Koa Wood

Posted by Stephanie Newman on
Koa Wood

Koa wood, a species of flowering tree, found on Hawaiʻi, Maui and Oʻahu, makes great accessories. Koa is a large tree, typically attaining a height of 15–25 m (49–82 ft) and a spread of 6–12 m (20–39 ft). In deep volcanic ash, a Koa tree can reach a height of 30 m (98 ft), a circumference of 6 m (20 ft), and a spread of 38 m (125 ft). It is one of the fastest-growing Hawaiian trees, capable of reaching 6–9 m (20–30 ft) in five years on a good site. Koa is part of the Acacia family of trees and is recognized as one of the finest textured woods in the world.

 It's name in the Hawaiian language means brave, bold, fearless, or warrior, thus making a great type of wood for a bold and fearless person! The Koa's trunk was used by  ancient Hawaiians to build waʻa (dugout outrigger canoes) and papa heʻe nalu (surfboards). After a while, Koa has been made into various items, such as guitars and sunglasses, and wristwatches.

For woodworkers and wood dealers, Koa is often considered second to none because of its spectacular appearance. Curly Koa is also unmatched in price, with highly figured material for guitar sets priced as high as $150/bf. Koa lumber with a premium curl can strain your wallet for $60 to $120/bf depending on the intensity of the figure and the reputation of the exotic wood dealer who is selling it.

Koa’s high price results from several factors. First, it is endemic to Hawaii; it doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world. Secondly, the only Koa that can be harvested are the dead or decaying trees on public lands. Plantation Koa is in its early stages of development and isn’t much of a factor at this time. And cutting live Koa trees on private lands is looked upon as a sin. Illegal cutting occurs sporadically, but anyone found buying or dealing with the “koa black market” faces serious legal issues if they are caught.

But make no mistake about it: koa is magnificent.


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