About Koa Wood Furniture
~ by Robert Lippoth~
Fine custom koa wood furniture and hawaiian woodwork fulfills the needs and tastes of the client. It gives the collector a chance to participate in the design of a heirloom. This is a very satisfying and fulfilling experience. Studio furniture is a different world, we rarely do repeat pieces. Each piece is unique and one of a kind. In my shop, I produce extremely high quality koa furniture and sculpture. Every detail is extensively designed. Choosing the best grade koa wood and local Hawaiian woods requires searching all available sources for the finest koa wood made by the local Hawaiian forests. Hand selecting each koa wood piece takes time and patience. I find this is an important step to design a piece that matches creating harmony and rhythm. Custom wood furniture is a great investment, it appreciates over time. You will cherish my pieces for many generations. This is heirloom quality and it brings me great satisfaction knowing my koa wood pieces are built to outlast my life span.
The process of designing a piece takes time, attention to detail and communication with the client. I start with simple sketches to allow for explorations in form, scale, function. I then move towards a more refined scale drawing or color rendering. Sometimes it helps the collector to visualize the piece in 3D with a scale model. I also do full size working drawings and with chairs I always make a full size model to sit in and preview the chair to come. This helps make sure it is comfortable for the client. At this point we can still make changes if necessary. This also allows for fine tuning proportions and help give a better idea of what to expect and a chance to see if it is a good fit and comfortable. This full size model is essential to making comfortable, successful chairs.
What is Koa?
Article by Wikipedia >>
Koa is a large tree, typically attaining a height of 15–25 metres (49–82 ft) and a spread of 6–12 metres (20–39 ft). In deep volcanic ash, a koa tree can reach a height of 30 metres (98 ft), a circumference of 6 metres (20 ft), and a spread of 38 metres (120 ft). It is one of the fastest-growing Hawaiian trees, capable of reaching 6–9 metres (20–30 ft) in five years on a good site.
Initially, bipinnately compound leaves with 12–24 pairs of leaflets grow on the koa plant, much like other members of the pea family. At about 6–9 months of age, however, thick sickle-shaped "leaves" that are not compound begin to grow. These are phyllodes, blades that develop as an expansion of the leaf petiole. The vertically flattened orientation of the phyllodes allows sunlight to pass to lower levels of the tree. True leaves are entirely replaced by 7–25-centimetre (2.8–9.8 in) long, 0.5–2.5-centimetre (0.20–0.98 in) wide phyllodes on an adult tree.
Flowers of the koa tree are pale-yellow spherical racemes with a diameter of 8–10 millimetres (0.31–0.39 in). Flowering may be seasonal or year round depending on the location.
Fruit production occurs when a koa tree is between 5 and 30 years old. The fruit take the form of pods with a length of 7.5–15 centimetres (3.0–5.9 in) and a width of 1.5–2.5 centimetres (0.59–0.98 in). Each pod contains an average of 12 seeds. The 6–12 millimetres (0.24–0.47 in) long, 4–7 millimetres (0.16–0.28 in) wide seeds are flattened ellipsoids and range from dark brown to black in color. Seeds are covered with a hard seed coat, and this allows them to remain dormant for up to 25 years. Scarification is needed before A. koa seeds will germinate.
Koa is endemic to the islands of Hawaiʻi, Molokaʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi, where it grows at elevations of 100–2,300 metres (330–7,500 ft). It requires 850–5,000 millimetres (33–197 in) of annual rainfall. Acidic to neutral soils (pH of 4-7.4) that are either an Inceptisol derived from volcanic ash or a well-drained Histosol are preferred. Its ability to fix nitrogen allows it to grow in very young volcanic soils. Koa and ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) dominate the canopy of mixed mesic forests. It is also common in wet forests.
The American country singer Taylor Swift with a Taylor acoustic guitar made of Acacia koa wood. The koa's trunk was used by ancient Hawaiians to build waʻa (dugout outrigger canoes), and papa heʻe nalu (surfboards). Only paipo (bodyboards), kikoʻo, and alaia surfboards were made from koa, however; olo, the longest surfboards, were made from the lighter and more buoyant wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis). The reddish wood is very similar in strength and weight to that of black walnut (Juglans nigra), with a specific gravity of 0.55, and is sought for use in wood carving and furniture. Koa is also a tonewood, often used in the construction of ukuleles, acoustic guitars, and Weissenborn-style Hawaiian steel guitars. B.C. Rich used koa on some of their electric guitars as well, and still uses a koa-veneered topwood on certain models. Fender also made a Limited Edition Koa wood Stratocaster in 2006. Commercial silviculture of koa is difficult because it takes 20 to 25 years before a tree is of useful size.
The Conservation of Koa Wood
The koa population has suffered from grazing and logging. Many wet forest areas, where the largest koa grow, have been logged out, and it now comes largely from dead or dying trees or farms on private lands. Although formerly used for outrigger canoes, there are few koa remaining which are both large and straight enough to do so today. In areas where cattle are present, koa regeneration is almost completely suppressed. However, if the cattle are removed, koa are among the few native Hawaiian plants able to germinate in grassland, and can be instrumental in restoring native forest. It is often possible to begin reforestation in a pasture by disk harrowing the soil, as this scarifies seeds in the soil and encourages large numbers of koa to germinate. Experiments at the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge have shown that ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) survives best in pasture when planted under koa. This is because koa trees reduce radiative cooling, preventing frost damage to ʻōhiʻa lehua seedlings.