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Bending Balsa

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Old 02-24-2006, 10:00 PM
  #1  
sfergson727
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Default Bending Balsa

I'm building a model which requires bending the balsa around a corner. I haven't built a model for several years and can't remember my old tricks, The directions recommend soaking the sheet in water to make it flexible. I seem to remember adding some vinegar to the water but can't remember. Anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks,
Scott
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:11 PM
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carrellh
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Ammonia is supposed to help with flexibility. Don't know about vinegar.
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:26 PM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

I use a 50-50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water, but I've heard that ammonia works too.
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Old 02-25-2006, 06:21 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

I use 50/50 water and ammonia that's pretty warm. Then - if it's for something like a turtle deck - I slowly bend the well soaked balsa to shape and drape it over the formers and then weight it down with a wet (very wet and hot) bath towel overnight. This gives constant and consistent weighting along the entire surface instead of in limited areas as one gets with taping. Since you said that you are just getting back into this, remember that the bend must be with the grain, the same way that the balsa will natutrally bend somewhat.
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Old 02-25-2006, 09:53 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Guys ... when you say 'ammonia' ... do you mean bleach or some other household product that contains ammonia or do you mean some other source?

--- Neil the newbie
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Old 02-25-2006, 10:05 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Just get a bottle of straight ammonia at any grocery store and mix it with the water at a 1 to 1 ratio and spray away. I have a little spray bottle that I use. I will soak the wood real good and then slowly work the wood onto the formers and then I use masking tape to hold it into position and let it dry. You might want to make sure that you are using some soft balsa as some of the kit balsa is bullit proof and will break no matter how soaked it is. Good Luck, Dave
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Old 02-25-2006, 10:39 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Bleach is not amonia, be careful bleach and amonia do not mix and if they are mixed dangerous fumes will result. I have read that some people use Windex to spray on the balsa before bending.
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Old 02-25-2006, 10:49 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Ammonia is by far the best for shaping wood of all types.
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Old 02-25-2006, 11:08 AM
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sfergson727
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Thanks for all the responses, I'll give it a try when I get back from my trip. Thanks again and take care,
Scott
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Old 02-25-2006, 11:33 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

ORIGINAL: kolban
Guys ... when you say 'ammonia' ... do you mean bleach or some other household product that contains ammonia or do you mean some other source?
--- Neil the newbie
Most grocery stores sell bottles of ammonia. It's usually pretty cheap. If you can't find it, Windex (the blue formula) is a mixture of water, ammonia, soap, and other stuff. The other Windex formulas are probably ammonia based with other additives like citrus.
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Old 02-25-2006, 12:10 PM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

I agree, stick with alc. or windex. They perform better than amonia. Also the fumes from the amon. can be overwhelming when building in inclosed areas.
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Old 02-25-2006, 08:27 PM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Good grief guys ... I apologize for thinking that bleach contained ammonia. I may be 37 and college graduate but I guess my high school chemistry has been expunged a long, long time ago. I think my mind can only contain a finite amount of knowledge and its is maxed. So when new terms like 'CA', 'CG', 'dihedral', 'buddy boxes', 'ARF' and more start to arrive, something has to be discarded ... I guess it was that old chemistry stuff.

Sorry ... am embarrassed :-)

Neil
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Old 02-26-2006, 12:06 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Bleach is not amonia, be careful bleach and amonia do not mix and if they are mixed dangerous fumes will result.
I can vouch for this. [X(]

I had my first job when I was 12. Worked in a bowling alley, doing general cleaning and dusting/polishing the lanes. One day, I was looking at all the cleaning stuff they had in the back room and I figured "more is better" so I grabbed every bottle of stuff and poured it into a bucket so I could make a really good cleaning mix. Two of those bottles were ammonia and bleach. Shortly after, there was an overpowering chemical odor making me feel sick and I had to vacate that room. I closed the door to the room and honestly can't remember the rest. I think it just dissipated after a couple hours but I sorta recall there were customers in the bar (next to that room) complaining of the 'stink'.
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:41 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

That's a deadly combination, bleach and ammonia. The combination makes chlorine gas or a modified type of it. I must admit I made up the same stuff once while trying to clean a heavily soiled bath tub at a rent house and barely made it out of the bathroom.
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Old 02-26-2006, 09:39 PM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Try rubbing alcohol. Spray on wood to be shaped or dampen a rag on put over working area. Balsa will bend very quick with good results. DJCIII
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Old 02-26-2006, 09:42 PM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

steam bending.
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Old 02-27-2006, 01:11 AM
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Default RE: Bending Balsa

Here's a site that has a DVD on Balsa Molding techniques.

http://www.airbornemedia.com/store/rv-balsamold1.htm

Scott
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