Finishing Koa kamiPLY or washiPLY Veneers and Lumber

Hawaiian Koa is a great wood to apply a finish (also called varnish). It loves to accept pretty much any kind of finish, from all different kinds of oils, waxes, urethanes, lacquers and nitrocellulose. While I am not particularly a finish expert, I have worked with so many woodworkers, and gotten all kinds of feedback over the last 30+ years of being in the koa wood business. We also manufactured furniture and ukuleles for over 10 years so I can only speak directly to our own experience.  But I do want to re-iterate, Hawaiian Koa LOVES to have a finish applied. That's where the beauty of the natural wood really comes through.
January 10, 2022 — Jorma Winkler

Koa is NOT worth it?!

Aloha all,

Just thought I’d share my thoughts as a tonewood supplier and ukulele builder, since I get asked a LOT about whether or not a player should spring the extra $$ for an all solid Hawaiian Koa ukulele (or guitar).

Simple answer - Yes, if you can afford it. But why?

Is a Koa ukulele any better than a maple, walnut or mahogany? Will it produce a better sound? And will the epic looking curly koa sound better?

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Grading Hawaiian Koa

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 Hawaiian 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.