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Is there a Balsa shortage 2022?


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Posted (edited)

Last time I checked (I can't remember whether it was with SLEC or Balsa Cabin) there was another container on the way, expected late May or early June. I think Balsa Cabin were taking advance orders against this delivery so I don't know how much of it will be spoken for by the time it arrives. Hopefully someone will have more up to date info but it looks like supply is going to be difficult for a while yet.

Edited by Trevor
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As I said in another thread, only hard grade of most sizes of sheet has been available since March. This is surely going to be the norm from now on, unless dedicated supply lines can be put in place. We will always be at the bottom of the queue for wood compared to industrial customers.

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Posted (edited)

I'm coming to the end of the current build and the two builds at the top of the wishlist are both 60 size models of around 64 or 66". The first (standard balsa construction) is currently looking like around £120 of wood, split around even between surfaces and fuselage. The other is Fugitive (link below) which uses rolled 1/32 ply to form the fuselage built in a jig - this drops the fuselage cost by about half. Interesting technique for anyone set on building with wood.

 

https://outerzone.co.uk/plan_details.asp?ID=9679

 

Edited by Nigel R
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The shortage of good quality balsa probably won't end until the building of wind generators slows considerably, if it ever does. Large amounts are used in the construction of the blades apparently so no hope for modellers.

Its a bit like when carbon fiber was short due to building the new dream liner aircraft. Only difference there is that CF production could be stepped up whereas balsa in the correct grade for us can't be rushed.

Balsa is a cash crop but the land to grow it is also required for other cash crops like palm oil etc so probably no new balsa plantations .

 

Or is it a conspiracy by the foam model makers  ?.

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Posted (edited)

Well it seems there is a current supply  shortage of balsa in the grades needed for modelling. Fortunately I have a buffer stock that means personally I've not run out.

I remember in the 80s visiting Balsa Cabin's premises with 3 friends in a big Volvo estate (theirs not mine) to buy a "stock" of frequently used sheet and strip wood. It was a bit if an investment at the time when money was tight.

Since then I have tried to keep the supply stocked up as and when wood was easily available. (When a nice piece was seen in a shop or at shows.)

Some may say it's hoarding. But as I only replace what I use when wood is easily available I don't see it that way , its just common sense so I have the wood to build when I need it. So during lockdown I could get a model built when trips out were not possible.

Edited by David Ovenden
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7 hours ago, Engine Doctor said:

The shortage of good quality balsa probably won't end until the building of wind generators slows considerably, if it ever does. Large amounts are used in the construction of the blades apparently so no hope for modellers.

Its a bit like when carbon fiber was short due to building the new dream liner aircraft. Only difference there is that CF production could be stepped up whereas balsa in the correct grade for us can't be rushed.

Balsa is a cash crop but the land to grow it is also required for other cash crops like palm oil etc so probably no new balsa plantations .

 

Or is it a conspiracy by the foam model makers  ?.

 

Now I have often wondered if it was the balsa basher purists who negotiated the end of the original Depron manufacture, because they feared it was as good or better than balsa in many builds  ?

 

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7 hours ago, kc said:

You could always recycle your old crashed models!   Any balsa not oil contaminated could be used for the smaller parts............

 

That's the beauty of flying electric.   :classic_smile:

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"Is there a balsa shortage 2022?"

 

Define shortage. My LMS -Addlestone Models - has loads, but talking to the guys in there, they have no control over what grades actually turn up in a shipment. It seems that the suppliers take an order for x amount of y size and the shop gets what they're given.

 

Interestingly, some of their stock has SLEC stickers on it, so I am more convinced than ever that it all comes from the same source on the same container and is all the same stuff supplied to all stockists... So people saying (as they have in other threads) that SLEC or Balsa cabin have access to superior wood on the basis of received wisdom and no evidence can put a sock in it.

 

The guys in AMC will weigh it and do the drop/resonance test for you, which is good service.

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But SLEC and Balsa Cabin do get balsa lumber and saw it down into sheet, strip etc and grade it. So they are in control of the stuff at the top of the supply chain in this country and I've bought wood online from both and am always happy with their wood selection and grading.

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Plenty of decent balsa available down under.

 

During last years lock-down the Australian Govt. gave many of us $250 to stimulate the local economy so off went my order to  Balsa Central and a week later a big box arrived full of lovely balsa of the exact cut and density that I asked for.

 

I did ask the company about shortages and they confirmed that some PNG plantations had been purchased by Chinese companies but there was no chance of that happening to them.

 

I was also told that they shipped to a major UK distributor but due to the pandemic and shipping container shortages, coupled with huge container rental price rises people overseas were going to see higher prices 

 

The plantation in PNG is Australian owned by Auszac and provide jobs for the local population.

 

I hope that your traditional builders manage to obtain some decent wood soon.

 

Chris

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On 15/05/2022 at 19:03, Alan Gorham_ said:

But SLEC and Balsa Cabin do get balsa lumber and saw it down into sheet, strip etc and grade it. So they are in control of the stuff at the top of the supply chain in this country and I've bought wood online from both and am always happy with their wood selection and grading.

Your evidence being? Also, according to an article in RCM&E a few years ago, IIRC, the timber is sanded down to thickness. That struck me as rather wasteful at the time, but I suppose it may make sense to the moneymen who run the companies.

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6 hours ago, Lima Hotel Foxtrot said:

Your evidence being? Also, according to an article in RCM&E a few years ago, IIRC, the timber is sanded down to thickness. That struck me as rather wasteful at the time, but I suppose it may make sense to the moneymen who run the companies.

Talking to Chris at SLEC, one day when he called me back after missing my call, he apologised and said he was out of the office in the wood mill. Also on their about page they say 'The company still produces a good range of accessories but also a large range of quality balsa wood sheet & strips, hardwoods all machined in our mill at Watton'

 

My thinking is that they buy balsa logs and machine to size. Looking at the almost polished finish achieved then they must sand their balsa, probably to a final thickness.  

 

I suppose I could phone SLEC to confirm all this.

 

Steve

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7 hours ago, Lima Hotel Foxtrot said:

Your evidence being? Also, according to an article in RCM&E a few years ago, IIRC, the timber is sanded down to thickness. That struck me as rather wasteful at the time, but I suppose it may make sense to the moneymen who run the companies.

My evidence is that SLEC have posted pics and videos of their machining process and that Balsa Cabin have told me that they cut their own wood when I have spoken with them at a show while buying wood.

 

That's good enough for me.

 

It seems like it's not good enough for you as it doesn't fit your pet theory.

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It seems that this is nothing new. From a 1945 edition of Model Gliders by Ron Warring which I picked up recently on eBay:

 

F1F0E98E-DD44-48A8-B4C7-FD7925DFDADA_1_201_a.thumb.jpg.ce0e7cc5252a6a8e4510e621af95d382.jpg

 

but somehow the hobby has managed to survive for the following 77 years.

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Thinking back to my learning days with a High Boy and Low Boy (how I wish for one now) 

they both had the fuselage, along with other bits made from light ply, in fact it was only the tail that was made from balsa, which I notice lite ply appears to be far cheaper than balsa.

So there are other options available for us to continue building, as that book suggests, its just convincing 

ourselves to change.

 

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On 17/05/2022 at 06:04, Alan Gorham_ said:

My evidence is that SLEC have posted pics and videos of their machining process and that Balsa Cabin have told me that they cut their own wood when I have spoken with them at a show while buying wood.

 

That's good enough for me.

 

It seems like it's not good enough for you as it doesn't fit your pet theory.

Nowt to do with my whether or not it fits my "pet theory" (although it still makes complete sense to me, and I reckon it's a mix of the two*), I just have this outdated notion that if one makes an assertion, one should be prepared to back it up... Admittedly a Sisyphean task on this and most other forums.

 

*One container of wood for all distributors makes far more sense economically than everybody individually finding £12k** to ship their own stock.

 

**According to J Perkins via my LMS.***

 

***Evidence! ?

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16 hours ago, Andy Stephenson said:

I'd say there was some sort of shortage when 4 pieces of 1" x 1/4" trailing edge cost a smidge under £14 not including postage.

Postage on anything fragile and 36" long will be painful. Addlestone models cheerfully cut some into 18" lengths for me.

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15 minutes ago, Lima Hotel Foxtrot said:

Nowt to do with my whether or not it fits my "pet theory" (although it still makes complete sense to me, and I reckon it's a mix of the two*), I just have this outdated notion that if one makes an assertion, one should be prepared to back it up... Admittedly a Sisyphean task on this and most other forums.

 

*One container of wood for all distributors makes far more sense economically than everybody individually finding £12k** to ship their own stock.

 

**According to J Perkins via my LMS.***

 

***Evidence! ?

Technically heresay. Being pedantic, but not evidence.
I have no horse in the race. I have lots of sheet balsa as I’ve always bought bulk, and bought more bulk when I run out of any thickness. Hence I have an embarrassing amount, and I cut all strip wood. Alan’s offering is also heresay, for balance. Obedience of the best evidence rules also is a bit thin, in both cases.

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