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Tips on cutting small pieces?

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Light pressure. Many passes. Slice the wood by drawing the knife across the fibers, don't press the knife against the wood with a lot of force; cut, don't crush. And keep your blades sharp - every several slices, draw the blade over a fine stone to restore the edge. I've found a self healing cutting mat helps too.


Good luck!

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Sharp blades and a cutting mat work well. But, balsa is a very soft wood; really only useful as filler for a hull, between the bulkheads. Trying to shape items, like deck furniture, is difficult because the wood is so soft. The edges don't hold up if much pressure is applied, so fine detail is hard to achieve. You may want to try some basswood. It's still soft, but it doesn't have the issues of balsa.

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I find it interesting that a soft wood like balsa is harder to cut accurately and uniformly than a hardwood like pear or boxwood.

The problem with balsa is that the fibers are large (even though they are spaced apart to give it the low density). To cut balsa across those fibers is easier than cutting them at an angle or slightly off center.

Likewise balsa does not sand nice and smooth like a hardwood.

It should be kept for fillers as Mark suggests or for really lightweight places like model airplane frames.


I might add that cutting balsa with an Exacto knife is not as good as using a razor saw. Again it is a matter of cutting those fibers and a saw does a better job than a knife.

Edited by Modeler12
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