Custom in the Build: Susan & Rene Hailey Koa Tenor Ukes

Two ukulele enthusiasts recently visited the Breedlove Custom Design Center to design a pair of custom master-class tenor ukuleles. They selected very impressive master-class koa sets from our custom stack, Honduran mahogany bolt-on necks and matching centered dots for the freeboard inlays. One uke was designed with a light koa binding on body and neck, while the other will feature a dark koa bind on the body and neck. Check out the images of these gorgeous wood sets!

Figured Master Class Koa

Master-class koa, acacia koa, is a fast-growing tropical hardwood, native to the Hawaiian Islands. It requires up to 200 inches of annual rainfall. As a nitrogen fixing plant, it is perfect for growing in the young volcanic soil of the Islands. It is considered one of the most visually stunning woods available, with golden hues and often with dramatic figure. Koa is characterized by a tone that is both clear and sweet. The voice grows over time, from sweet to sweeter. Koa has the stiffness and clarity of rosewood, but with the warm, light tones of mahogany. It is similar in weight and strength to black walnut.

Colors range from brown to gold, with rich and varying grain, tending toward curl or flame figure in old-growth trees. Due to its popularity, it is harder and harder to find top-quality koa. Limited supply has driven up prices in recent years, making koa expensive, and therefore rarely found in production instruments.