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Thread: Acacia vs Koa?

  1. #1
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    Default Acacia vs Koa?

    We've all seen sales claims that Acacia is just Koa grown elsewhere than Hawaii. In this forum I've also read the opposite, that it is nothing like Koa.
    To narrow-down the discussion, can we only discuss the Acacia used by most mid-range manufacturers (whatever species that is). I've seen and owned several Acacia instruments by various manufacturers and judging by the wood grain, it does look like they are getting it from the same species of tree.
    While I'm interested on whether it is actually related to Koa, I am also interested in if it had the same qualities as well: hardness, resonance, and etc. If, let's say, Koaloha made the same exact uke out of Koa & Acacia, would it sound very similar?

  2. #2
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    Koa is Acacia, however, Acacia is not necessarily Koa. Like you mentioned, Koa is a species of Acacia (Acacia being the "mother species" of several sub species). Koa being called Koa and is only grown in the island's of Hawaii. The very same species elsewhere have other names, like Australia (Australian Blackwood). It is kinda the same plant, but different climates cause difference characteristics due to humidity, hours a day of sunlight, oxygen levels, elevation, and many other climate conditions. So, basically, yes, it is the same, but also No it is not the same because it wasn't grown in the same climate conditions. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Acacia from other climates have characteristics of their own that warrant merit. Koa, has it's own characteristics that merit their reputation, not to mention being grown in Hawaii, that is also known for its ukuleles has a nice ring to it. All the conditions that grown any specific wood species does cause different characteristics that can, and most definatly can cause different characteristics in sound and the transfer of vibrations.
    Last edited by Tudorp; 02-17-2012 at 11:07 AM.
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  3. #3
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    To answer a specific question of yours. Correct me if I'm wrong anybody. But I think most the Acacia used commonly is what they call "Australian Blackwood", which is Acacia grown in Eastern Australia.
    Last edited by Tudorp; 02-17-2012 at 11:02 AM.
    Mahalo Ke Akua
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    Ohana SK-21 a.k.a. "Ku'u poki'i <Kapookie>"
    Lanikai LU-21 a.k.a. "Cinderella"
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  4. #4
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    A start would be what you already basically said. Koa is a species of the Acacia tree, Acacia koa, endemic to Hawai'i. So, actually Acacia isn't koa grown elsewhere, but koa is just Acacia that managed to evolve into it's own species in Hawai'i.

    There are other species of Acacia trees, mostly found in Australia and other tropical areas, though there are some Acacia species that are found in the middle east.

    Other than A. koa, I'm not sure which (or how many) species are used as tonewoods - there could be only one (such as one of the Wattles from Oz), or quite a few. Perhaps the luthiers here can chime in on this. If there are more than one, your desire to only discuss the "other" Acacia may be impossible, since each species will have different properties, and different makers would probably use different species. Besides, marketers tend to never really want to go into detail that their Acacia isn't koa, instead constantly saying that Acacia is a close relative of koa, or some such blather.

    So basically, yes, koa and Acacia are related. But botanists seem to think that the two most closely related Acacia species are A. heterophylla, from Vanuatu, and A koaia, also naturally found only in Hawai'i
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  5. #5
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    The species, "Acacia koa", is what is commonly referred to as koa. Australian blackwood is "Acacia melanoxylon". They can look similar, and are generally thought of to have somewhat different tonal characteristics. Hopefully Rick and Chuck and Allen will come by to discuss them. There are other Acacias that grow in Asia, and around the world. An 'Acacia' ukulele is just that...Acacia. Acacia???. I've yet to see a Latin name for the solid Acacia ukes coming from Asia, but would sure love to know, if anyone has an idea.

    Koa is koa (or at least being represented to be koa). Blackwood is blackwood. Acacia is ??

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by PoiDog View Post
    A start would be what you already basically said. Koa is a species of the Acacia tree, Acacia koa, endemic to Hawai'i. So, actually Acacia isn't koa grown elsewhere, but koa is just Acacia that managed to evolve into it's own species in Hawai'i.

    There are other species of Acacia trees, mostly found in ... other tropical areas... Besides, marketers tend to never really want to go into detail that their Acacia isn't koa, instead constantly saying that Acacia is a close relative of koa, or some such blather....
    We use a couple of Acacias in Central America. I couldn't compare them to Koa, because we don't have that species, but they are similar to each other. Similar, but not identical

    We also use a number of species of Dalbergia, the scientific name for Rosewood. Common names are Cocobolo, Palo Escrito, Honduran Rosewood, Nicaraguan Rosewood, and Camatillo. You can say they also have similar characterisctics, but definitely have different flavors.

    I agree with Poi, it's blather to try to say that two woods from the same genus are identical. I haven't heard the Asian and Australian acacias, but I'm sure they are beautiful tonewoods, and should stand on their own merits - not because they are cousins of koa.
    Last edited by southcoastukes; 02-17-2012 at 01:31 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Being a treehugger, I just had to look this up. Having never been in Hawaii, I've never seen a Koa tree, but I've seen acacias in Texas. Lot of 'em.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_koa


    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_koa
    Last edited by Nickie; 02-17-2012 at 11:31 AM.
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  8. #8
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    As a purely practical matter, it seems like Hawaiian Koa ukulele made by the same Hawaiian uke maker can vary substantially in sound quality.

    Imagine a Koa tree cut down 30 yrs. ago. Several companies haul the raw wood off and store, dry and eventually cut it into various lumber products. There are so many variables in play that influence the quality of the wood sets that make up a uke. And all that is before the uke builder introduces their own set of variables.

    I think if KoAloha was able to acquire Koa & Acacia wood sets aged & cut exactly the same way, the ukes built from the different wood species (with all other factors the same) would probably sound very similar. How they age might be a different matter. They have decades of experience with Koa and Mahogany and little experience with Acacia.

    But this is a purely academic question. There's plenty of Koa for ukes and none of the "K" brands are likely to switch to Acacia anytime soon. If anything, they are turning to other tone woods to get a different sound.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by two dogs plucking View Post
    Acacia is ??
    Steve
    Yes, identiying them would be nice. Not only would it give people a point of reference, but as mentioned, they're probably nice tonewoods - giving them a name gives them a chance to acheive status on their own.

    In our case, we are the only people I know of using them, but local names for ours are Carao, and Nispero Coyolillo. While they're beautiful woods, they don't look anything like Koa - much more refined (but also, I think, much more consistent in grain and color). I love the tone of both.
    Last edited by southcoastukes; 02-17-2012 at 11:39 AM.
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  10. #10
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    Ahem, I meant to post this site as well... please excuse.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia
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