Maui Koa Wood

Acacia Koa (Hawaiian Koa) is one of the most beautiful and sought-after hardwoods in the world. Considered the monarch of all Hawaiian indigenous wood, Acacia Koa, found naturally only in Hawaii's mountain forests, is the most prized of all the native trees. In ancient times a king's power was directly related to his control over Koa forests as it was used for making fleets of canoes and great voyaging vessels.

During the Hawaiian monarchy, European furniture makers treasured the wood for its exquisite beauty in the art of fine furniture making. Koa is so treasured today by the people of the Hawaiian Islands that it is considered to be heirloom wood and is passed down in the family through generations. Many musical instruments today are made from Koa, which is known as a tonewood with excellent resonance.

The Koa is a valuable participant in the native rain forest habitat. It is a nitrogen-fixing species that enriches the forest floor and feeds other plant species. It is considered to be one of the oldest Hawaiian trees, and it supports over 40 species of endemic insects. Many native bird species are associated primarily with the Koa tree.

Koa loves to be worked, making it a favorite hardwood for craftsmen. In terms of strength, weight, and hardness it is comparable to walnut. With a spectrum of sunset colors ranging from a deep chocolate, to reddish brown, to blonde, Koa is prized worldwide for its character and resonance.

The most valuable grades of Koa, when polished, have a rich, luminescent quality. One of the unique features of some Koa is the highly figured, curly, or fiddle back grain. Curl refers to the three-dimensional wave-like grain of the finished wood that seems to shimmer in the light and give off a jeweled luster reminiscent of Tiger's Eye. Fiddle back is extreme curl so that the piece of wood seems to have depth. There is not a complete understanding of what makes some Koa curly other than it is sometimes formed as the muscle of the tree: the visible compression of the wood created by the tree's resistance to wind and weather. Rarely is a tree one hundred percent curly; it is usually localized at a fork or crotch of the tree. Less than three percent of trees have curl.

Acacia Koa differs in appearance between the Big Island and Maui. And the amount of Koa on Maui is a fraction of what grows on the Big Island, making Maui Koa the most rare of all.

Calisto Palos has been working with Koa since he was a boy and it is only because of the local connections he has forged over the years that he is able to obtain this precious wood.

Paddles at the Craft Fair
Paddles at the Craft Fair