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View Full Version : Koa Reality Check



Rick Turner
10-29-2014, 08:00 AM
Just to let you all know what we luthiers are up against with koa prices:

http://tonewood.com/guitar-wood/acoustic-guitar-tonewood-sets/koa-acoustic-back-and-side-sets.html?utm_source=20141028_Koa-Walnut-Myrtle-Maple&utm_campaign=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email

OK, that's mostly guitar sets, but I hope you get the general idea...

We pay more for great looking wood than many of you want to pay for a completed instrument.

Doc_J
10-29-2014, 08:08 AM
Yes, koa is getting more expensive. Even the ukulele koa sets are a considerable part of the instrument price.
http://ukuleletonewood.com/ukulele-sets/ukulele-back-side-sets/koa-back-side-sets.html?utm_source=20141028_Koa-Walnut-Myrtle-Maple&utm_campaign=eNewsletter&utm_medium=email

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-29-2014, 08:15 AM
A 5A uke set will set you back $300 or more here. IF you can find it!

Dan Uke
10-29-2014, 08:32 AM
A 5A uke set will set you back $300 or more here. IF you can find it!

And your definition could be higher than most wood suppliers...A 5A uke set from a supplier might be 3A or might not even meet your standards.

Garydavkra
10-29-2014, 08:50 AM
I've been reading lately that some luthiers and manufactures are considering lesser know, less expensive or nontraditional woods. Are any of you doing that?

Rick Turner
10-29-2014, 09:00 AM
That's for raw wood; then you have to glue it up, surface it, bend sides (without cracking them...), and build a uke. Note that Chuck is in koa paradise where it's still very expensive, and luthiers have to mark up their cost of materials by at least double to cover having to have it in inventory, the cost of tracking the wood down, the cost of the sets that don't make it, etc. And, yes, even the best luthiers crack a set of sides in the bending process every now and then. If they don't apply a decent markup to materials, they're not going to stay in business for very long.

There are always beginning guitar and uke builders who will start off thinking that they can get a toe-hold in the business by underpricing their more experienced "competition". We've seen them come and go, even around here. Once you've managed to make it past about five or six years as a full time builder, you'll have had to settle into reality. There may be minor differences in equivalent features and work, but I think that any of us who have stuck with it all wind up with reasonably similar costs and prices, the exception maybe being guitar makers like Jim Olson or Jeff Traugott who are selling their names as well as great instruments.

Anyway, koa = expensive. I call it "the new Brazilian rosewood". Too bad about all the cattle and pigs on the Islands...they're ruining it for us.

IamNoMan
10-29-2014, 09:45 AM
That's for raw wood; then you have to glue it up, surface it, bend sides (without cracking them...), and build a uke. Note that Chuck is in koa paradise where it's still very expensive, and luthiers have to mark up their cost of materials by at least double to cover having to have it in inventory, the cost of tracking the wood down, the cost of the sets that don't make it, etc. And, yes, even the best luthiers crack a set of sides in the bending process every now and then. If they don't apply a decent markup to materials, they're not going to stay in business for very long. 1. What type of reject rates do you typically encounter? It would be better if it was all raw materials but as you say...
2. Do you use steamboxes for processing your sides and such-like?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-29-2014, 10:05 AM
That's for raw wood; then you have to glue it up, surface it, bend sides (without cracking them...), and build a uke. Note that Chuck is in koa paradise where it's still very expensive, and luthiers have to mark up their cost of materials by at least double to cover having to have it in inventory, the cost of tracking the wood down, the cost of the sets that don't make it, etc. And, yes, even the best luthiers crack a set of sides in the bending process every now and then. If they don't apply a decent markup to materials, they're not going to stay in business for very long.

There are always beginning guitar and uke builders who will start off thinking that they can get a toe-hold in the business by underpricing their more experienced "competition". We've seen them come and go, even around here. Once you've managed to make it past about five or six years as a full time builder, you'll have had to settle into reality. There may be minor differences in equivalent features and work, but I think that any of us who have stuck with it all wind up with reasonably similar costs and prices, the exception maybe being guitar makers like Jim Olson or Jeff Traugott who are selling their names as well as great instruments.

Anyway, koa = expensive. I call it "the new Brazilian rosewood". Too bad about all the cattle and pigs on the Islands...they're ruining it for us.

Ebony used to be the most expensive wood in my shop. It's not anymore! haha

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-29-2014, 10:12 AM
BTW, I've had a few Japanese builders over the years who wouldn't blink at paying $500 a set for nice koa. I've never sold them any but I will sell student sets. My former supplier has jacked his koa prices way up according to what the Japanese will pay. And he ships theme dozens of sets at a time. I've stopped doing business with him.

Rick Turner
10-29-2014, 10:21 AM
Curly wood, whether koa, maple, or myrtle, is really difficult to bend. I'd say we lose a set every twenty or so, and some of that has to do with employee training. Sometimes we can fix them using hot hide glue which basically disappears under any finish. Sometimes it's the scrap heap for our pals who heat with wood. Great kindling...

No steam boxes. We use water sprayed on the wood and spring stainless steel slat benders with silicone heating blankets...pretty much the standard for small lutherie shops these days.

ScooterD35
10-29-2014, 01:14 PM
Lucky for me, I'm a Mahogany fan...


Scooter

Kekani
10-29-2014, 02:28 PM
Lucky for me, I'm a Mahogany fan...


Scooter

You must have a good supply of it since it landed on CITES.