Page 2 of 8 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 71

Thread: Koa grades

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,092

    Default

    I believe paper is a 3rd use for wood. Despite our digital world, we'll never get rid of paper. Paper mills have tree farms these days to be more sustainable, so don't worry too much about deforestation.

    :cough: toilet paper :cough:


    Successful sellers: Nuprin (Mele Tenor Koa/Mahogany Electric on 11/2009)
    Successful buyers: Tomdini (Pono Tenor Mango Cutaway Electric on 10/2009)

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Posts
    109

    Default

    Does anyone have pictures samples of each grade. I especially like the bell concert on kamaka's page would that e premium then?

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,092

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by liquid_wind View Post
    Does anyone have pictures samples of each grade. I especially like the bell concert on kamaka's page would that e premium then?
    That definitely looks like premium to me.


    Successful sellers: Nuprin (Mele Tenor Koa/Mahogany Electric on 11/2009)
    Successful buyers: Tomdini (Pono Tenor Mango Cutaway Electric on 10/2009)

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Honolulu
    Posts
    385

    Default

    Regarding the grading scale:

    5A is not necessarily a grade in and of itself. It's more like super 4A. AAA is full curl. AAAA is premium full curl. Beyond that, some pieces are not only AAAA in terms of curliness, but they are also perfect density and straight grained, with no run out. Basically, the cream of the crop of the 4A. So in the video, that's probably what Fred Kamaka was talking about.

    I used to buy spruce from a guy in Colorado. In the mix, I got anything from AA to AAAA wedges. I thought ukulele builders were picky. Violin makers are even worse. What I purchased were basically the rejects from a high end violin maker. To date, I don't know why some of the wedges were rejected. Then again, I don't build violins and I'm not as experienced in grading spruce. Works for me, though.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Posts
    400

    Default

    I never heard of a 'standard' of grades. It's generally whatever a builder or wood supplier wants to say. I have a guitar of super double throwdown premium mega turbo plus plus select AAAAAAAAA Koa. It's real nice. I have an equally gorgeous guitar with koa to die for, and it's just called premium or curly.

    It's all marketing.

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    California
    Posts
    750

    Default

    When you talk about curliness, are you talking about the ripple-like patterns that are perpendicular to the grain?

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,092

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by khrome View Post
    When you talk about curliness, are you talking about the ripple-like patterns that are perpendicular to the grain?
    Yup, that's exactly what they mean.


    Successful sellers: Nuprin (Mele Tenor Koa/Mahogany Electric on 11/2009)
    Successful buyers: Tomdini (Pono Tenor Mango Cutaway Electric on 10/2009)

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Big Island, Hawaii
    Posts
    5,192

    Default

    With all this discussion lately about curly koa I've got to mention something. First, I'm no expert but I build only with koa, and only curly AA to AAAA koa. I don't even offer softwood tops anymore. Only koa. But just because koa board may be super curly, or flamey or have cool, wild, erratic grain, doesn't mean it's going to make a better sounding uke that the more mundane stuff. In fact, more often than not, the opposite can be true. The real crazy grain can also provide joining/gluing difficulties that can show up later. Going one step further I personally find that the lighter, blonder koas will yield me a fuller, richer sounding uke than the very dark koa does.
    Koa is unique in that it's specific gravity/density range is very broad. I've got koa here at the shop that is so light and "open" it almost feels like balsa, while other koa I've got is so dense and "tight" that it's impossible to resaw straight, like ironwood. A good builder will know how to work within a piece of koa's parameters to get the best sound he can out of it. I'm not taking into consideration specific construction techniques, thinning and bracing etc, but it's more of a tactile thing than it is a visual thing. An experienced builder can be in a dark room and run his hands along a koa board and give it a few raps and be able to give a pretty fair assessment as to how it will sound as a ukulele. I've heard that the koa that luthiers use represents less than 5% of the koa that's cut. Even that seems high but it just shows that we're a pretty picky bunch of folks. I don't even use half the koa that I personally buy. Lots of it gets resold to frame makers.
    I only say this so that you don't think that super physcho gonzo curly koa is necessarily going to make the best sounding ukulele. In the right hands it can. But it's misguided to think that your AAAA koa uke, by nature of it's curl, is better than someone else's AA or AAA uke.
    And BTW, there's no such thing as AAAAA koa. This designation was started a while back by a desperate dealer trying to get one up on everyone else. As Aldrine might say "Let's stop the madness".
    Last edited by Moore Bettah Ukuleles; 02-04-2009 at 04:01 PM. Reason: spelinng!
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    California
    Posts
    750

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Moore Bettah Ukuleles View Post
    I only say this so that you don't think that super physcho gonzo curly koa is necessarily going to make the best sounding ukulele.
    That is good to know. I love koa but I'm not crazy about too many curls that make it look like tiger stripes. I've always liked the blonder pieces with a lot of irridescence. The pattern didn't matter too much to me as long as it looked "balanced." Hopefully someday I can have someone knock on my uke and tell me if it's good. :-)
    Last edited by khrome; 02-04-2009 at 04:53 PM.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Honolulu Hawaii
    Posts
    5

    Exclamation As a supplier...

    Hello All! This is my very FIRST post and felt it was probably the most appropriate place to start and share the DEEP SECRETS to how we come up with the grades of Koa.

    First of all... I will premise this by saying our family has been supplying koa from the Big Island for almost 40 years! I am 4th generation wood guy and 2nd generation koa supplier guy... I started specializing in supplying the instrument market about 5 years ago and have had a helping hand in luthiers around the world...

    disclaimer... I think a few of the builders in this thread will recognize me - ("Hey Paul!") and as I am sure the buyer / builder and supplier can attest, it isn't always the easiest thing to "get it right" with the grade, even as much experience as I and the builders have with koa.

    So, grading... First a little history... there is NO rule for grades for koa. Unlike oak or cherry that have NHLA grading rules, there is no rule for koa. But there must be a way for buyers and sellers to talk the same language to know what to expect when conducting a transaction, so the NHLA grading rules were used as the base standard, and the rules used for Walnut were used for koa, since it is the closest specie as far as the type of lumber you get and the kind of tree it is (the way it grows). Even within NHLA grading standards, the rules change with the specie, and without the specie koa listed with a bunch of rules, it gets very difficult.

    So, once that was established, grades were used for the "regular" lumber, which were previously: #2 Common, #1C, and Select. there is also a FAS grade and in Europe, FEQ. Quarter-sawn / Rift Sawn is a type of cut (not necessarily a grade) that commands a premium. Anyway, somewhere along the line, the "instrument grade" was thought up for the boards that were curly, quarter-sawn, and could make instruments (met certain size specs an mostly guitar sizes).

    Somewhere along the line, the "curly" koa started becoming more and more in demand and expensive. in the early 70's the curly was pulled out because it was NOT desired! Oh how I wish I had a container of that! True Story: in the 80's my father supplied a CONTAINER of curly koa that was filled over the course of a year. If you can imagine cutting 10's of thousands of BF a month and pulling the best curly, guitar sizes, over the course of a year to get around 8,000 - 10,000 bF... anyway, it got to their factory and they claimed it wasn't curly enough and wanted to renegotiate the prices. my father said to not touch one board of it and sent it to a friend in the midwest who sold it somehow... I bet they now they wished they never rejected that container or haggled a few cents per BF. I think my father said he was charging them something like $5 / BF but that's when select green in container-loads was going for around $2.50 or something like that. In todays prices, that same lumber in bulk would probably be $60 / BF... in guitar set form it's probably $150 / BF. they probably rejected 4,000 sets worth of lumber and at a discount of $250 / set... WHOOOA... $1,000, 000 bucks worth of wood that 25 years ago probably only cost my father $5,000 - $10,000! and you guys thought the stock market was good...!

    So, a system had to be set up to separate the curly from the regular. in the early days, there were no levels of curl. But once the demand started picking up for the curlier boards, which was evident when you sell it on a regular basis. we would see customers sifting thru piles to find the curlier boards. I think one might find it interesting to hear my father actually came up with the various names like Select Curly, Full Curl, and Premium Full Curl to reflect the differences in demand and allow us to separate it on the wall to make it easier for our customers to find and buy and charge a premium to do so.

    My father's company had those grades and then made the "instrument grade" to separate out the boards that were curly and quarter-sawn. this was mostly for a few select builders who asked for that to be done. in the early days not much koa was used for guitars, and not too many ukuleles were being built.

    He never used the "A" system and I'm not really sure who first started using it in Hawaii for koa- perhaps Bart was the first, but it did come about for a better way to determine the level of curls within the instrument grades. I guess it was modeled after the maple grading system, which uses a A-AAAAA system, generally.

    In my own business I started out with only 1A to 4A, but what I found was when you are doing a large volume like we do and you start to have enough wood to separate it out, 4 grades just weren't not enough.

    In the non-instrument wood side of my business I went away from the kind-of-confusing-to-me: select curl, full curl, and premium curl to regular terms: select, light curl, medium curl, high curl, and SUPER Curl. so if you attach a letter to it, you get 5 different levels. Select (no curl) QS = 1A Light Curl QS = 2A Medium Curl QS = 3A High Curl QS = 4A and Super Curly QS = 5A

    to put it into perspective- the pictures shown above of the ukes. first pic with two ukes- the one on the right is clearly a 4A or if you have a 5A grade, then a 5A. but the one on the left could either be a 2A or a 3A, and in my opinion, it's closer to a 3A. if you only had 4 grades, then it would have to be 2A because the jump from the one on the left to the one on the right is just too broad.

    so, you might notice that grading starts to change based on what else there is available... I used to only go up to 4A but as I produced more, and it turned out the 4A had some killer 4A and then some so-so. that's where I figured I did need a 5A grade- not to mention it made it easier to talk in the same language to the guitar luthiers who are used to the maple grading.

    basically, as Paul said, the perfect 4A could be called the 5A. As a seller, it allows one to charge a higher price for something that would clearly be chosen over another set, if one had the choice, and kind of evens the playing field. Also, many buyers of koa do not have the luxury to come into our place and choose their own wood, so they are reliant on buying mail order, and often without pictures. I would get customers saying- I want your "best" 4A... which basically means a 5A. theorectically all the sets within the 5A should be the same, but when you only have 4A grades, it is harder to refine it more like you can with 5 grades. there are pros and cons to it. interestinly enough, these days, I don't even separate out the 1A/2A grade (for wholesale) so in a sense I've gone back to having only 4 grades! oh how confusing it can be.

    As a supplier to Taylor Guitars, I had a meeting about this with them a couple days before the NAMM show last month. basically it didn't matter what my grades were- they were only going to buy what they could use, of course... but it turns out what they can use, is basically only the best 3A, 4A and 5A grades (according to my grading system). a couple of years ago it was a little different. so when I sent them a mix of 3A and 4A, there was a lot of reject which is what prompted the meeting. so, as a supplier, I have to adjust my own grading for each customer. but that's the wholesale side, which can get a bit messy. it comes down to knowing your customer's needs.

    FIGURE- there's another factor that can change the grading, which for koa, is generally not used as a factor to change the level of A's or the type of curl. but it is true, like Chuck Moore said, you can go through a lot of koa to find those pieces that appeal to the builder and that not always has to do with level of curl. stripiness, variegation, color, etc. Oh... the beauty of koa and how every one is difference.

    Goodall guitars also attests to the golden, lighter density koa had much better acoustic properties as a top, rather than the dark, dense koa that can look killer, but not necessarily make a better sounding instrument.

    Finally, buying unfinished, raw koa, even if it has been surfaced, doesn't mean you'll always get the exact level of curl you were hoping for. it can go up and down a grade sometimes, unless it is just that rippling, deep 3D super curl that you can see before you even cut into the tree!

    someday on my site I'll actually put up pics and examples of each grade with the explanation... probably would have saved me hours and hours of explaining...

    Finally, there is no "best" koa grade- most things that are "better" or higher in quality tend to cost more (cars, clothes, etc.), but unlike those things, it does not hold true for koa. the $150 tenor set may not make a better sounding uke than the $30 tenor set. it might look nicer, but to who?? curly is "IN" now and it probably won't be "OUT", but 30 years ago it was undesired.

    I think koa just has far too many variables to ever have a grading system that can be used across the board. with 16 different "types" of koa (difference in color and curl TYPE, not strength) and then add the strength of curl factored in, and then add in the variable of how DEEP does the curl have to be to be considered MED or HIGH... multiply all those variables to get a number of potential different koa types, and you get a LOT- probably 100's!

    Hope that was informative and helpful to all those out there (and not too long...

    Jorma Winkler
    www.winklerwoods.com
    --- Stop by our place at 875 Waimanu St. #108 in Honolulu to select some wood for your ukulele --- we are better at retail now but still mainly wholesale - please call ahead if you are visting- Mahalo! Jorma Winkler

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •