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 the wood = higher the 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 to light curl, but meets the criteria of having a vertical grain cut and little to no runoff at the edges
• 3A - pervasive curl yet may disappear or look stronger at certain angles or have bald spots
• 4A - strong curl and figure, usually throughout the entire plate, generally visible from all angles
• 5A - Excellent, strong, deep curl no less than 90% and no blemishes within the template
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