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Hawaii is one of those places where almost any kind of tree will grow.  Unfortunately apple, pear, walnut and boxwood are not among the trees that thrive here.  Below is a picture of some of the common wood found in this area.  There are many more species but this is what I had on hand to photograph so I will start there and possibly in the future add others.


From left to right they are causarina, tropical almond, mango, albiza, lemon, ohia, milo and avocado.


Causarina, also known as Australian pine, she oak, iron wood and river oak is a tree native to Australia.  Introduced in Hawaii as a wind break tree.  The wood is hard with a moderate grain and red coloring varied from a very light red brown sap wood to a dark red heart wood.  To coarse for exterior use on a model that is going to be finished bright but and excellent wood for framing that will remain hidden.  Tends to crack during drying and bleed dark read sap when first cut.  Doesn't seem to be a good wood for bending.


Tropical Almond is a tree native to the south Pacific and may be native to Hawaii but there is some that think it was introduced after European contact.  Popular shade tree in seaside parks.  Similar to a tree native to Hawaii called Kamani or Hawaiian oak.  Hard wood with a light brown sap  wood and darker brown heart wood.  Nice grain and works easily.  Fairly hard with a moderate grain.  To coarse for exterior use unless painted but other wise a good wood to work with.  Very good for display base and/or cabinet.


Mango.  Common in tropical areas.  Beautiful grain but way to coarse for model building.  The dust and sap can cause irritation and rash.


Albiza.  Native to India and is the fastest growing tree in the world.  Considered a trash tree in Hawaii but has nice wood with some interesting properties.  Very light, heavier than balsa but lighter than basswood.  Very strong for it weight but has a coarse, stringy texture.  Works easily and holds fastenings fairly well.  Does not bend well.  Makes a great wood for fillers and backing pieces and can be used for a solid hull that will be planked over.


Lemon.  This piece is from a Meyer lemon tree my neighbor cut down.  Unfortunately is laid on the ground in the rain for several days before I found out about it.  Hard, tight grained wood that saws, carves and turns well.  Very susceptible to insect attack and staining if not seasoned and stored correctly.  Very good all around modeling wood.


Ohia is the most common native tree in Hawaii and is found no where else.  Scientific names is polymorphus because it can grown in a large variety of forms from a low spreading bush to a giant a hundred feet tall and 3 feet thick at the base depending on the conditions.  Hard, dense and close grained wood.  Will crack if not sealed as soon as it is cut and seasoned correctly.  Has been used for outrigger canoes, flooring, furniture, musical instruments, turning and carving.  Color varies from medium brown to a very dark, reddish brown.  In general an excellent wood for modeling especially for dark parts finished bright.


Milo is another tree native to Hawaii and found on other south Pacific islands.  Beautiful wood for carving.  Moderately hard with a close grain.  Light brown sap wood and dark brown heart wood.  Some really old trees have heart wood that is very nearly black.  Common in coastal areas where there is a source of fresh water.  Tends to have a very convoluted, multi-trunk structure so finding long, straight pieces is unusual.  An excellent wood for model building.


Avocado.  Common tree in warm climates including southern California and Florida.  Wood is a light brown with a grain that varies from tight and straight to wavy with flecks.  Good wood for general purpose use in model building but the grain can be a problem.

My advice and comments are always worth what you paid for them.

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I love Hawaiian Koa. I used it for the binding on my acoustic guitar build. (See thread in my signature) 

Edited by alde

The heart is happiest when the head and the hands work together.



Current Builds:

HMS Halifax 1/48 POF Lumberyard Kit

Model Shipways Glad Tidings

Acoustic Guitar Build FINISHED

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    My wife and I have made ten trips to Hawaii prior to my life in a wheelchair and we really would like to return, but air travel would really be tough now.:(  One of the things that I always admired was some of the woodworking projects that I saw when we were there made of Hawaiian Koa and some of the other native woods.  I would love to incorporate some of them into my modeling projects but, unfortunately have not seen any offered thru any of our wood suppliers.  Is there any source that you are aware of that can supply them?  I  like that you have been able to come up with the some of the woodworking properties of the various woods also.:)


“You’ve just got to know your limitations”  Dirty Harry

Current Builds:  Modified MS 1/8” scale Phantom, and modified plastic/wood hybrid of Aurora 1:87 scale whaling bark Wanderer.

Past Builds: (Done & sold) 1/8” scale A.J. Fisher 2 mast schooner Challenge, 1/6” scale scratch built whaler Wanderer w/ plans & fittings from A.J. Fisher, and numerous plastic kits including 1/8” scale Revell U.S.S. Constitution (twice), Cutty Sark, and Mayflower.

                  (Done & in dry dock) Modified 1/8” scale Revell U.S.S. Constitution w/ wooden deck and masting [too close encounter w/conc. floor in move]

Hope to get to builds: MS 3/16” scale Pride of Baltimore II,  MS 1/2” scale pinky schooner Glad Tidings,  a scratch build 3/16” scale  Phantom, and a scratch build 3/16" scale Denis Sullivan.

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2 hours ago, BETAQDAVE said:

Is there any source that you are aware of that can supply them?



Kamuela hardwoods is the only one I have direct experience with.  There are a few others but I do not know if they will deal is small quantities and by mail.

My advice and comments are always worth what you paid for them.

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