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deeky

Where to find balsa dowels?

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For some reason I have avoided balsa poppers so far in my tying. But I guess I've either been inspired lately or just not been inspired by anything else, so I decided to give it a try. And then I went looking for balsa dowels. I hit the couple of big box hobby stores in town as well as the two hobby shops that specialize in model aircraft. Not only did they not carry them, but I got a bit of a cross-eyed look at the idea of anything other than square stock in balsa.

 

So any ideas where I might find a piece around town? I'm stuck, and not looking to double or triple the cost of one dowel by having to pay shipping - not that desperate for something different to tie.

 

Thanks.

 

Deeky

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Hey Deeky

 

Funny that you should post this now. I just went looking for balsa wood dowels two days ago with no luck. Found plenty of harder wood dowels but no balsa wood. I am going to tie some McMurray ants. I bought some square stock. It was really easy to sand down to a round dowel but I was working with smaller sizes than you will. I got the balsa at JoAnns of all places.

This video also shows the tyer starting with square stock:

 

http://www.flytyingclub.org/index.php?opti...p;video_id=2240

 

Hope it helps

 

Jimmie

 

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Deeky, best I can tell balsa only comes in four sided dowels either square or rectangular in cross section, also, you can find balsa planks; at least that is the only way I have found it. The best source around my house here in New Orleans are two "hobby" shops that specialize in train and model plane building supplies, they are mom & pop hobby stores. They also carry a great supply of CA and epoxy.

A square cross section on a popper isn't bad and you can taper the back end with a nail file, sandpaper or a pencil sharpener. (The square face actually has more surface area than a round one of equal diameter so you get a good pop from the square face.)

If you use the pencil sharpener method, do not pre-cut your body lengths. Sharpen one end of the square dowel to desired taper and then cut your body off the stick. If you're making longer bugs like pencil poppers, cut the dowel twice the length of a body and it should be long enough to hold while inserting into the sharpener. Sharpen each end to desired taper and then cut it in half, either perpendicular to the stick or on a slant. You will have two bodies.

Or, you can hand sand/file the end of the dowel to desired taper and cut your body to length.

Then again, you can cut a bunch of bodies so you have a pile of rectangular cubes and shape them with sandpaper or insert them one at a time on a Glover's Needle chucked into a dremel and turn the balsa cube down on a piece of sandpaper to the desired taper. The Glover's Needle works well because of being three sided. I used to make my own three sided mandrel out of finishing nails until I rediscovered the Glover Needle and found out a local leather company Tandy Leather carries them.

 

Kirk

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I haven't used balsa for a long time, but like Kirk said, could only find it in square or rectangular stock shapes. I would buy large pieces, like 4"X 6" X 12" long, and used a piece of hard copper tubing to make round dowels. Most of the bodies I made with the tubing were 3/8 or 1/2" in diameter. If you want smaller sizes, you can get thin wall steel tubing but copper is limited in size. The tubing will push thru the balsa fairly easily after sharpening the edge. I used a small piece of 2X4 framing lumber as a push block, much easier on the hands. I also got a steel punch for cutting holes in leather & rubber that made 1/4" diameter bodies.

 

To make the bodies, I used a similar method to what Kirk described, but I cut the large piece of balsa into sections, slightly longer than twice the length I needed, made the dowels with the tubing, shaped both ends then cut it in half, making 2 bodies at a time. Sometimes, I made poppers without shaping the body, just used the cylinder, and wrapped them with fish scale holographic tape, like making Bob's Bangers.

 

When I first started making balsa bodies, I shaped them by hand with emory boards, but eventually got a Dremel tool & also used a large needle as Kirk described.

 

With a little practice, you'll be surprised at how fast you can turn out a bunch of bodies! :)

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Tidewater has the simplest way to get what you want, with one exception. Use brass tubing instead of steel, as it has a thinner wall, and is found in all hobby and craft stores, and in more diameters than the law allows. Cut the tubing off at twice the desired body length for this diameter, plus "X" for chucking, and grind or polish an angle around the outer rim of the cutting end with sandpaper, or even a grinding wheel. Cut your blocks twice as long as the desired body length, as mentioned, plus 1/8". Be sure to mark the 1/8" off on one end of the block, which will be the bottom end, as you will need this later as a cutting guide. If you have a drill press, insert the piece of tubing (cutter) of the desired diameter and set the vertical travel to twice the body length and drill as many "plugs" as you can with the grain and towards the 1/8" mark. You do not want to drill all the way through! All cylinders will be in the block, rather than in your brass tube, when you finish. Now take your block and cut off the bottom 1/8", preferably with a bandsaw, but any thin bladed fine-toothed saw will work. Your cylinders should now freely fall out of the block.

 

No muss; no fuss; no mess!

 

perchjerker

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Tidewater, forgot about the tubes. I have a set I made for foam. For the smaller sizes, I used brass tubing that I found in the hobby/train store. I made them so they would chuck into my 1/2" drive drill by putting the round tube in the drill and tightening the collet so it compressed the tube into a triangular shape so I could re-chuck it and securely. A machinist friend of mine made me a set by pressing in solid steel rod into the end of the tube so it could be chucked in the drill - lost those in Katrina. Then, I cut a slot opening in the tube near the drill for sticking a nail into and pushing the popper plug out. Also, I did kind of sharpen the business end of the tube with a fine steel file only tapering the outside not wanting to change the inside diameter of the tube.

With the balsa you do have to use a block like you noted so that you can insert the tube into the end grain. I guess if your tube was sharp enough you could cut plugs across grain but then your plug would be weaker. By going in the end grain you are keeping the linear grain integrity of the balsa into the popper head.

Thanks for the reminder Tide.

 

Kirk

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There are three different sets of Cork Borers available from thesciencefair.com which may be used

to create balsa cylinders. They have a handle of sorts. I also use them to make handles for my stippling tools.

But if you punch out several dozen of them at a time by hand, it can be kind of hard on the palm. It is necessary

to drive the borer straight and true or the cylinder will not be usable.

 

With these you cut a balsa block of the length you want and punch all the way through. The three sets below come

with a tool to push the blank out of the tube.

 

Do a search for "Cork Borer".

 

3452-1 Cork Borer Set of 6 $13.50

3452-3 Cork Borer Set of 9 $29.50

3452-2 Cork Borer Set of 12 $35.50

 

These are plated brass.

 

3453 Cork Borer Sharpener $8.50

 

If you have lots of $$ or want to go into business making balsa poppers,

 

3457 Cork Boring Machine $110.00

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I've never seen balsa dowels either, but you can make them easily enough.

 

Get a piece of steel, maybe 1/8" thick, doesn't need to be tool steel for this, and drill holes in it grading from the size you're starting with down to the size you want. Take the square balsa from the store and tap it through the first hole to knock off the corners, then through each smaller hole until its sized down to what you need. You can also chuck the end in a drill and use that to rotate the piece as you push it through instead of tapping with the mallet. Balsa is so fragile that this may not work as well as it does with hardwoods.

 

Hardware stores usually have short pieces of flat hot rolled steel though the per foot price is usually huge compared to buying a full 20' stick (but you don't need 20', only 1').... Welding shops have tons of scrap around, and will usually give it away for the asking.

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