How to Build a Balsa Wood Truss

Written by grahame turner
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How to Build a Balsa Wood Truss
A truss is a construction which uses triangles, one of the strongest shapes, for sturdiness. (floor trusses image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com)

The word "truss" refers to a simple shape which crops up in a number of building projects. One of the most common is the house roof, of which there are numerous styles. You can also find an entire series of bridges designed around the truss concept. Balsa wood is a great material for making models of construction projects, like buildings and bridges, because it is very strong for its weight and is a lightweight, easy-to-use material.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • 1/4-inch grid paper
  • 1/8-inch thick balsa wood beams
  • 1/16-inch thick balsa wood beams
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Utility knife or scissors
  • White school glue

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Brainstorm and design the truss on your grid paper. Draw the base as long as you need it to be, and make vertical beams which will be sufficient for the height of your design. Make this into a long rectangle, then draw the truss supports within that rectangle. Make these beams triangular, with all of the angles being around 45-degrees.

  2. 2

    Verify that the last support beam fits into the corner of the truss frame, without touching the sides. You may need to widen or shrink the angles between all of the support beams to fit the last piece. If you don't make all of the beams the same angle, the beam may be weaker on one side than the other.

  3. 3

    Measure and cut pieces of 1/8-inch thick balsa wood to match the specifications of the outer rectangle. Verify that the two side pieces are cut to the correct length.

  4. 4

    Glue the truss frame together. Wipe off excess glue and allow the frame to dry for a few minutes before continuing.

  5. 5

    Hold a 1/16-inch piece of wood in the truss frame, pointing from the bottom-left corner at a 45-degree angle, toward the top of the frame. Mark the inside length between the pieces.

  6. 6

    Cut the piece of wood so that the ends of the piece are 45-degree angles. Dab glue on both ends of the piece and fit it inside the truss.

  7. 7

    Repeat the measuring and gluing steps to fill the truss with wooden supports. Leave the model to dry overnight. Repeat the entire process if you need to make additional trusses.

Tips and warnings

  • For more information on how various forces will pull on your truss, use the Bridge Builder application listed in the Resources section of this article, and input your diagram into the system before building. This application will tell you how much force will be applied to the different parts of your truss.

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