Koa on the Big Island

Through a fortuitous sequence of coincidences, we are going to spend two weeks in Hawaii in early January. First vacation in decades, we feel lucky and are very grateful.
So. I'd like to pick up as much Koa as I can haul back in an empty suitcase or reasonable facsimile. Or two. We are going to spend the whole time on the Big Island. Not coming in through Honolulu. Most of our time is planned but there'll be enough time to get bored now and then. Below is a list I've found for lumber suppliers on the island.
We'll be spending at least some time in Hilo, perhaps quite a bit of time and there are several suppliers there, so that's good. What I haven't been able to determine conclusively is:
Any problems with bringing Koa back home at all? I know it gets shipped and I know my size/weight limits at the airline, but my resarch about bringing the wood back seems to be contradictory. Some of what I find says it's not a problem at all, other sources say there could be problems - worries about mold, bugs, disease, etc.
And if anyone knows anything about these places below, can you recommend one that might have good wood, good prices and be willing to cut the pieces so they'd fit in the suitcase or reasonable etc?
Based on what I can find for prices, it looks like Koa select will be in the $13 - $15 range per bf and curly will be well over $30/bf. Select will be just fine, thanks. I might even go with just the plain for some of it. Do those prices sound current? Can't seem to find dates on those prices after 2001.
I know I can find out the answers to these questions with some phone calls after we get there, and I've sent a few emails to some of the companies below. I wasn't going to post this, but then I thought maybe I (and perhaps someone else, sometime) could learn a little more from this group than what I'd get asking around once I get there. If not, then I wasted a little time.
Thanks, Dan.
List from: http://www.thestateofhawaii.com/lumber /
Argus Building Supply 107 Makaala St Hilo, HI (808) 933-9441
Don's Firewood PO Box 483 Volcano, HI (808) 967-7167
Hawaiian Hardwoods & Furniture 200 Kanoelehua Ave # 204 Hilo, HI (808) 935- 5527
Honsador Lumber Corp 100 Kukila St Hilo, HI (808) 961-6000
Hpm Building Supply 380 Kanoelehua Ave Hilo, HI (808) 935-0875
Island Cedar Source 13-3541 Alapai St Pahoa, HI (808) 965-6318
Multi-Facetted Homes 15-2034 17th Makuu Keaau, HI (808) 982-6647
Pierson Building Supplies 16-207 Wiliama Pl Keaau, HI (808) 966-7458
True Value Hardware 199 Makaala St Hilo, HI (808) 935-9711
Winkler Wood Products Inc 187 Silva St Hilo, HI (808) 961-6411
Woodcutter Tree Service 41 Pamala Pl Hilo, HI (808) 959-3367
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I'm not sure of this, but I don't think you'll make it through customs with any. Bug thing ya know. Lot o Termites over there.Check with USDA first. Most of the really curly stuff comes from Kauai. I spent 4 months on the islands , but did not see more than 3-4 Koa trees growing. Besides that stuff is heavy, how much can ya get in your luggage anyway? Good luck. I think they waste a lot of Koa over in the Islands. I've seen baseboard made out of it, pity.

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FOW writes:

Unless things have changed one helluva lot, you do NOT have to go through Customs when moving from one state to another.
Charlie Self
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal." Alexander Hamilton
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Charlie:
Last year when SWMBO and I were there we were asked questions about Agri products. They are very tight on these things. They actually have agri agents lurking in the airports.
Rich

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My wife had an apple or an orange when getting on the plane to come home, they took the freakin thing from her. Another guy bought a case of Pinapples from an airport vender, that was okay. Going there you have to sign a some papers that you are not bringing anything into the state, Mainly agri stuff They are quite serious about that stuff over there.

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George Kazaka notes:

But it ain't Customs. You don't know what a PITA is unless you get into a hassle with Customs or IRS.
Charlie Self
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal." Alexander Hamilton
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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What I found in researching says that just about all Koa now comes from the big island. Curly coming from Kauai does kinda fit in with that since it's more than twice the price of "regular" koa.

50 pounds with no dimension over 5 feet, and 80 bucks for every additional checked bag. :-) Unless I ship it. Then it's the going rate and I won't know what that is till I get there. I'm taking one bag's worth in two bags on the way over, two bags right at the weight limit on the way back, plus whatever we can fit in SWMBO's. All this assuming I won't run into ag laws and koa-sniffing dogs. And I WILL certainly be asking around to make sure it's legal. I have a feeling the lumber sellers are familiar with this question. Just a hunch.
I had thought maybe I could cut some off some fallen koa trees on our friend's property but found out those trees were salvaged a long time ago. So what I'll come back with will be store-bought dried lumber with a receipt and everything.
Since they ship that stuff to the mainland all the time there MUST be a way around the regs, assuming they exist for koa. Fruit's a different story. Those things are bug cities. Dried lumber *might* be different. I've seen the species list for dangerous materials, and koa was listed but there were no warnings or forbidden zones or anything like that.

Doesn't surprise me. If I was a local, I'd use whatever was at hand. Of course if the prices over there have risen like they have here, that baseboard was probably put in over ten years ago. Everything I find says the price of koa skyrocketed just about the turn of the century.
Dan
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I think it is the same prices you mentioned before. Like I said, It would be the Ag. people that would give you a hard time.Ask and the people might ship it for you. They do all the paperwork stuff. I got a little pineapple that was real cool, bright pink past 3 Ag. stops on 3 different island. Made it back to the US with it. I picked it in Oahu, then went to Kauai with it , then Maui then home. Turned out rotten when we cut it. You might have to have the wood fumigated to bring it here, to the U. S.. Koa has some silica in it but not as bad as Teak. Watch your cutters, it will dull them fairly fast. Make friends with the big Hawaiian boys there and they might take you up to where the Koas grow. Don't dress like a howlie. Wear flip- flops and plain old shorts and a white tee shirt, your in like flynn.DON'T wear a flowery ass hawaiin shirt ! Be cool brudder !

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Huh! Now that never came up in any of the research I did.

The shorts and t-shirt isn't a problem, that's my normal summer attire at the office, but I draw the line at flip-flops. They flip off when they flop and I belt-sand my big toe on the concrete. The only sandals I can wear all day are my four-year-old Tevas. I sure hope that's ok.
I thought those flower shirts were like, mandatory dress code at restaurants out there.
Dan
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Dan snipped-for-privacy@charter.net wrote in

Definitely no socks! :)
You probably can't avoid being pegged as a non-local and therefore tourist. If you show a little "cultural sensitivity" you'll probably get a lot more help. The locals who are not in the tourist industry are not paid to smile automatically at everyone, you have to earn the smile.
Also you'll probably find that most of those places are not open much more than 8 to 4.
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DavidS writes:

As I recall (and the memory admittedly is 40+ years old), you pretty much have to *earn* a smile from those in the tourist industry, too.
Charlie Self
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal." Alexander Hamilton
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self)

The average visitor here spends something like $140 per person per day not including lodging and car, so I guess you're right.
I checked with the person manning the agricultural checkpoint at the Lihue airport this afternoon and he said koa was no problem at all.
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Hi Dan, Any koa you take back has to be dry and not have any bark on it. Your prices on select is probaly in line but I think the curly will be higher. I'm not familiar with most of the suppliers in yur list but I know that Winkler Woods in Hilo went our of business, but there is another store I believe in the Kona area that is still around under the Winkler name. Gene

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in

Wahoo! Thanks a million Gene, you just saved me several days of worryin' at least.

I'd much rather have it that way than the other way round. I probably wouldn't be able to swing more than $300, maybe more if SWMBO and I have a little heart-to-heart. At 15 a bf that's only 20 feet or so. The luthiers can have the curly.

No telling how old the list is, but there are enough to be pretty sure I'll find at least one, and maybe enough to compare prices. :-)
Thanks again, Gene. That helped.
Dan
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Dan snipped-for-privacy@charter.net wrote in

You will have to put your luggage through an agricultural inspection when you fly back home. I believe they are only looking for pests that might be transferred to a crop on the mainland. Since koa doesn't grow there I don't think there will be a problem. I might have a chance to ask about this tomorrow and I'll post again if I do. You could call the U. S. Department of Agriculture at (808) 861-8490.

The Honsador Lumber place here on Kauai supplies mostly wholesale construction lumber, as far as I can tell from my one visit. Don't immediately rule out the True Value Hardware store. Big box stores are a new phenomenon in Hawaii, so the hardware stores have broader product lines. I only recognize one other name, Winkler. They have a web site here: http://www.interpac.net/~winkler /
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Snatch up some of that Mango Wood.......Sweet !

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Talk to an Ag inspector in Hawaii. I sent some ginger from there, had it inspected first and all went well.
I also brought plants from Malaysia, had them inspected at the sorse, no problems.
--

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and
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Call the federal and your state's departments of agriculture, throw in Hawaii's for good measure, they'll know the answers. California, which you likely pass through, is one of the states with annoying agricultural import laws. You might put it all in a giant zip lock bag as you pass through.
I got stopped at a California border station while on vacation out that way, I had to declare all the fruits and vegetables in my cooler but the boarder guard ended up just telling me to keep them all and sending me on my way.
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You will have to have the wood products inspected by the US Ag Dept. before you leave the island, regardless of whether you go through Honolulu or not. Don't forget to have every board-inch of the wood accounted for in your receipts from whatever sources you buy from.
There may be quantity-time limits.
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