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Balsa model
MFA 2007.442


A very lightweight wood obtained from several trees of the Bombacaceae family, genus Ochroma, such as O. pyramidale and O. lagopus. Balsa trees are native to the Caribbean region, Central and South America. It is the lightest and softest wood used commercially. The white to tan-color, soft wood has a straight grain, coarse texture and is relatively strong. Balsa wood is easily carved and often used for model airplanes and toys. Balsa is also used as a substitute for Cork in insulation, flats, life preservers, and buoys.

See also Balsa fiber.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Ochroma pyramidale; Ochroma lagopus; balsatræ (Dan.); Balsabaum (Deut.); balsa (Fr., Sven., Esp., Port.); corkwood

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Specific gravity = 0.12-0.2 (oven dry)
  • Density = 7-12 ppcf

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 82
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • F. H. Titmuss, Commercial Timbers of the World, The Technical Press Ltd., London, 1965
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Gordon Hanlon, contributed information, 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=7-9 ppcf (0.11-0.14 g/cm3)