Koa wood | Uses, Advantages, and Disadvantages

What is Koa Wood?

Koa is a strong, durable, and fairly stable hardwood. Wood is known for its beautiful color variants. It is used for making, furniture, veneer, and musical instruments. It is commonly known as acacia koa. Koa is one of the most valuable hardwoods in the world.

Koa is a large flowering and beautiful shady tree. It is native to Hawaii. Its tree height is about 100 to 115 feet and its trunk diameter is 3 to 6 feet. It is a fast-growing tree. It grows to about 5 to 6 feet in a year.

#Koa Wood
Scientific nameAcacia koa
Tree height100 to 115 feet (30 – 35 m ) tall
Janka Hardness1,170 lbf (5,180 N)
Rot-resistanceNot rot resistant
WorkabilityEasy to work 
UsesFurniture, Plywood, Musical instruments, carving

Koa Wood Uses

Koa wood is a great wood species. It is a versatile wood used to make furniture, veneers, cabinetry, etc.

It is a tonewood. It is widely used for musical instruments such as the ukulele, acoustic guitar, and Weissenborn-style Hawaiian steel guitar.

Even after being hardwood, it is easy to carve. Koa is a great option for making bowls, rings, jewelry boxes, and decorative items.

Being strong and shock-resistant, Kao hardwood is used to make gunstocks, and tool handles.

Koa wood Identification

Heartwood is medium golden or reddish brown while the sapwood is light brown. The grain of koa wood is interlocked, irregular, and can be wavy.

Koa wood comes in a wide variety of colors. It can be Yellow, Gold, Red, Pink, and Brown. Its color and distinct texture make it different from other hardwoods.

Koa Wood Advantages and Disadvantages


Appearance:  Koa wood looks very attractive and beautiful. It has an excellent combination of texture and color.

Easy to work: Koa wood is easy to work with hand and power tools. Koa wood is easy to stain and after finishing it gives excellent results.

Easy maintenance: Koa wood maintenance and care are easy. Due to the sufficient hardness, the chances of getting dents and scratches in it are very less.


Susceptible to termite attack: Koa wood tends to deteriorate when it comes into contact with soil and moisture, as it is susceptible to insect and termite attacks.

Expensive: Koa lumber is expensive as compared to other hardwoods. It is not easily available.

Working with Koa 

Generally, Koa wood is easy to work with all types of tools, but interlocked or irregular grain can be difficult to plane or machine. So you need to keep the cutting edges sharp. 

Koa accepts all types of glues and stains well. Due to the good density, it holds the nail and screw well.

How to finish Koa wood?

Koa wood can be easily finished. If koa is finished properly, it gives an amazing smooth result. So here are some basic and easy tips for finishing koa wood.

Step 1: Clean the wood surface

Before moving on to the next step we need to clean the surface of the wood. To make a solution, just add about 2 Tablespoons of dish soap to a bucket of warm water. 

Dip a rag in and clean the wood surface thoroughly. In this step, it is very important to clean the temporary stains and dust well.

Step 2: Sanding

Sand the koa wood with a fine-grit sandpaper. Clean dark spots and small dents in this step. Sand until a smooth surface is obtained.

Step 3: Rub Tung Oil

Tung oil is generally used to protect the surface of the wood and to create a smooth surface. Rub the tung oil on the surface of the wood with a clean cloth. Do this process well so that the wood absorbs the oil well.

Apply two coats of tung oil, keeping a gap of about 10 to 12 hours between both the coats.

Step 4: Rub Polyurethane

Polyurethane is used to seal the tung oil. It also enhances durability and water-resistant properties. Rub the polyurethane into the wood thoroughly and allow it to dry well.

Step 5: Sand and apply Polyurethane

In this final step we sand the koa with fine-grit sandpaper and apply a second coat of polyurethane.

Do this whole process in a dust-free area and let the final project dry thoroughly.

Is koa wood sustainable?

Yes, koa wood is sustainable. It is not listed in the CITES Appendices and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Why is koa wood so expensive?

Koa is an expensive wood because it is found only in Hawaii. But it is in demand all over the world. Low production and high demand mean prices are high. 

Another reason it is expensive is that it comes with unique properties such as deep rich colors and different grain patterns. Color variants like koa wood are not found in other hardwoods. It is a rare wood. It can be compared to mahogany wood.

So, how expensive is koa wood?

Koa wood starts at around $30 per board ft and can go up to $200 board feet.

Is Koa wood good for the outdoors?

Koa wood is good for outdoor purposes. Because it is a strong, durable, and slightly stable, hardwood. It is not as stable and durable as teak.

Koa wood is water resistant but not waterproof. Therefore, it is used for making surfboards and outdoor furniture. But before using it for outdoor purposes, you need to seal and exterior finish.

Are Acacia and Koa the same wood?

Koa and acacia wood are not the same wood. But they are very similar to each other. So there are a lot of misunderstandings about acacia and koa.

Acacia trees are easily found all over the world. But koa is available only in Hawaii. So Koa wood is rare and expensive as compared to Acacia wood. 

These are some differences between Acacia wood and Koa wood.

#Koa woodAcacia wood
Common name:Koa, Hawaiian koaAcacia, wattle
Wood color:Medium golden or reddish brownWarm brown color with darker streaks
Hardness:Koa is softerAcacia is harder than koa
Durability:Moderate durable and strongStronger and durable than Koa
Water resistant:More resistant Less resistant

Is Koa Wood Toxic?

No serious health-related problems have been reported with Koa wood. But many hardwoods are reported to cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. Any kind of wood dust can be harmful, so be careful while woodworking.


Koa is an amazing wood. After finishing, it gives excellent results. Yes, it is rare and expensive compared to other hardwoods, but it justifies its value. Acacia wood is a great alternative to the Koa because it is similar to koa. Acacia wood is cheaper and more readily available than koa.