Can you stain balsa wood?

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Noskills
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Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by Noskills » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:19 pm

Never tried to stain balsa before does it work? Also what the best clear coat after the stain polyurethane, shallac or good old spray enamel?
Seth


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Re: Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by BallBoy » Tue Jun 25, 2013 8:31 am

Yes, you can stain balsa. Since the wood fibers are very loose it I would expect it to soak up the stain unevenly. Pine wood is usually the textbook case of wood soaking stain unevenly. When wood soaks up stain unevenly it leads to light and dark areas in the finish. I expect that in something the size of a pinewood derby car the splotchiness won't be as noticable as it would be in something large such as a table top (not that you would make a table out of balsa). If you use a water-based stain you will need to do a light sanding after the stain has dried since it will raise the wood grain. My recommendation is to use an oil-based stain.

Most stains that I have used require a clear coat. For the clear coat, any of the substances you mention would work. I would use whatever is handy or whatever you have experience with.



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Re: Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by Noskills » Tue Jun 25, 2013 11:29 am

Thanks Ballboy!
Most stains that I have used require a clear coat. For the clear coat, any of the substances you mention would work. I would use whatever is handy or whatever you have experience with.
I have the most experience with spray enamal but access to all three. Is one more water proof than the others?

This is my first regatta and I am interested in doing a fair job but its not a pine wood derby car ;)

Seth


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Re: Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by BallBoy » Tue Jun 25, 2013 11:56 am

Noskills wrote:Is one more water proof than the others?
I completely missed the fact that this was posted in the raingutter regatta section. Thanks for gently nudging me into that realization.
You will definately want a top coat that is water proof or at least water resistant. You shouldn't have any problem with a marine varnish (something that should be readily available in the Seattle area), though I have no experience with it. Marine varnish is designed for direct water contact. Polyurethane or enamel would probably be okay if enough coats were put on. I would avoid shellac - it may be initially water repellant, but won't provide adequate protection.



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Re: Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by 4wheeldrift » Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:13 pm

Seth,

We'd only done 2 rain gutter regatta races, and Jr. got 2nd this year. I had read the same about using a stain to seal the boat. I don't think you need to use the stain and can get by with painting it and then adding a clear coat to seal it.

We used a polymer stain both times and on this last try I went ahead and applied a clear over the polymer and then waxed the hull. I wished we would've just painted it to begin with since we ended up applying a clear coat. The boat didn't soak any water and floated just fine. The stain takes forever to dry and it doesn't look quite as nice as just painting and clear coating. Plus it seemed with little hands applying it he seemed to get more everywhere else than on the boat. There's no doubt these things will soak water like a sponge as I saw where one scout's boat was pretty heavy with water after 2 runs.

We didn't use the metal keel and instead installed the rudder towards the rear. We also moved the mast further towards the rear and also shaped the hull to make the boat skim across the top (as seen on this site: http://caswellbsa.org/HTMLobj-534/raing ... tatips.pdf" target="_blank).

There were no rules posted for our race and I knew we could've done a box sail or catamaran, but I didn't want to be 'that guy'. So in the end Jr. lost out to a catamaran with a box sail boat coming in 3rd, but we were happy with the results although Jr. had the lead on the catamaran until his boat tipped over. The genius organizers held the race outside in between buildings with a cross wind, so kids' boats were prone to tipping over when a gust would come along.

Most important is to shape the hull, ditch the metal keel, place the mast towards the rear, hot glue the corners of the sail back onto the boat, and install some plastic protectors on the bow. We didn't apply them (as seen in the above link) last year and Jr got stuck under the lip of the gutter a few times. This time we cut some clear plastic from the cover of a book report folder the kids had and hot glued them onto the sides from the sail to the bow. They were about 3/4 high so there was no way the bow would get caught under the lip of the gutter.

Lastly, fill the tub and practice. If you build like we did, you'll be surprised at how far the boat will cover with a good stead breath.



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Re: Can you stain balsa wood?

Post by Noskills » Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:15 pm

Thanks all!

Seth


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