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Thread: Koa Virgin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2019
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    123

    Default Koa Virgin

    I just purchased some lovely Koa. This is my first experience with it. Turns out, Koa is much lighter than I thought!

    As I begin contemplating my first build with an unfamiliar wood, I wonder if anybody has any tips, warnings, cautions.

    Koa also seems softer than I thought, so I can see its utility as a soundboard, but what about back and sides, where stiffness seems more desirable. And yet I have played an all solid Koa uke and it was quite nice.

    Thank you for any pointers!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
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    I've found koa (Acacia koa) to be easy to work with. Bends politely, sands well, takes a finish nicely and glues well. My only negative observation is that it can "chip" along the grain line if you are not careful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Kekaha, Kauai
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    251

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    In my experience, koa can vary greatly in its physical properties and in its appearance. I occasionally get billets that are as heavy and dense as rosewood. Generally it is easy to work with, but as mentioned it does tend to be a bit brittle.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Big Island, Hawaii
    Posts
    5,226

    Default

    Koa is a wood that defies generalization. It can be light or heavy, stiff or floppy, soft or extremely dense. As far as appearance goes, some of the fancier kind might be better off as jewelry boxes while while the more boring koa may make excellent instruments. And the reverse is also true! Knowing how to work with each of these characteristics is always a challenge for the builder. When working with koa it’s important to know what you’re doing and not simply “build by the numbers”. Experience is your best teacher. Good luck.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Big Island, Hawaii
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    Seems like we posted at the same time Buzz! Hope things are groovy for you in Kauai.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Kekaha, Kauai
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    Aloha and mahalo Chuck, we are just fine here and hope you are doing well
    also.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Little River, California
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    One other negative I forgot to mention, and it is an important one, is that koa can be quite open pored and will wick thin CA glue along the grain line discoloring it and leaving unsightly black lines. Easy to prevent however: Seal end grain with dilute shellac before using thin CA glue and you will not get wicking. Otherwise, always a delightful wood to work with.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Big Island, Hawaii
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    Quote Originally Posted by sequoia View Post
    One other negative I forgot to mention, and it is an important one, is that koa can be quite open pored and will wick thin CA glue along the grain line discoloring it and leaving unsightly black lines. Easy to prevent however: Seal end grain with dilute shellac before using thin CA glue and you will not get wicking. Otherwise, always a delightful wood to work with.
    Maybe it’s just me but I’ve never had that problem. Spruce or cedar? Sure. But never with koa. Maybe it was unique to that particular set of koa. I also pore filled with CA.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Little River, California
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    Yeah, it was from a set from reclaimed old growth koa and was dry and hard as a bone. What also happened was after the rosettes had been glued in with thin CA, the glue went all the way through the top and appeared on the down side as black spots out lining the rosette. Looked awful but NO matter! Nobody knows it is there except me! Ha!... In my experience the worst wood for this phenomenon is redwood. Definitely seal redwood around thin CA.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Big Island, Hawaii
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    Quote Originally Posted by sequoia View Post
    Yeah, it was from a set from reclaimed old growth koa and was dry and hard as a bone. What also happened was after the rosettes had been glued in with thin CA, the glue went all the way through the top and appeared on the down side as black spots out lining the rosette. Looked awful but NO matter! Nobody knows it is there except me! Ha!... In my experience the worst wood for this phenomenon is redwood. Definitely seal redwood around thin CA.
    Sounds like you got some rotted, or at best spalted, koa.
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

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