Koa – Acacia Koa. The most prized, revered woods of Hawaii, and now throughout the world. In Honolulu, beautiful architecture, carvings, and furniture made of Koa can be found as a legacy of Hawaii’s mass deforestation of the 1800’s. Even today, Koa is still the preferred wood, and in this case, for musical instruments. It should be noted that many other species of woods throughout the world closely resemble Koa, and now are being marketed and sold as Koa.
Most trees have a characteristic, predictable pattern, hardness, density, and flexibility. Not so with Koa. Almost every tree, and planks from each tree look different, being yellow, red, black, purple, green, and grain is either straight, curly, mottled, spalted, or quilted.
Koa has similar properties to that of Mahogany, though slightly heavier in weight and greater in density, but like Mahogany it produces warm and sweet bass and treble tones, and adequate volume. Weight of Koa wood is approximately 41lb/ft and the specific gravity is .55.
Although most Koa instruments have top woods also made of Koa, we also combine Koa sides and back with a softer top soundboard such Spruce or Cedar (or Redwood). On all of our Koa instruments we use the most beautiful cuts available, the higher the model, the more curly and quilted the grain.
Hawaiian Ash – Otherwise known as Tropical Ash or Shamel Ash (Fraxinus Uhdei) – a blonde hardwood growing throughout the Hawaiian Islands, however Hawaii Island (the Big Island) is the only island with a significant volume of saw timber at present. Both sapwood and heartwood are both blonde, with little difference in color.
Hawaiian Ash has a beautiful, fine textured grain with attractive figure similar to White Ash, but much lighter in weight and density. Weight is 32 lbs per cubic foot and specific gravity is .50 (similar to Swietenia Macrophylla (commonly known as Honduran Mahogany). Tone and volume are excellent. Our Hawaiian Tropical Ash has now become one of our most popular woods, both for beauty and for tone.
Kolohala – Cassia siamea, Commonly known as pheasant wood. This very rare, valuable, and stunningly beautiful wood produces shades of light to dark brown with fine black grain, which very much resembles the feathers of our local Hawaiian pheasant. Kolohala is a relatively heavy and dense wood. Weight is 50 lb/ft and density is .75 sg
Kula – (Tabebuia donnel-smithii). Kula means golden, and this wood has the most beautiful golden laced grain.Locally the tree is also called the Gold Tree, not because of the golden wood, but because, at certain times of the year the tree is full of beautiful yellow flowers. Elsewhere in the world, this species of tree is called Prima Vera. Tone and volume are excellent, with a perfect balance of bass and treble. Overall appearance of a completed instrument is a beautiful blonde color. Kula wood is approximately the same density of Koa, but slightly harder. We often combine this wood with Spruce for color uniformity. Weight of Kula wood is 28 lb/ft and density is .45 sg.
Milo – (Thespesia populnea) pronounced (me-low), a highly respected wood throughout Hawaiian history. Rich red and brown colors with a delicate lacey grain. To the ancient Hawaiians MILO and a wood called KOU (now replaced by KOA as the most common Hawaiian wood) were the most valuable and colorful woods used for furniture, canoes, paddles, and bowls. MILO has proved to be an excellent stringed instrument wood, producing deep resonant bass tones. Combines well with top woods such as Spruce, Cedar, and Sequoia Redwood. 39 lb/ft density and .55 specific gravity.
Acacia – (Acacia Preta, Acacia Melanoxylon) – a beautiful wood growing throughout Polynesia and Southeast Asia, but originally from South America. Sometimes called the “Rain Tree” or “Golden Rain Tree.” The term Rain Tree is derived from the fact that the leaves close or fold during rain or limited light, thus allowing moisture to reach the ground under its beautiful, umbrella like canopy.
Various Acacia species grow throughout the Hawaiian islands, the most notable being Acacia Koa. All have beautiful color and grain patterns. Acacia woods are now becoming popular in guitarmaking. Being in the same family as Hawaiian Acacia Koa, Acacia Preta is sometimes mistaken for Hawaiian Koa (and in fact, sometimes unscrupulously sold as Koa). The color and grain patterns of Acacia Preta, along with a similar density and weight has made it a popular alternative to the limited and endangered supply of Koa.
But what is important is that Acacia Preta is in abundant supply and not endangered with exploitation or deforestation. May be used for tops, back, and sides, or combined with Spruce, Cedar, or Redwood. Weight is 42 lb/ft and .56 specific gravity.