Model Balsa Wood

The Story of Balsa: Ecuador

The balsa tree calls the Northwestern Amazon Forest of South America, spanning between latitude 0o and 5o north and south, home. The balsa trees’ widespread, rapid, and sustainable growth in the region has led to it becoming one of the world’s most in-demand materials.

Most of the world’s supply comes from Ecuador and the neighboring regions.

Its lightweight and rigid properties make it ideal for a variety of uses in the marine, road and rail, wind energy, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries.

The balsa plantations sustain its supply of balsa wood by only harvesting mature trees, five to six years old, and replanting a greater number of seeds than trees harvested. Oftentimes, the workers and the landowners will collaborate to ensure enough seeds are spread to drive sustainability.  

The wood is transported first by boat on the Amazon Tributary and trucked 800km over the Andes Mountains to drying kilns. The balsa is cut, shaped, and kiln-dried near the plantations, reaching temperatures of 70o which eliminates the phytosanitary risk, ensuring the quality isn’t affected by insects, fungus, and other pest risks. The kilns dry the balsa to about 8% moisture content. After the wood is dried, they smooth over the surfaces and check visually for any defects.

Using precision lasers on electronic density control machines, they determine and verify the density of the balsa with a tolerance of less than 4%. Typical balsa wood density ranges between 4 and 20 lb/ft3.

After the wood is processed at the factory, it is packaged and sent to Port Guayaquil to its final destination via container ship, train, and truck.