Flamed Hawaiian Koa top, back & sides to build a tenor ukulele
- 4 x Back/top halves or 2 x one piece tops/backs to make minimum 310mm x 240mm x 2.5mm
- 2 x Sides minimum 480mm x 70mm x 2.5mm
Koa is traditionally the first choice for the tops, backs & sides of ukuleles. It is a rare timber from the Acacia family which only grows in the Hawaiian Islands. Koa is considered very special by the Hawaiian people who traditionally used the timber for items such as canoes, surfboards, weapons and ornaments.
This beautiful timber also has a long history in instrument making and has been used for guitars and ukuleles for a century. It is valued for its rich beauty, workability and tonal properties.
Quality – Figured Koa is very rare and only represents a small percentage of the yield from a tree. Furthermore the timber used in stringed instruments must be quartersawn and free from knots or other blemishes, this reduces the amount of instrument grade Koa yielded even further. Despite this we have an extensive range of high-quality sets for Acoustic and Weissenborn guitars and Ukuleles with figure ranging from nice through to exceptional.
Look - Koa is an incredibly beautiful timber which produces a deep lustre, it varies in colour from dark brown to red to honey blond, sometimes all on the same board. The most striking Koa features a figure caused by stresses the tree experiences when growing. This figuring is only present in a small percentage of the timber harvested and is in most cases found only in the lower part of the tree where stresses have had an effect. The figure occurs in various forms described as curl, fiddle-back, tiger-stripe, quilt, blistering and ribbon. Several types of figure can occur on one board resulting in an exceptionally striking look.
Sound - Traditionally Koa has been used for the entire body including the top resulting in a very bright sound. Recently luthiers have been using Koa for the back and side timber combined with a top made of spruce or cedar. A guitar with Koa back and sides will have a bright, clear sound much like a Mahogany with pleasing sparkly overtone. Using a European spruce soundboard will result in a warmer tone while a Sitka top will enhance this brightness.
Price – Koa is considered a premium tonewood and the price reflects this. Grading is mainly based on the amount of figure and colour in a set. It’s interesting to note that during the 1990s Australian Blackwood was considered a less expensive substitute for Koa, but with a stronger demand Blackwood has now become as hard to find and similarly priced to Koa.
Availability/Renewability - Fortunately the magnificent Koa trees on the Hawaiian Islands are now under protection. Only wind fallen trees are allowed to be used for milling today which means the timber is environmentally sound. These restrictions also mean that supplies are very limited and sporadic.