Hawaiian Woods

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Emiliano Achaval, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    I got a question in my inbox by Dean Center. He suggested I answer here. He was wondering if we can still get Kou in Hawaii. If you read my article on Woodturning magazine last month, lol, you would know that True Kou become almost extinct in the mid 1800's. An introduced beetle almost wiped them out. It was the preferred wood of the ancient Hawaiians because is easy to work with. At the same time the very first English turners showed up here, and they were able to turn Koa and Koa'ia. That was the beginning of the declined of the ancient Hawaiian calabash maker with traditional tools. Most of the new parking lots in Hawaii in the last 40 years started planting Tahitian Kou. Also a Cordia species. Very hard to tell them apart except for the color of the flowers. The native Cordia Subcordiata Kou has light orange-orange flowers.
    When visiting my good friend Big Island Woodturner John Mydock, a native Hawaiian showed up with a load of Milo and Kou. I quickly arranged for a big pallet load to come to Maui. I felt like I won the lottery!! True Kou! The step by step on how to make a puahala calabash on this month woodturning magazine is a piece of Kou from that shipment. I also love to turn Milo. Getting harder to find, but its ore available than Kou. Got a little piece of Naio, a very hard dense wood, I was able to make a small box with threads. I also got a small piece of Kauila, super hard and dense. I made a lid with threads for a box. Hawaiians used it for the tip of the spears and other war things like clubs... Another favorite wood of the Hawaiian was Kamani. Not to be confused with the False Kamani, an introduced species. Very nice wood, available but hard to find. I just made a box that was treated with Cactus Juice...
    We also get lots and lots of Macadamia nut, because the price of the nut went down, entire plantations have shut down, and here some subdivisions came up in former Macadamia Nut plantations. You look at it the wrong way and it splits on you. You cut it, stop to drink water and the log cracks in half... Natural edges are really nice. Another wood is Lychee, my second favorite for chasing threads, very nice wood, if you are lucky you might get a curly piece... We also have lots of Manila Tamarind, smells like gun powder when you turn it, dense wood. We have a lot of Kiawe, the king of threads so far, its native of Peru, planted here for the first time in 1835 by a priest. Its White Algarrobo, truly an invasive species, covering a lot land. Main use is fence posts and BBQ...
    Well, yes, I like to write, lol. Aloha from Maui
     
  2. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I enjoyed learnings a bit about Hawaiian woods.
     
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  3. charlie knighton

    charlie knighton

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    Do any of your woods have attributes of mesquite????
     
  4. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    Some people say our Kiawe is a mesquite. But, I recently got a piece of Mesquite from Arizona, nothing like our White Algarrobo here... I couldn't do threads on the Arizona wood...
     
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  5. RichColvin

    RichColvin

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    Why not ?

    Rich
     
  6. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    It wasn’t dense enough. Too crumbly...
     
  7. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    Thanks Emiliano. Ironically, just yesterday, my son in law gave me a copy of the most important to-date issue of Woodturning! He just happened to be buying some obscure biking magazines at a newsstand and thought I might like it. (He's trying to make up for out fishing me) I'm very excited to have the time to thoroughly read your article, now that we're back from eclipse watching. (SPECTACULAR! to any who missed full totality)
     
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  8. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    Glad you got a copy!!
     
  9. Robert Satterfield

    Robert Satterfield

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    Just found a copy of the latest (Barnes and Noble slow boat finally made it!) Great article Emiliano...wonder how some of those shapes would look in walnut or cherry! lol
     
  10. Roger Chandler

    Roger Chandler

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    Interesting post on Hawaiian woods............much appreciated, Emiliano! Seems Koa is getting a bit harder to come by as well, is that correct? I would love to get my hands on a nice piece of Koa someday! Wonder if any Hawaiian turners would be interested in a swap of woods from the eastern U.S.? We have beautiful Ambrosia maple and box elder here.
     
  11. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    It comes almost a month behind. I believe is printed in Singapore... Glad you got your copy!
     
  12. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    I would try it in cherry or any other woods!!
     
  13. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    Koa is getting expensive, but is easy to find if you can afford the crazy prices... I’m lucky, we have Koa plantations on the family ranch, Amd lots of old wild koa ...
     
  14. John Tisdale

    John Tisdale

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    Thanks for the education. QUESTION: Is the spelling Kou (as at the start) or Koa?
    I've turned one piece of Koa - while probably not the best log to be found in Hawaii, it came out a great piece. I have another ready for final turning.
    I found the pores to be very large which presented a challenge in the way I finish.
    Any suggestions in dealing with the pores?
     
  15. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    John I'm afraid if you have "pores" it might be torn grain... Koa its not an easy wood to cut clean, specially on the end grain. When cut right there are no pores, finishes very nice... Kou is a different species, from the Cord family. Koa is an Acacia... Best way to finish Koa is a light push cut, then even lighter sheer scraping with an Elssworth style gouge... Send me a picture of the finished Koa and I might be able to help you better... Aloha
     
  16. odie

    odie

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    Emiliano......I haven't done any Koa for a very long time, but I still have this end grain piece of what was described as "old growth" Koa. Do you agree with that?
    IMG_3225 (2).JPG

    Also, this the bowl I made from it......probably about 20 years ago.......
    (Color is off, and done with an old camera. The photo above is closer to the true colors.)
    deep Koa bowl 561.jpg

    -----odie-----
     
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  17. Ricc Havens

    Ricc Havens

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    I'm going to be vacationing in Oahu to see Pearl Harbor Nov 5-8 then hopping over to Kona on the Big Island Nov 9-15. Looking for sources and options of wood I can buy to ship home or maybe a few small pieces to even throw in the suitcase. Also, looking for something to do turning related for when the wife wants to lay in the sand.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks
    Ricc Havens
    Elkhart, IN
    rv.havens@gmail.com
     
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  18. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    Sure looks like Koa. The growth rings throw me off a little, I cant say 100 % its Koa. I have been wrong before! lol Best way for me is to smell it, even dry I can tell Koa by the smell... The bowl also looks like Koa, but never seen growth rings like that, wavy yet not curly... There a re several cousins of the Koa that are almost impossible to tell them apart, like the Black Acacia, an invasive species here from Australia I think, I have seen guys trying to sell it as Koa... Take a picture of the side grain if you can...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2017
  19. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    There are AAW clubs on both Islands. Lots of turners... Contact a few of them prior to your trip...
     
  20. odie

    odie

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    The end grain slab is only about an inch thick, and I don't think it'd be much help.
    The bowl itself is long gone, but I do have one more photo of it:
    deep Koa bowl 561 #2.jpg
    It's ok.....I don't really need to know.....just curious.
    You have a good day, my friend. :D

    -----odie-----
     

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