Tamalpais Balsa Stripper

Nestled in the hills of Marin County is the Tamalpais Balsa Stripper, something most people have never seen or heard. If you aren’t a model builder you might think I'm talking about rare wildlife indigenous to Mount Tamalpais, possibly an endangered or threatened species like Marin’s native Coho Salmon or Marbled Murrelet. But this ain’t about critters.

Mt. Tamalpais

Tamalpais Balsa Stripper is a name that I just made up, and I'm referring to the small table saw George Benson uses for cutting sheets of balsa wood. He acquired the saw in 1991 from a modeler in Oakland who needed to clean out his garage. To insure straight and accurate cuts, George added a long aluminum fence that can be adjusted precisely by a large screw.

Using this tool effectively takes practise, as I learned after my first try. Thicker wood is easier to cut (I found 1/16 much harder to handle than 1/8) and there is a trick to feeding the sheets. George has mastered the technique and fortunately he has a shop vac to take care of saw dust. This method won’t replace more common types of balsa strippers, or the good old straight edge and knife, but it is a good way to make very square strips.

Dave W.

No comments: