Whether you are an amateur or expert in wood-crafting, wood always makes a difference. Some woods are easy to curve, others may be more durable.
There are so many options to choose from. You often must find yourself comparing different woods.
Then, balsa vs basswood – which should you choose for your next crafting project?
Balsa wood is lighter, cheaper, and more available than basswood. Also, balsa wood is more durable and lighter than basswood. Both kinds of woods are easy to work with. But balsa is stiffer whereas basswood bends easily. Balsa is more porous than basswood and gets heavy in humidity.
No, I am not gonna leave you with only this much information. I have prepared an in-depth comparison of both of the woods for your convenience. Keep reading to know more.
Balsa vs Basswood: Quick Comparison
Balsa and basswood both are very soft woods and easy to curve in. But there are some differences between these two kinds of wood. First, let’s see a quick comparison between them.
|Appearance||Pale reddish brown or off whitish||Light brown or whitish|
|Durability||More durable||Less durable|
|Bending capacity||Stiff||Easy to bend|
|Density||Wide density range||Smaller density range|
|Used for||Buoys, Model aircraft, Packing cases, rafts, Musical instruments, etc.||Carving and wood crafting, designer furniture pieces, electric guitar bodies, etc.|
|Price||More Cheaper than basswood||cheaper|
|Tree size and lifespan||18-28 meters long / 30-40 years||20-37 meters long / up to 150 years|
|Workability||Easy to craft, but delicate||Easy to work with|
|Weight||Lighter than basswood||Heavier than balsa|
|Porosity||More porous||Less porous|
So, that’s the at a glance comparison between them. In the next section, I am gonna discuss all the features in broad.
Balsa vs Basswood: In-depth Comparison
In appearance, workability, and usage, there are some differences between balsa and basswood. An in-depth discussion will help you choose the right kind of wood for your project.
So, let’s get into it.
Basswood is a light-colored wood. It appears to be white and sometimes light-brown. Whereas, balsa is a slightly reddish wood. Although sometimes it appears to be off whitish.
You can make the wood glossy, it will give your crafts a nice look.
Winner: Balsa will give a richer reddish look than basswood. Because basswood is very pale. Though it doesn’t have a deep wood color. For having a rich wooden color, you have to choose something else.
Balsa has a little better durability than basswood. But none of these wood has long-lasting durability. So, they are good for crafting and modeling. But if you want to make some furniture, they aren’t so great.
Both of the woods, especially balsa, easily get attracted to the insects. And neither of the wood has the property to resist rotting. You can remove bugs from the woods if you want. But with balsa and basswood, you have to do it more frequently.
Winner: If you have to choose between one of them, choose balsa. It lasts a little longer than basswood when you give it paint or glaze.
Availability and Price
Balsa is cheaper than basswood. But I am not talking about the “A” grade balsa wood. “A” quality balsa wood is very expensive.
Although basswood is cheap. But you are mostly using these woods for crafting, right? So, getting more wood for the same money is always better.
Winner: None of the woods are very durable. So, if you are on a budget, no need to expand it for basswood. Unless for any other significant feature such as bending capacity.
You can get some durability from high-quality balsa and basswood. But they are not very available and really expensive. Average category woods for crafting and modeling are widely available.
Here, check out some affordable balsa and basswood sheets:
|Balsa Wood Sheets 1/8″ Inch Thick 12″ x 4″||Check Current Price|
|Hammont Basswood Sheets 12x8x1/16″||Check Current Price|
Usually, balsa woods are stiff. This may not apply to all the balsa woods. But most of the time they are really tough to bend.
On the other hand, basswood is easy to bend. Suppose, you are building something that needs a curve, such as an arched Bridge. In that case, basswood is definitely a better choice than balsa.
Winner: For building models that need curving, go for basswood.
Workability is important as you are trying to do some heavy crafting. As softwoods, both balsa and basswood are easy to work with. You can curve heavy designs in both of the woods.
But here is a problem. The internal structure of balsa is really weak. If you crush it with a little pressure, it will deform. If you are working with balsa, you have to be extra careful not to crush it. So, machine work on it can also be tricky.
Cutting balsa wood also takes a lot of effort. The surface can come out fuzzy if the cutter isn’t sharp enough.
On the other hand, cutting and molding basswood is very easy. Basswood is suitable for both machine and handwork. None of the balsa and basswood holds nails very well.
Both of the woods take the strain and paint very well. Another crafting wood Aspen also stains very well.
But when it comes to sanding, working with balsa is delightful. Although basswood is also easy to sand, the surface sometimes gets fuzzy.
Winner: Basswood is easier to work with. But your problem is with sanding, you can go for balsa.
Density & Weight
The problem with balsa is that it comes with a wide range of densities. That means you won’t really know how dense or strong the wood really is.
Suppose you are working on making some kind of craft multiple times. As a beginner, it will be hard for you to be consistent with balsa wood. As its density changes, curving and cutting it also gets tricky. The finishing of all pieces may not come out the same.
On the other hand, all pieces of basswood have almost the same density. So, it’s easy to be more consistent with it.
When it comes to weight, balsa is lighter than basswood.
Winner: For a lighter craft, like an aircraft model, go for balsa wood.
One of the biggest cons of balsa wood is its heavy porosity. Because of the porosity, it easily absorbs a lot of water. Especially the high humidity. So, it gets heavy.
Basswood is less porous. So, it doesn’t easily absorb water and gets heavy.
Winner: If you live in a humid region, You can try basswood.
Tree size and Lifespan
Balsa trees can grow up to 18-28 meters long. And a balsa tree survives for 30-40 years.
On the other hand, basswood trees grow up to 20-37 meters long. And they can survive up to 150 years.
As lightweight and softwoods, both balsa and basswood are suitable for curving.
Basswood is famous for making acoustic guitars. It is also used for making window shutters, veneers, wooden blinds, plywood, etc. you can even make wood pulp with it.
Basswood has a good curving capacity. So, making designer furniture pieces is also common with it.
Balsa wood is lighter than basswood. So the most popular use of it is making aircraft models. Also, architects use it for making model buildings and bridges. Buoys, packing cases, rafts, musical instruments, etc. can also be made with balsa wood.
Also, the porosity of balsa wood makes it a good insulator. So, it is used with walls that tend to get dumped. It absorbs the water and protects the wall.
None of these types of woods are good for making outdoor furniture. Because they can not survive in the rain, heat, or any kind of extreme weather.
So, these were the main differences between balsa and basswood. The difference between basswood and alder is another thing crafters seek. As alder wood is almost of the same kind too.
What are the disadvantages of basswood?
The main disadvantage of basswood is its poor durability. It isn’t long-lasting. Also, its strength is low too. It rots easily due to water, humidity, and other reasons. And it gets easily attacked by insects and gets ruined. Also, while sanding, it shows up fuzzy edges.
Which is thicker basswood or balsa wood?
Basswood is thicker than balsa wood. It is stronger than balsa wood too. Balsa wood is really light, more than basswood. That’s why it’s popular for making aircraft models. Balsa wood thickness can get 1/32 – 3/4 inches. Basswood lumber is usually 13/16 inches of the surface.
Is basswood hard or soft wood?
basswood is a soft and lightweight wood. It is also wood with low density. That’s why it is famous for precise hand carving. It is also famous for making musical instruments. It has great workability. It can be curved smoothly because of its softness.
Is balsa the strongest wood?
In a sense, balsa can be considered one of the strongest woods. But it is only for its weight group. Balsa is a very lightweight wood. Woods that are lightweight aren’t strong enough to do any crafting with them. But you can easily do heavy curving and crafting with balsa.
So, that was all I had to cover in the discussion of balsa vs basswood. Both kinds of woods are great for crafting and curving for their easy workability. But for some specific features, you may wanna like one better than the other.
Whatever you choose, I hope your project comes out awesome.
Best of luck and happy crafting!