Hawaiian Koa Grading  for instruments – please have a look at the photo above and you can see the wood grain range from the left to right from NON (1A) curly to SUPER (5A) curly.    I adopted this grading system from the Maple, Spruce and Cedar market (thanks Dave!) in order to have a base line grading system when trying to sell koa in the instrument market.   My father had his grading system for lumber that was adopted from NHLA grading rules, but that just didn’t work when speaking luthiery.   While not perfect, I found this does help our buyers understand what to expect from us.   We do our best to match the buyer’s expectations with what we promise to supply.

Koa is generally graded by strength and depth of curl or evidence of figure and character:  fancier wood = higher grade

All grading is within the template of the instrument supplied.

Color is not a grading factor for us and koa can range from a very light, golden color to a deep chocolate brown or red.

  • 1A/2A    no or light curl; has vertical grain cut (quarter-sawn) and little to no runoff at the edges.
  • 3A         sometimes strong a localized curl; pervasive curl yet may disappear or look stronger at certain angles and will have bald spots; usually not so strong until the finish is applied;  most difficult grade to see on rough boards, without water or sun.
  • 4A         strong curl and figure maybe 70-90% of the entire plate with small bald spots here and there, generally visible from all angles
  • 5A         “Master grade”; excellent, strong, deep curl with no blemishes within the plate.   Not all 5A is equal…  and one 5A could be more or less expensive than another, even at the wholesale level.

Log prices fluctuate wildly these days which means the prices will as well so please understand it is really about good ‘ol economics on what we can offer.  sometimes we have lots for reasonable prices and sometimes hardly any at all and expensive.

We are a wholesale and retail supplier capable of supply one to 1,000’s of sets. We stock sets and lumber. We do all the processing from green to final product on the Big Island and on Oahu.   Please email for availability.   Please note we have down-sized a lot and don’t keep a lot of stock on hand so please email before coming by to be sure we have what you are after.   Mostly I keep a bit of figure koa, curly mango and beautiful monkey pod on stock.

August 06, 2020 — Sam Gubatan