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Thread: Koa grades

  1. #1
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    Default Koa grades

    Is there a guide or standard of some sort that tells you what grade a particular piece of koa is? We hear about AAAA, master grade, etc, but is there actually a standard that define these grades?
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  2. #2
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    Generally, koa grades are based on the amount of curl. Unfortunately, there's absolutely no standardization on grading it. The two easiest to define are A grade, which usually isn't quartersawn and has very little curl, and master grade, the type that makes you perform a bowel movement just by looking at it. If the person thinks the curl is sorta between AA and AAA grade koa, they'll choose one based on other factors like colour and striping. It can get pretty subjective.


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  3. #3
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    As SSB mentioned, really subjective and what one builder/company may think is AA maybe to another. I bet the luthiers can help on this one.
    General Guidelines
    • A. Little or no curl; off-quarter cuts allowed
    • AA. Medium curl, generally quartersawn
    • AAA. Full curl, generally quartersawn
    • MASTER. Premium full curl, quartersawn

    Nana ka maka; ho`olohe ka pepeiao;
    pa`a ka waha.

    Observe with the eyes; listen with the ears; shut the mouth.
    Thus one learns.


  4. #4
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    Default

    You're forgetting about select grade, one grade lower than A. A lot of less expensive ukes, furniture and veneer are made of select. Some of my sawyers are offering AAAAA grade koa now, probably to justify the outrageous increase in koa prices. 5A is the same as the old 4A. It was less confusing not long ago when the grading was S=select, C=curly, FC=full curl, and PFC=premium full curl. Also the designation "Instrument Grade" which doesn't have anything to do with curl but rather denotes that the board is quarter sawn and that the grain is rather parallel and defect free. Then there is green koa with a high moisture content, air dried, which many luthiers prefer over kiln dried, in which the wood cells have collapsed during the forced drying process.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  5. #5
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    I asked this question because I'm curious as to what's the actual grade of koa on some of my ukes as well as wanting to know how koa is classified in general. For instance, in the picture below, I'm guessing the one on the right might be classified as 5A, but I have absolutely no idea what the one on the left would be. 2A maybe?



    How about these:

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  6. #6
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    I've just sent out a 'mastergrade' kit. It just falls into what I would call this category which is much more tha just figure...

  7. #7
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    Somewhere along the line, the spruce/evergreen grading scale got adopted, as a marketing effect. Like Chuck pointed out, koa was once sold under 1&2 common, select and better, and curly, full curl, then premium curl.

    1&2 common was basically the rubbish of the pile. Full of knots, crappy grain, and other defects all around. If you were lucky, you might find a couple of useable boards, but it was koa, that's about it.

    Select and better was generally knot free - You might score a semi curly board in the mix.

    Curly was a separate category, simply becase it had curl. A board could actually be a #1 common and if it was curly, it would be sold as so. The curly grades were as before mentioned.

    In shop, I use the older grading scale and I also keep a pile of wood that is unique, but not always curly. One of the joys of working with koa is the diversity of colors and grain patterns that naturally occur. Most people judge a piece of koa by it's curl, but there's much more to it than that.

  8. #8
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    Default koa grade levels...

    Aloha Paul,

    I certainly agree. The variation in colors, grain, and character of the wood alone are wonderfully complex and beautiful each in its own rite.

    ...that's what I absolutely love about using koa wood on ukes. Each uke has a sense of 'personality' unique from the rest.

    Mahalo,
    Shawn

    ukulelefriend.com

  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by koalohapaul View Post
    Somewhere along the line, the spruce/evergreen grading scale got adopted, as a marketing effect. Like Chuck pointed out, koa was once sold under 1&2 common, select and better, and curly, full curl, then premium curl.

    1&2 common was basically the rubbish of the pile. Full of knots, crappy grain, and other defects all around. If you were lucky, you might find a couple of useable boards, but it was koa, that's about it.

    Select and better was generally knot free - You might score a semi curly board in the mix.

    Curly was a separate category, simply becase it had curl. A board could actually be a #1 common and if it was curly, it would be sold as so. The curly grades were as before mentioned.

    In shop, I use the older grading scale and I also keep a pile of wood that is unique, but not always curly. One of the joys of working with koa is the diversity of colors and grain patterns that naturally occur. Most people judge a piece of koa by it's curl, but there's much more to it than that.
    That makes a bit more sense to me, I ordered a uke with 4A and it was billed on the invoice as premium curl. I saw a video of Fred Kamaka (Jnr I think, I can't remember but it was Fred Kamaka) who referred to 4A as the best you can get which confused me because I thought 5A was the best, so he must have been talking about the old 4A.

    I think koa is beautiful and an amazing wood. Nature is very impressive. Even if we do rip it up to make instruments and the like.

  10. #10
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    Wood was put there for 2 reasons - one was so that it would provide beauty, food and shade in its lifetime as well as helping to oxygenate the planet. However, when a tree reaches it's prime it should be cut down because then it has its second use - to be brought to life in furniture, buildings and musical instruments. I'm not a tree hugger - I think they are misguided because some trees well past their life with rotten cores on unstable soil constitute a real threat and danger in a storm.

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