Eco-tip - 'Forest Friendly' timber for modelling

We've obviously been promoting the virtue of goods made with environmentally responsible materials. But what about the stuff that is used to craft the models and prototyes that lead to the final product? Thought we’d start the search with a simple one. Balsa. Which is, believe it or not, a deciduous hardwood. Yet, it is one of the lightest timbers known. Hence, its popularity for model making and kite-building. The abundance of air cells in its structure have also made it a fav for insulation and the construction of rafts. A huge plus for modelmakers, designers and hobbyists is that it can be cut with a good old X-acto knife. Scientifically known as Ochroma lagopus, it’s normally only found in Latin and Central American locales, such as Ecuador and Costa Rica. It has however been successfully grown in the Solomon Islands. And growing is something it likes to do. Fast! Up to 20m in 6 years, so some say. (Trying to give bamboo a run for its money!) Its rapid growth helps bind soil, arresting erosion, while absorbing excessive CO2 emissions. Although we had some trouble locating retailers* selling Smart Wood certified Balsa, we did find two forestry operations who have been recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as providing Balsa from sustainably managed forests. They are Balsatica in Costa Rica and Kolombangara Forest Products in the Solomons (try: kfpl@welkam.solomon.com.sb). So go encourage your local craft store to stock ‘forest friendly’ Balsa. Its out there. Just waiting to help you visualise that next big idea. [by WM]

*In Europe, you could try Migros but we suffered from incompatible Browser issues so couldn't enter their online shop.

Fast growing Balsa forest

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