How to build a weight-holding balsa wood structure

Written by grahame turner
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How to build a weight-holding balsa wood structure
Balsa wood is ideal for school projects. (photoworldwide/iStock/Getty Images)

Balsa is known as a cheap, light and fairly strong material, considering its weight and size. It's used to build model aeroplanes, towers and bridges. It's also often used in weight-bearing structure contests, like in schools. You can build one in a variety of ways and do certain things to give your structure an edge.

Things you need

  • Pen and grid paper
  • 0.3-cm (1/8-inch) balsa wood
  • 0.16-cm (1/16-inch) balsa wood
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Utility knife or scissors
  • Wood glue or white glue

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  1. 1

    Diagram your structure on graph paper. Use a scale, such as 1 square represents 2.5 cm (1 inch). Design the base of your structure, bearing in mind any rules and requirements if you're competing. Design the outside of the structure, then add a system of support beams. Make diagrams for several angles of the design--at least a front, side and 3/4-rotation view.

  2. 2

    Determine where the weight will rest on your diagram, and figure out how the force will be distributed along the support beams. Imagine that a lot of force is pushing or pulling down on the structure, and imagine how that will push on the other parts of the tower. Add extra supports if necessary. Triangles are some of the strongest shapes in nature, and are used often in modern buildings. Look at the images listed in Resources for more ideas on how to support your structure.

  3. 3

    Measure out the base pieces for your structure and mark them on your balsa wood.

  4. 4

    Cut the pieces out, mitring if you can. Take care not to damage the wood when cutting, as this will weaken your structure. Glue these pieces together and hold them tightly to dry.

  5. 5

    Measure and cut the next layer of pieces, then glue them together. Hold the pieces until dry, building slowly.

  6. 6

    Leave the structure to dry overnight. Make any repairs necessary in the morning. Test with a light weight to make sure your structure behaves as intended.

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