How to Build a Balsa Wood Tower to Withstand Added Weight

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Considering its weight, balsa wood is among the strongest materials on earth. One of the most entertaining challenges is building weight-bearing structures out of little more than balsa wood and wood glue. Making a balsa wood tower withstand added weight lies mostly in the preparation–although construction is also critical.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen and grid paper
  • 1/8-inch and 1/16-inch balsa wood
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Utility knife or scissors
  • Wood glue or white glue
  • Masking tape
  • Sketch your structure on graph paper. Decide on a scale; for example, one square represents 1/4 inch of the design. Draw a front and side view of the tower. Square bases are the simplest and most effective. Begin with the outlines, and then add internal support structures. Triangles are the strongest natural structures, so make the supports out of triangular shapes.

  • Draw a three-quarter view of the tower, using the side and front diagrams to imagine a three-dimensional perspective. Add more support structures inside the tower.

  • Begin imagining the force pushing down on the tower. Draw a large arrow pushing down on the structure to represent the weight. Add smaller arrows depicting how the force will be distributed. Imagine the various points at which the structure will be pushed or pulled depending on their location in the structure. If necessary, add extra supports.

  • Measure and cut out the pieces necessary to make your tower. Use the 1/8-inch balsa wood to make the main structure, and build supports out of 1/16-inch balsa wood. Make sure the cut ends are clean and smooth as gaps between the pieces of wood will weaken your structure.

  • Glue the wood together according to your diagram. Leave the structure to dry overnight before adding any additional weight over it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Not all tower designs will work perfectly the first time. If your design is crushed beneath the weight, analyze which parts of the tower failed first–and reinforce them on the second draft of your tower.

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