Bringin' Koa back from Hawaii

An unofficial study on the transportation of lumber from The Big Island to the mainland.
Not surprisingly, there are woodworker's shops all over the island. Not the gift shops, which also sell boxes and bowls, but shops owned by a woodworker (or a family of 'em). Each time we checked one out, I asked if by any chance the owner ever sold lumber. At Kamaaina Woods in Honokaa, I was invited out back to check out a load of koa he'd bought from the son of a man who'd had it sawn for him years back, then passed on without doing anything with it. I bought one board, but the lot was all 3/4 stock with no really neat figuring, and mostly four or five inches wide. I looked at it a long time but only that one board caught my eye. But we had fun chatting with the guy. He had some absolutely beautiful boxes and bowls on his shelves. And a shop cat, and a floor-to-ceiling bird cage in one corner of the store.
I was able to get our party to stop at two lumber sellers: Paradise Hardwoods on the east side near Hilo, and Aloha Woods on the west side Kona district. When we stopped at Paradise it looked like that might be my only chance, and my companions were dubious about putting lumber in the luggage (read: "No, I'm NOT going to have any extra room in my carryon!" so I agreed to ship this one. It increased the cost by almost half again, but it let me buy what I wanted and more than I would have bought if I was going to have it cut to fit the checkin bags. Ken Endriss at Paradise Hardwoods had plenty of wood in several grades to choose from. I bought 7 feet of 9/4 mango, 4.5 feet of 6/4 Select koa, 5 feet of common koa, and 32 inches of 4/4x32" select curly. 154 bucks for the wood, $68 to ship it. What the hell, I wasn't coming back for a while. Shipping the wood avoided the 4% excise tax on the transaction, which knocked a whole five dollars, plus change, off the top. He said he'd time the shipping so it would arrive after we got back. He also kindly offered to include the board I bought from Kamaaina Woods, and pointed out that the wood was probably about %12 moisture so I'd have to wait a bit before working it. Gotta get a moister meter...
But I was still curious about bringing the wood with me in my checked bags. I'd heard tales of Ag inspectors checking everything, but that if the wood is dry with the bark off, you'd be okay. I'd also heard that you couldn't bring koa wood out of Hawaii, period. But nobody in Hawaii said that. SWMBO pointed out that we'd seen shop after shop filled with shelves of koa and mango boxes, bowls and artwork (I got some pretty neat box ideas I want to try) and it seemed to her that there wasn't much difference between a koa bowl and a koa board in that respect. They were both dry with the bark off. But in the interests of clarity, purely as an exercise to broaden my knowledge base and pass that information on, when we passed Aloha Woods near the end of our journey around the island, I talked 'em into pulling in, and purchased 69 inches of Select Curly 4/4, cut into two 30-inch lengths. While I was roaming the racks - there was a LOT of wood there - SWMBO and her friend had a grand time checking out the box and bowl displays in the front.
I probably should have had 'em cut the boards a bit shorter but they fit diagonally in my larger carryon, along with the 9 inch leftover and a 6 1/2 diameter round, about 4 inches high that I got from a scrap shelf at a shop. Several of the shops sell scraps at much higher prices than the lumber sellers. That chunk was 20 bucks but it spoke to me. Maybe I can bandsaw it into some nested boxes...
I put the boards and the round in the suitcase, and we went through inspection. No questions, no hassles, no problems. Into the scanner thingee, out the other end. Each bag got a green "Kona USDA" sticker, and off we went. No hassles. Well, United did lose one bag for about two days but it was the one with the dirty laundry and sandals, not the wood.
I have given up trying to decide if the most fun part of the trip was hunting wood or snorkeling with dolphins.
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Sigh. I wrote that just after I got back and had decided it needed a lot of editing before sending. Then I sent some pictures to the binary group, and it ended up in the queue. Dam.
Dan
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I brought a small Koa board (5/4, 20 in X 10 in, $10) back from Kauaii last year. I stuck it in my wife's checked luggage, which was inspected and clearly seen by the inspector, who let it go without comment. It cost me $25 to get it home (SFO) because the bag was 1/gzillionth lb overweight and the plane was about to taxi off. I think they plan for those things.
-JBB
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