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Koa

Common Name(s): Koa, Hawaiian Koa


Although Koa is naturally quite abundant on the islands of Hawaii, most Koa forests have been cleared for grazing pastures; and since young Koa seedlings are edible for grazing animals, most new trees are prevented from growing to lumber-harvestable size. As a result, mature Koa trees are either scarce, or in hard-to-access mountainous locations, and the price of Koa is likely to only increase further in the future. Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is considered to be a more sustainable, and visually/mechanically similar substitute.

Thicknesses

Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Distribution

Hawaii

Scientific Name

Acacia Koa

Specific Gravity: Basic 

0.53

Specific Gravity: 12% MC

0.61

Janka Hardness

1,170 lbf (5,180 N)

Colour/Appearance

Colour can be highly variable, but tends to be medium golden or reddish brown, similar to Mahogany. There are usually contrasting bands of colour in the growth rings, and it is not uncommon to see boards with ribbon-like streaks of colour. Boards figured with wavy and/or curly grain are also not uncommon.

Grain/Texture

Grain is usually slightly interlocked, and sometimes wavy. Uniform medium to coarse texture.

Endgrain

Diffuse-porous; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement; few; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens, very faint, can be reddish color; parenchyma vasicentric.

Rot Resistance

Rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, Koa is also susceptible to termite attack.

Workability

In most circumstances, Koa is easy to work, and sands well. However, figured wood, or pieces with heavily interlocked grain can be difficult to plane or machine without tearing or chipping of the grain; also, Koa can occasionally give problems in gluing, though this is somewhat uncommon. Koa turns, stains, and finishes well.

Odor

No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity

Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Koa. However, several species of Acacia, including the closely related Australian Blackwood, have been reported to cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.

Pricing/Availability

With the tree endemic to Hawaii only, and with supplies dwindling, Koa is likely to be rather expensive. Also, boards of highly figured and/or curly Koa can command fantastic prices.

Sustainability

This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
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