Balsa Wood and Dowelling
A member of the mallow family, Ochroma pyramidale is native to southern Mexico to southern Brazil, but can now be found in many other countries (Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Solomon Islands). It is a pioneer plant, which establishes itself in clearings in forests, either man-made or where trees have fallen, or in abandoned agricultural fields. It grows extremely rapidly, up to 27 m in 10–15 years. The speed of growth accounts for the lightness of the wood, which has a lower density than cork. Trees generally do not live beyond 30 to 40 years.
Balsa lumber is very soft and light, with a coarse, open grain.
Because it is low-density but high in strength, balsa is a very popular material for light, stiff structures in model bridge tests, model buildings, and for the construction of model aircraft.
Sticks of dried balsa are useful as makeshift pens for calligraphy when commercial metal nibs of the desired width are not available.