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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by allenhumble, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. allenhumble


    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    Is it a bad idea to use Koa as a neck or body wood due to weight or grain issues? I think that I read some where that koa is pretty close to mahogany in weight but I cant remember where. I know that koa has a some what wavy grain to it. Would this eliminate it from being ideal for a neck?
  2. Koa? I've only seen it as a neck wood once (in a picture). It can be used for everything but a fretboard. As a body wood it's a lot like mahogany. The Koa strat(MIK) up at a shop near me doesn't feel heavy at all. I'm told it's getting hard to get anymore. Check here for some more wood info:
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Carvin and Peavey have used it in necks. The Peavey I saw was a koa/purpleheart neck thru with koa body, and was gorgeous. And not heavy at all.
  4. Jonsbasses


    Oct 21, 2006
    Fort Worth, TX
    Builder: Jon's Basses
    Possible, but why? Koa is incredibly expensive and there are many other quality options that wont burn a hole in your wallet.
  5. allenhumble


    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    Would this work for neck stock. Check out the wavy grain lines. Would this be a problem?
  6. allenhumble


    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    Yes it is expensive. But I have also seen some good deals out there too.
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Koa was not nearly as expensive in 1990. The Peavy Unity Koa I played was a '91.
  8. scottx


    Dec 8, 2007
    I've played this for over a decade & have no complaints.

  9. Alaska Bass

    Alaska Bass

    Dec 31, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Koa is a wonderful tonewood with great warm characteristics. The limited supply of koa has brought up the price in the last decade, but it is still available.

    It would not be a good neck wood due to strength issues, but definitely use it on the body for a very warm and articulate sound.
  10. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    if thats the peice, is would be much better as a body top. don't waste that on a neck back that is rarely seen
  11. I would definitely bookmatch it and use it on the body rather than the neck.

    Use a good piece of maple to contrast the neck with the body if you do use the koa for the body.
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    From published numbers, koa has 87% of the stiffness of Hard maple. On that account, I wouldn't hesitate to use it in a bass neck that also had some "extra stiff" woods, like purpleheart or bubinga, or had CF reinforcement.
  13. Nitto


    Mar 18, 2007
    Adelaide, South Aus
    Never seen it used as a neck myself, i'm sure it would be possible, especially if the neck had a bit of extra reinforcing, maybe do some research into how well it holds threads, particularly if the neck is going to be taken on and off. it is used in the finest ukeleles and in some very high end acoustic guitars for fronts, backs and even sides!

    since koa grows almost exclusively in hawaii it is endangered and pricey, i can't even find any in australia, seems no suppliers will touch it! luckily we have an equally beautiful wood that costs a lot less here, Tasmanian and melbourne blackwood (acacia melanoxylon) and apparently sounds almost identical! viva le Australia! i don't know much about it's availability over there, but maybe check it out hey?


    sorry about the slightly irrelevant wood, but it was one of the better pics that i found, no pic can do justice t
  14. Mharris


    Sep 25, 2007
    Missoula Montana
  15. Alaska Bass

    Alaska Bass

    Dec 31, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    By itself koa is not a suitable neck wood. Even when married to stringers of purpleheart, bubinga, etc. you will have continuous issues with it. The wood will not work well in the neck due to the lack of sustain. A neck wood needs to be exceptionally dense to allow for tone to carry through from the headstock through the bridge. A soft wood (see below) will not allow for this, and will create a neck that is dead, with little to no sustain, and a very warm tone that will not carry any brightness.

    Remember that 13% softer is quite a bit of difference, but actually...

    If you research the Janka Hardness Scale, you will find Koa listed at a hardness of 900 while Hard Sugar Maple and North American Maple are at 1450, which is a 38% difference. For contrast, Purpleheart rates at 1850-1860 in hardness, or over twice as hard as Koa.
  16. allenhumble


    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    I have not bought this piece yet. I have a maple top and back set and am looking to purchase more wood for a first build project. I would use this on the out side pieces of a 3 piece neck with flamed maple in the center and 2 sets of double laminates.
  17. tink9975


    Aug 10, 2006
    MoCo, MD
    My Carvin 5 string is all Koa, 2 piece solid koa neck and koa body wings. It does have graphite reinforcement bars in the neck and the neck is pretty stable. I do adjust it maybe once a year and I have had the bass since 1992.

    I really like the tone and have no problems with a lack of sustain.

    I agree though that a piece like that should be used for a body or a top, too beautiful to hide.
  18. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Ignoring this, for now.
    unqualified statement.
    unqualified statement.
    Wrong, proven a thousand times.
    A hundred thousand guitar necks of mahogany say no.
    And now I expect you to legitimately explain how a side-grain indent impression test controls tone. :rollno:
  19. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I fail to see how Janka is relevant.

    Australian blackwood is a close relative. It is limited in availability in the states but an excellent substitute. I am considering making a bass with an Aussie blackwood neck.

    I personally would think koa could be fine as a neck wood. I have used mahogany and sapele and canarywood. Those are less stiff than maple. Certainly stiffer is better and while those experiments produced fine instruments, I tend to pair less stiff woods with something stiff like a jatoba core these days when it counts.

    All that said I would use that piece of koa for something other than a neck.
  20. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    agreed - I would not use that piece of Koa for neck construction

    and since this is your first build, why are you wasting the big $$$ on fancy woods when you haven't even worked thru all the details on your first neck? IMNSHO you shoule be focusing on construction techniques and not shizzle for your first few builds. to do anything else is simply wasting your money

    IMO your first build should be along this:

    * flatsawn or quartersawn Eastern Maple neck
    * fingerboard of choice, but not something outrageously expensive or exotic
    * Alder, Ash, Mahogany, Black Walnut, Poplar, or Basswood body without a fancy top (save the top thingy for your second build)

    the first few builds are all about getting your woodworking techniques up to par for building an electric solid body instrument. it's about measurement tolerances, woodworking skills, and assembly details

    just like your first car - you don't learn to drive in a Hummer (unless you're daddy's spoiled brat)

    just my 2 Indian Rupees written with the perspective of 20/20 hindsight

    all the best,


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