About Koa Wood
Koa is one of the rarest hardwoods in the world...
Koa is the largest endemic tree in Hawai'I-the species exists naturally nowhere else in the world. It is the fastest growing of Hawaii's valuable hardwoods. It can grow as much as an inch in diameter per year, reaching 100 feet in height, attaining a trunk diameter of 5 feet or more. It was historically the material of choice for carved ocean-going canoes. Koa wood is the most prized cabinet and furniture wood in Hawai'i. Colors range from light brown to deep red/brown hues. Highly figured koa is sought after for use in fine furniture, musical instruments, crafts, gunstocks, and knife handles. Koa has weight and strength properties similar to black walnut. It is a moderately heavy wood (specific gravity .55). It is stable, works well, and takes an exceptionally rich, deeply reflective glow when finished with oils and modern varnish or laquer.
Is Koa and Acacia the same?
Simply.. NO... Koa Wood is in the "family" of trees called "Acacia Trees". So all Koa are Acacia. However, Koa is ONLY found in Hawaii, and ONLY if a tree was grown in Hawaii can it be called Koa. If you find a seller saying that an item is made of "Acacia Koa", most often it is not wood actually grown in Hawaii.
Often the term Koa Acacia or Accacia Koa is used when referring to wood that is Acacia and that is "like" Koa. There are many varieties of Acacia grown in the world, predominantly in Asia .
Koa is the best known of the endemic Hawaiian woods. It is recognized world wide for it's remarkable variety of grain figure which ranges from plain, to curly, to deep fiddleback. The color can go from reds to chocolate browns, with the sap wood sometimes even a bleached white. The grain is fine and the texture medium coarse, but it is the figuring that sets Koa into a class of it's own.
Chatoyancy is a property that is usually attributed to certain gems, the cats eye effect or shimmer which gives a senseof depth in the gem. This property can also be used to describe some of the more dramatic pieces of curly, tigerstripe and fiddleback Koa. This figuring gives the wood a three dimensional quality; and depending on from what angle one views the wood, it can take on several completely different characters.
In pre-western contact times Koa was used to build canoes, spears and paddles. The canoes were carved out of a single tree, which was carefully chosen, spiritually and physically for the purpose. Today Koa is valued for furniture, guitars, boxes, paneling and bowl turning. It is interesting to note that Hawaiians of earlier times did not use it for bowls or platters because of an unpleasant flavor associated with the wood.
The trees grow successfully from 1500' to about 6000' in elevation and are very sensitive to grazing animals. Koa leaves change totally in appearance from seedling to older growth. They start out as lacy, divided leaves and then fuse into a single sickle shaped leaf. Koa is currently on the endangered species register due to concerns about the habitat it provides for endangered native Hawaiian wildlife.
All the Koa Wood we use comes from standing deadfalls and much of what we currently use is from our personal stock that was harvested about 25 yeras ago. All our pieces designed to make maximum use of the wood, with minimal waste.