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Balsa crank problems

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I bought a ton of balsa and I'm not seeing what all the old school guys like about it. 

I had a bill brake out on the 1st outing and all the wood between the bill and the line tie went with it.

It's also easier to ruin a bait then it is make one look good. I'e put down the razor and carving knife all together and use sand paper to do all my shaping once the blanks are cut.

I also noticed the hooks are poking through the e-tex top coat and into the wood

I'm sealing with fast drying polyurethane and epoxying in all my hardware.

 

I let the last batch soak in the polyurethane longer on my latest batch hoping this hardens the wood more and helps the lips breaking out and hook points penetrating the top coat20180405_191249.thumb.jpg.cce9e65f37137a8166ba2d0fd76a10a7.jpg

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I am not the oldest of the "old school" but old enough.

Balsa was/is light, and because of it is can be made super reactive (action wise).  That was, and is, the biggest reason people like it.  Even today Rapala is a big user of it, and the Flatfish made in the old time was far more effective than the plastic ones of today, at least in my opinion.

But, you have rediscovered one of its problems.  It is weak.  It is also grainy, meaning it is often easier to sand then use knives, etc.  

Based on your picture, your lip was not embedded nearly deep enough for that kind of application.  I can only tell you that you are not the first to make that mistake, and you won't be the last either.

Balsa often requires through wire harnesses inside, so it can require splitting the bait and then gluing it back together.

For a long time balsa guys would harden the unpainted bait with propionate (i think that is what it was called), but I read that many now use thing superglue.  I have tried superglue and it works without making the bait heavy (soaking it with other things can make it heavy): I sand it a little after it is dried/cured.  I personally believe you get stronger baits with the superglue then with the 

1 hour ago, BigBaitB said:

fast drying polyurethane

You are doing very well using 

1 hour ago, BigBaitB said:

epoxying in all my hardware.

 

One other thing, the etex.  I would be interested in knowing how long you waited to fish it.  Normally after a few days it is hard enough that the hooks won't easily penetrate.  It is softer the first few hours, even a day or two, but .......  If it is not getting harder, then it can be that you are not mixing equal amounts.  Check it out and let us know.

Practice, practice, and with each lure you will learn more.  Soon you will rediscover why balsa was, and to many is, a great lure making material.

And if you have questions, just come back and ask.  Now that I have opened the door with this, I am sure you will get far more results.  We have lots and lots of different opinions and ideas, so let the flood gates open.

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Hughsey brings out a great point. Balsa varies greatly in density. Other light woods (hence highly reactive as Anglin mentioned) are Pawlonia wood, and Bass wood. They are slightly more dense, but you will still have to add weight. They also are more consistent in density and grain than balsa. I have a basswood tree in my front yard. A little judicious pruning gives me a lot of lure material. 

Another way of thru wiring a wood bait is to cut a slot lengthwise through the bottom center of your block while it is still in the square. You can do that on a table saw using a ripping fence. Get it close to the center of the blank. If it comes out a little off center, turn the blank around and do another pass. 

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4 hours ago, Anglinarcher said:

I am not the oldest of the "old school" but old enough.

Balsa was/is light, and because of it is can be made super reactive (action wise).  That was, and is, the biggest reason people like it.  Even today Rapala is a big user of it, and the Flatfish made in the old time was far more effective than the plastic ones of today, at least in my opinion.

But, you have rediscovered one of its problems.  It is weak.  It is also grainy, meaning it is often easier to sand then use knives, etc.  

Based on your picture, your lip was not embedded nearly deep enough for that kind of application.  I can only tell you that you are not the first to make that mistake, and you won't be the last either.

Balsa often requires through wire harnesses inside, so it can require splitting the bait and then gluing it back together.

For a long time balsa guys would harden the unpainted bait with propionate (i think that is what it was called), but I read that many now use thing superglue.  I have tried superglue and it works without making the bait heavy (soaking it with other things can make it heavy): I sand it a little after it is dried/cured.  I personally believe you get stronger baits with the superglue then with the 

You are doing very well using 

 

One other thing, the etex.  I would be interested in knowing how long you waited to fish it.  Normally after a few days it is hard enough that the hooks won't easily penetrate.  It is softer the first few hours, even a day or two, but .......  If it is not getting harder, then it can be that you are not mixing equal amounts.  Check it out and let us know.

Practice, practice, and with each lure you will learn more.  Soon you will rediscover why balsa was, and to many is, a great lure making material.

And if you have questions, just come back and ask.  Now that I have opened the door with this, I am sure you will get far more results.  We have lots and lots of different opinions and ideas, so let the flood gates open.

It was almost 2 weeks since the bait had been finished. There was no tackiness, I' extremely careful with mixing it. As careful as I can be at least

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Balsa varies from 6 to 18 lbs/cu ft in density.  Most builders prefer balsa in the top half of that density scale.  The first batch I ever bought was “competition balsa” and I thought that must mean “the good stuff”.  It was - for making model aircraft as light as possible with very low density wood.  It made baits that were supremely active and quick floating.  The fish liked it.  Slapped it on the water to clear weeds off the bait and the head and the lip snapped right off.  This was with a lip set deeper in the bait and undercoated and topcoated with thicker epoxy (Devcon Two Ton) than your bait.

There’s really no equal for balsa in my book for shallow running square bills.  But they do require extra reinforcement if you want them to last a long time under normal fishing abuse.  Or you can build them “regular” and accept losing them faster than other baits.  Fortunately, you can always build more.  I switched to medium density 12 lb balsa.  They last longer.  But I can’t bring myself to use heavy balsa and give up that performance edge.

I use longer hook hangers and line ties epoxied into the bait, not thru-wiring.  Works for me and is a lot less trouble.  I concede that thru-wiring is even more durable, especially if you split the bait and epoxy in a wire frame.  But I have never had a bass break a bait, which is the main reason for thru-wiring.  If one does, I’ll just salute and tie a new bait on.

Edited by BobP

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1 hour ago, BobP said:

Balsa varies from 6 to 18 lbs/cu ft in density.  Most builders prefer balsa in the top half of that density scale.  The first batch I ever bought was “competition balsa” and I thought that must mean “the good stuff”.  It was - for making model aircraft as light as possible with very low density wood.  It made baits that were supremely active and quick floating.  The fish liked it.  Slapped it on the water to clear weeds off the bait and the head and the lip snapped right off.  This was with a lip set deeper in the bait and undercoated and topcoated with thicker epoxy (Devcon Two Ton) than your bait.

There’s really no equal for balsa in my book for shallow running square bills.  But they do require extra reinforcement if you want them to last a long time under normal fishing abuse.  Or you can build them “regular” and accept losing them faster than other baits.  Fortunately, you can always build more.  I switched to medium density 12 lb balsa.  They last longer.  But I can’t bring myself to use heavy balsa and give up that performance edge.

I use longer hook hangers and line ties epoxied into the bait, not thru-wiring.  Works for me and is a lot less trouble.  I concede that thru-wiring is even more durable, especially if you split the bait and epoxy in a wire frame.  But I have never had a bass break a bait, which is the main reason for thru-wiring.  If one does, I’ll just salute and tie a new bait on.

 

Is there a way to tell exactly what density it is? I'e used the stuff they sell for model airplanes, but what I'm using now came from a local woodworking store, I didn' see anything about what the density was on the sticker tho

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Balsa is a really thermally stable hard wood, but it is soft, so I would use a hard epoxy (glue epoxy) like D2T, or a UV cured resin,   to protect it.

I seal with runny super glue, paint, and then clear coat with UV cured resin.

Edited by mark poulson

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BobP is right and you should set the lip deeper to where almost near the eyes. Deeper lip slot will make the lip stronger with super glue like Devcon 2 ton.

You can do this if you make a V letter cut on the upper part of the lip to avoid the front eye heaton.

I also use the lightest (softest) balsawood, Devcon 2ton, and twisted wire eyes and my lure never broken when I fished the big Barramundi. 

 

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Most balsa sold in stores is intended for model building and and “you get what you get” in density.  The only way I know to get graded density wood is to order it online from a balsa shop.  Some of them sell balsa divided into three categories:  light, medium, and heavy.  They charge a little extra for graded density wood but I think it’s worth it.  I buy about $50 worth every 5-7 years and Google online shops to find who’s selling at what prices and density.  Maybe somebody who has recently bought online can recommend a specific shop.

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12 hours ago, BigBaitB said:

Is there a way to tell exactly what density it is?

Yes, but you can't really do it without taking a sample home.

Hover over ACTIVITY at the top right of this screen.  Once the drop down menu comes up go down to the search feature.  Type in Archimedes Dunk Test.  Or you can go to the one below.

http://www.tackleunderground.com/community/topic/22200-archimedes-dunk-test/?tab=comments#comment-165612

I first did this test to determine density of materials in a science class in the 70's, but it seems that they forget to teach it today.  LOL  Vodkaman did a great jog bringing it back for us.

 

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Ok, I’m surely no Mr. Science, and I can see how the dunk test can give you the required weight of a bait to make it suspend in water, but density?  It seems to me that  a dunk test with a solid lead lure would give you the same results as the same bait made from balsa.  If I’ve got my head stuck where the sun don’t shine, just tell me and don’t try to explain ‘cause I’m probably too dense to understand. 

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Density is mass divided by volume or grams per cubic centimeter.

If you take a piece of balsa and screw in a screw eye, you can then do the following:

Get a container that is big enough to hold the sample , enough water to submerge it, and a gram scale big enough to weigh it all.

Because water weighs 1 gram per cc, if you submerge the sample just to the screw eye, you are displacing the amount of water that is equal to the volume of the item.  You are also placing exactly one gram of weight on the scale per each cubic centimeter of volume displaced.

When you weigh the container, water, you then record it.  Then weigh the container, water, the sample submerged to the screw eye, record.  Subtract the 1st from the 2nd and you have the volume of the sample.

Now, remove the screw eye from the sample and let it dry.

Weigh the sample, divide the weight of the sample by the volume of the sample and you have the density of the sample.

It is really easier they it sounds, and I see I need to video this stuff and start a YouTube channel again.  If it does not make sense, let me know and I will try to do a quick video of it and create a link.

Two samples of different materials, of the exact same size, will give the exact same volume as expected.  But the weights of the samples will differ.  The volumes divided by the weights will work every time.

2 hours ago, BobP said:

 If I’ve got my head stuck where the sun don’t shine, just tell me and don’t try to explain ‘cause I’m probably too dense to understand. 

I respect you way way way too much to every tell you that.  LOL  Not on my wildest day would I do that!

Edited by Anglinarcher
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Hey thanks!  You explained it clearly enough that I actually THINK I understand.

(pause while my wife wipes the dribble off my chin)

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Or if you buy balsa in blocks you can simply measure the volume of the block and divide it by the weight of the block. Balsa is usually sold in full dimension blocks. Most hardware stores have a scale or you can bring a postal scale. 

You can also order it in certain densities. 

If you use a thru wire, set in a slot in the bottom of the lure, you can slide the lead around in the slot. Once you epoxy it in and backfill with epoxy - saw dust (or micro-balloons) - you strengthen the core as well as the skin of the balsa. It will never snap in half. But that may just be me. I'm so tight I have to lubricate to pass gas.

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Actually I reversed that. It is weight divided by the volume. So if a small piece of lead has the same weight as a large piece of balsa, the lead is higher in density. 

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If you want to harden the balsa use runny superglue it will give the bait a hard outer shell.   Cut the lip slot deeper and maybe just a tad lower on the chin of that bait in the pic.   I would also twist screw eyes from 20ga ss wire, less chance of cracking the wood.

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Balsa is weaker than any other wood used for crankbaits.  Anything done to create a tough shell makes it somewhat more durable.  A thick glue epoxy like Devcon Two Ton or a uv cured polyester like Alumi-UV are the best ways I know to create a tough shell.  But the physics involved when you crash a bait on the water to clear weeds off the trebles will eventually destroy any balsa bait I’ve ever used.  The lip acts as a lever to pry the balsa apart, causing water infiltration that ruins the bait or exerting enough force to break off the lip and the upper half of the bait’s head.  Rapala  tries to avoid this with a stiff thru-wire harness and by encasing the bait in a custom thermoplastic jacket.  On some of their baits, it looks like there really isn’t much balsa content left after these reinforcements.  So little that I wonder if the bait wouldn’t be better if the voids were filled with air instead of balsa, like a regular plastic bait.  Probably a marketing thing or something.  Regardless, they make pretty good crankbaits.

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How about putting a shock absorber in the lip slot like this?  I used small two plates of gum. A little bit ugly but seems to be durable.

 

77E5506F-1552-4526-978F-95B990409328.jpeg

4E47B277-929B-45CD-817F-9F0DD8350B05.jpeg

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23 minutes ago, Hiro said:

How about putting a shock absorber in the lip slot like this?  I used small two plates of gum. A little bit ugly but seems to be durable.

 

77E5506F-1552-4526-978F-95B990409328.jpeg

4E47B277-929B-45CD-817F-9F0DD8350B05.jpeg

I'e never heard of gum plates, is it just rubbler?

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Hiro, that’s a great novel solution.  I try to handle them so they’ll last a little longer.  Fish don’t destroy balsa lures, fishermen do.

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