Acacia Koa | Tonewood Profile | “Koa”
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Koa is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands attaining heights of 30 metres and 6 metres in diameter. It is found thriving in forest zones of 100–2,300 metres on all 6 major Hawaiian Islands. As a nitrogen fixing species, it is able to thrive in very young volcanic soils.
koa was used by ancient Hawaiians for a variety of uses from to build dugout canoes to surfboards. During the Hawaiian music craze of the 20’s it’s similarity in strength and weight to that of black walnut led it to be extensively logged for use in wood carving and furniture. Today only 10% of the original Koa forests survive but due to conservation efforts and it’s hardy nature, Koa is not endangered.
The wood is fine-grained can display a number of figure: plain, straight, banded, fiddleback and in one instance quilted. Heartwood can vary from a rich crimson-brown to golden yellow and can vary greatly from log to log. The janka of Koa is around 12250 and it has a specific gravity of 0.55.
As a tonewood…
Koa guitars can vary tonally, in accordance with density and weight. They are most often described as a warm sounding Mahogany to a brighter sounding Rosewood. A lower density koa guitar tends to produce a more mahogany tone, whereas denser sets tend towards the rosewood spectrum.
I would broadly characterise the tone of Koa as being similar to Australian Blackwood, with a woody, open tone somewhere between mahogany and rosewood
As a managed species, Koa stocks are still available and tonewood stocks look limited by healthy. Alternatives exist, namely close cousins Australian and Vanuatu Blackwood. Read more about Australian Blackwood here.
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Claxton Emc and Shimo Kamaela Koa guitar courtesy of goodacoustics.com
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