An unofficial study on the transportation of lumber from The Big Island to
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
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
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.