Whats the one GREAT thing a Jousting Tournament MUST HAVE?
Well, apart from horses, costumes, Knights, armour, and joust a plaisance (old jousting term for ‘friendly tournament’)… one of the greatest things a tournament must have is a lance!
After all, what’s more spectacular than seeing a wooden pole obliterated into a hundred pieces at high speed?
Pieces of balsa wood flying off in all directions in a cloud of timber splinters not only looks really cool, but lets the onlookers in the berfrois (old jousting term for ‘stands for the posh’) know who has made the strike – unless someone gets unhorsed.
And the great thing about using balsa wood for lance tips? It’s soft, explodes on impact and even breaks down to melt away into the soil in just a matter of days.
Historically, ash and oak were the jousting timbers of choice for Knights, but a hollowed out soft wood like pine was also used in tournaments to lessen the blow. And although European knights are usually credited with the use of lances, their use was widespread throughout Asia, the Middle East and North Africa whenever suitable mounts were available for use.
Balsa wood is a recently popularised wood compared to older European timbers, coming to prominence in World War II when it was used as part of the construction of aeroplanes like the de Havilland Mosquito (pictured right).
In 1947, Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl set off on a raft made of this particular wood to cross the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian Islands. The raft was named after the Inca Sun God, Viracocha, for whom “Kon-Tiki” was said to be an old name (pictured left).
Today, balsa wood products are available online from Balsacentral.com in Adelaide. In fact they even sell Jousting sticks to Europe! The balsa trees are grown in tropical plantations using old cocoa bean and coffee lands where crops have failed. As a completely sustainable crop, balsa is widely used by the education, theatre, craft, art and modelling communities in all its various shapes and forms. But the best thing about balsa wood is… it makes the best lance tips for jousting tournaments!