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Ulatawa Plantation Balsa tree

Balsa wood Grades and Grains

We often get asked about Grades and Grains of Balsa wood. Often mixed up as they both have A, B and C identifiers to confuse us.

When we talk about the Grain, we refer to the structure of the wood and how it cuts from the round log to give us A, B and C grain.

When we refer to Grades, this refers to the visual appearance of the wood and, subsequently, the end product or market it goes into.

(The Visual Quality)

All our Balsa wood comes from our own plantations or ones that we manage in Papua New Guinea with our sister company Auszac Balsa PNG Ltd.
Balsa wood is from the Balsa wood tree, therefore, Mother Nature controls what we get in the way of visual quality.  We can increase our quality and yield with the best plantation management and processes. However, PNG-grown Balsa is best.

So, once the tree is felled, the time from the tree to a flitch and then into the kiln drier plays a significant role in maximising the amount of A-grade quality that you'll find at Balsacentral. Clean white and blemish free.

PNG Balsa is generally a cleaner-looking balsa wood; we don't use chemicals like bleach to achieve this, just best practice. Sometimes this grade is referred to as AAA or Premium.

The lesser B-grade is usually destined for markets where appearance is not so critical. Slight discolouration or small knots do not concern the consumer and sometimes even enhance their project.

For the consumer, C-grade balsa wood will never make it to market. Well, not ours unless specifically required. With lots of natural staining, marks and knots in this grade, most of it ends up fuelling our Kiln driers to dry the good stuff so it's going to good use anyway.


Balsa Grains A B and C


(The cut orientation)

Like all natural timber, the way the square or rectangular piece is cut from a round log determines the grain orientation and ultimately the mechanical properties of the finished item.
Much can be said about A, B, and C grains and where to use it etc. But the following is a simple explanation for now.

Most of what you see on the market is A-grain Balsa wood. A-grain balsa is cut at a 90-degree angle to the rays and has a much softer, flexible texture. This makes it a great choice for items that need to be more malleable and pliable.

The B-grain is cut from the log on a 45-degree angle offset to the centre pith. Identified with longer visual grain lines.
Effectively a mix of A and C grains and therefore has a mix of the mechanical properties of A and C in lesser amounts.

C-grain balsa is also known as quarter-sawn balsa and has very distinct lines that run radially outwards from the centre (pith) of the tree. This type of grain pattern is more resistant to flexing than other grain versions, making it ideal for items that require more rigid support.
This grain is easily identified in sheet form as it appears to have shimmery patterns.

As the recovery from the Balsa tree to a finished piece is very low for several reasons. Cutting the log specifically to find the grain would be ridiculously uneconomical; therefore, logs are broken down into square and rectangle sections for pure maximum recovery.
The fact that we can offer A, B or C-grain is purely luck of the draw situation, sometimes we have lots and sometimes we don't but at least we turn over lots of Balsa wood and have more choices.

On your next order put your requests into the notes section of the cart.
Or call us on 08 8276 4482