What is Koa Wood?

What is Koa Wood?

koa wood

Koa is a high-quality wood often used for making instruments. Koa wood is rare and sought after by many ukulele makers. What makes this wood so unique?

Location, Location, Location

Believe it or not, the Koa tree only grows on the larger islands of Hawaii. Koa trees actually grow in soil from Hawaiian lava! This wood protected, and the only legal way to harvest it is from fallen, dead trees. The state of Hawaii protects these trees, and prohibits them from being harvested by traditional plantation methods. As a result, the wood is rare to come by, as it is authentically found from the fallen trees.

Because the Koa trees grow in volcanic soil, the wood has a mineral property to it. This can make it difficult to work with, and the instrument makers must have just the right tools to be successful!

koa wood

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/280208408037781493/

A Range of Color

Koa wood is considered exceptionally beautiful. As you can see in the photos below, the wood’s color varies and flows from one shade to another, not unlike a Hawaiian rainbow! Can you see the hints of purple and orange? How about the bright golden yellow or red? Just imagine how many vibrant colors you would see watching the sun hit this wood in real time.

Interestingly, Koa trees that grow at higher elevations are more likely to present with the darker red and purple colors. Those that grow at lower elevations are more likely to be lighter blonde wood or gold.

koa ukulele

Image from: https://www.kauaimusicandsound.com/single-post/2018/07/18/Everything-you-want-to-know-about-Koa-Wood

A Sound as Unique as the Wood

Some players say that the sound of a Koa wood instrument changes over time. The more the ukulele is played, the fuller the sound becomes. Koa wood comes in many textures, perhaps contributing to its one-of-a-kind sound. Some Koa wood is described as “plain”, “curly” or most popular, “figured”.

koa ukulele

Image from: https://www.kauaimusicandsound.com/single-post/2018/07/18/Everything-you-want-to-know-about-Koa-Wood

The elevation and height of the Koa trees actually determines the texture of the wood. The higher the tree the more “figured” the wood. Trees found at lower elevations offer a “plainer” texture”. While figured wood is in the highest demand, it is thought that only about 10% of Koa wood presents that style.

The Kono Koa Concert Ukulele

You may recognize the name “Kono Koa Concert Uke” from our shop. Uku Global is excited to offer an instrument made from this incredibly special wood! Our Kono Koa ukulele is ordained with an aqua shell binding and clean matte finish to ensure it shines. Head over to our shop now to check it out!


Information for this post was gathered from the following articles:         

Woodshop News

Kauai Music and Sound

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