Balsa w/Walnut inlay or stringer? Pro/con, how?

How’s that for word ecomomical question?

I have a 9-6 balsa blank. I want to split it twice and chamber it, which I think i can do. (Sways archives) But I also want to put two walnut or other dark wood stringers in it. The stringers will be mostly cosmetic. I can’t find 9-6 by 1/4 inch or 1/8 inch walnut or anything close that would be deep enough from deck to bottom. If I could, I would glue it all up after chambering and shape it from there.

Could I just inlay some dark wood in the deck? Maybe dado a slot and drop some walnut strips in and be done? I’m building a tail and nose block so the strips wouldn’t show on the nose and tail.

Would the strips be cheating? Is cheating OK if no one knows? if you can’t really tell? could I sleep at night? could I lie if someone asked? am I taking this just a little too seriously? and how does that make me feel?

Woodworkers out there? Advice? Maybe I just give you the blank and pretend this never happened? May I could go on with my life and be a healthy contributor to society. Maybe. Maybe I could finally get some sleep. So tired. So very tired.

Ok. All better. Never mind. Just tell me what to do. Now. Please. Now.

Hello Greg,

With a bit of looking, you should be able to find your stringers. I’ve been using veneer woods from a company here in France where I shape ( and if it exists here you have to be able to find it in the States. Normally I use mahogany, but other dark woods are often available in 1 to 4 mm thickness and you can request up to 10" widths to easily fit your rocker in. I usually go with 2mm for my 2 and 4 stringer balsas, it comes out looking great, subtle but still quite visible. I pre-cut my rocker in and then glue with high viscosity expansive PU- no worries at all.

One advantage of the veneer woods is that they are thin enough to be rolled and thus sent inexpensively in a small cardboard box.

Sorry I don’t have a US address to refer you to, all my wood shaping has been on this side of the Atlantic.


Greg, try this link

Jeffrey, thanks heaps for the info and encouragement. I had pretty much given up on the full stringer idea. But tell me more about veneers. A 2 mm veneer can be rolled in a box for shipping? That thickness would be subtle, but if dark enough would still show, as you say. I like it. Is a 4 mm too thick to roll? 10 inch wide would be perfect.I’m going to use the wood finder below to find a veneer supplier for the US. Thanks.

Art, thanks for the link. I found 7 places near enough to drive to. I’ll be calling them Monday. Cool site. many thanks

The 1 to 2mm veneers roll quite easily, after that it really depends on the wood. I don’t think that the 4 is going to roll though, regardless of the type.

Glad that you were able to find several sources within driving distance, that’ll take a lot of the guesswork out.

For the appearance of the 2mm, I’ll try and remember how to post pics and do that later today. I have a two-stringer balsa going for PierreB who posts here as well.

Happy wood hunting.

Great, thanks.

What if I took a bunch of 4X8X1/4, laid the split blank on its side and glued them side by side. Sort of a checkered effect? Something that size would be easy to find. I’d have to run the grain length-wise to avoid an end grain look on the deck. Could that work?

You can cobble together stringers any way you like…nothing is ‘fake’ when you’re gluing wood to wood…just ask GP Surfboards of Santa Cruz:

Aloha Greg,

Back in the 60s there were a lot of “inlaid” stringers. Greg Noll and others did a lot of figure 8s, etc. So nothing wrong with inlaying your stringers. If you decide to go solid wood though (my preference), it should be no problem at all to find mahogany, walnut, basswood, or most any hardwood in 10 ft. lengths x 6" or 8" or whatever width you will need for your full rocker end to end. Clear all heart redwood or cedar is also a good choice (softer, and easier to plane and work than “hardwoods”). If you buy 3/4" thick lumber (referred to as 4/4 at the hardwood dealers) you can rip 1/4" or 3/8" thick stringers on a bandsaw. Or you can buy 1 3/4" (8/4) lumber and rip any width stringers you like.

The advantage of ripping from the same board is that each stringer can abe laid into your board with the same grain configuration and color in each stringer running the same direction on your board which helps with the looks and the ease of shaping and planing your stringers. Trace the rocker profile from your sawn blank halves onto the lumber, then cut out the rockered shape with bandsaw or jig saw, then glue it up. If the sides of your balsa blank are squared just use pipe clamps. If it’s already shaped with your plan-shape, you can wrap tape, saran wrap, bicycle inner tube, rubber cut from pond liner material available at Home centers, or whatever you can clamp it up with. Use Elmers white glue for no line or Titebond (yellow glue). The new Titebond III glue will leave a darker line. Don’t mess with the gorrila glues or other similar polyurethane glues. They are messy, require moisture, and the other glues will be stronger than the wood anyway. Even though they have received a lot of attention in recent years, I just don’t like them and have had poor results the few times I have used them. Other furniture makers I know don’t like them either. Save the gorilla glues for cement, ceramics, rough jobs outside where water proofing is necessary.

Enjoy the ride!


You could just re-saw some 3/4" stock.

I would not call inlays “Cheating”, would you call inlaid abalone cheating? No, because it is cosmetic and not functional. There is a pretty big diffrence between a walnut vener table and an inlay…I think it would be pretty hard to do an inlay due to the rocker though.


Great. I’m all charged up again. I’m going to go full length stringer.

What is a reasonable thickness that can be acheived with a band saw? easy 1/4, maybe 1/8??

thanks guys.

Greg, You can easily get 1/4" thickness from a bandsaw. But I would recommend running it through a thickness planer before you do your glue-up. The bandsaw will naturally leave some roughness on the surface of the wood, which isn’t the best for glueing. Also, with a thickness planer you’ll get uniform thickness’s on each board, and you can thin the wood down to whatever you want:1/4", 1/8", or whatever you want, with clean surfaces. That will give you crisp lines when you do the glue-up which will translate into nice stringer color contrast. Doug

All set. Pic’s to follow of the whole bloody process.

Watch the walnut…some of it can be way to oily for stringer use,

Herb, thx, what’s dark and not oily? How about purple heart?