8"x1/4"
1/8"x3/8"
1/8""x1/2"
4
4
4
2
1
0.125
0.188
0.250
0.188
0.125
0.167
0.250
0.333
0.250
0.167
0.208
0.312
0.416
0.312
0.208
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.375
0.250
0.292
0.438
0.538
0.438
0.292
0.333
0.500
0.667
0.500
0.333
1/4"x1/4"
1/4"x3/8"
1/4"x1/2"
1/4"x3/4"
1/4""x1"
1
1
1
1
1
0.125
0.188
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.167
0.250
0.333
0.500
0.667
0.208
0.312
0.416
0.625
0.832
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.750
1.000
0.292
0.438
0.583
0.876
1.166
0.333
0.500
0.667
1.00
1.333
1/2"x1/2"
1/2"x1"
1
1
0.500
1.000
0.667
1.333
0.832
1.666
1.00
2.00
1.166
2.333
0.1333
2.667
3/32"x3/32"
3/32"x1/8"
3/32"x3/16"
3/32"x1/4"
3/32"x3/8"
3/32"x1/2"
8
8
4
4
2
2
0.141
0.188
0.141
0.188
0.141
0.188
0.188
0.250
0.188
0.250
0.188
0.250
0.234
0.312
0.234
0.312
0.234
0.312
0.281
0.375
0.281
0.375
0.281
0.375
0.326
0.438
0.326
0.438
0.326
0.438
0.375
0.500
0.375
0.500
0.375
0.500
3/16"x3/16"
3/16"x1/4"
3/16"x3/8"
3/16"x1/2"
3/16"x3/4"
3/16"x1"
2
2
2
1
1
1
0.141
0.188
0.281
0.188
0.281
0.375
0.188
0.250
0.375
0.250
0.375
0.500
0.234
0.312
0.469
0.312
0.469
0.625
0.281
0.375
0.563
0.375
0.563
0.750
0.326
0.438
0.656
0.438
0.656
0.876
0.375
0.500
0.750
0.500
0.750
1.000
3/8"x3/8"
3/8"x1/2"
1
1
0.281
0.375
0.375
0.500
0.469
0.625
0.563
0.750
0.656
0.876
0.750
1.000
3/4"x3/4" 1 1.125 1.500 1.875 2.250 2.625 3.000

Resources for Balsa Wood on the Airplanes and Rockets website:

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Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain some form of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which all began in Mayo, MD. There is a lot of good information and there are lot of pictures throughout the website that you will probably find useful, and might even bring back some old memories from your own days of yore. The website began life around 1996 as an EarthLink screen name of ModelAirplanes, and quickly grew to where more server space ...

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