Frequently Asked Questions

How is Martin & MacArthur furniture made?

A master craftsman at Martin & MacArthur begins each piece of fine furniture by choosing enough perfectly-matched Koa wood from our vast inventory to complete the piece.   The Koa wood has been dried to insure no bowing or warping will occur.


The Koa wood is cut and assembled by one craftsman.  We take pride in allowing each craftsman to make each piece of furniture from start to finish.  This is not an assembly line or factory.  The furniture is made by following computer-assisted design specs to insure uniformity with shape and construction.  The average tenure of our furniture craftsmen is 20 years.  They are the best at what they do.  No Hawaii company has a bigger or more experienced team of professional furniture builders.

Where is our koa purchased?

Martin & MacArthur purchases all its Koa from the Big Island of Hawaii, from harvesters who contract with private land owners. Martin & MacArthur does not own any forest acreage in Hawaii Island.

Where is Martin & MacArthur furniture made?

All Martin & MacArthur furniture is made in our 25,000 sq. foot workshop in Kalihi Kai in Honolulu, Hawaii. We out-source nothing. Our fine furniture is made only by our skilled craftsmen right here in Honolulu, Hawaii.

How can you tell the quality of koa wood furniture?

There are many ways to identify quality fine furniture: The pieces of wood used in making the item match in color and grain. The furniture should have precise, tight joints. Every aspect of the furniture should reflect the pride of fine craftsmanship, including crisp details The legs should be uniform, even if lathe-turned. There should be no variations in the size of the legs, arms, or back rests supports. There should be a consistent, unobtrusive finish that is not waxy or too glossy because the true quality of the wood should be respected. The piece should be appointed with quality accessories, drawer slides, hardware. Nothing cheap. Finally, all design details must work together to create a cohesive, ascetically-pleasing design.

What is the guarantee on Maritin & MacArthur furniture?

Our furniture has a lifetime guarantee on all materials and workmanship used in the construction process. If something in the craftsmanship is defective, we will make it right.


However, we do not guarantee against wear and tear or abuse.

What makes koa a special wood?

Koa grows only in Hawaii. Koa was the wood prized by the ali'i and monarchs of Hawaii. Koa was also the wood used by to build many of the great plantation homes and churches in old Hawaii. Koa is a tremendous variation in grain patterns and color. This variety in color and tone creates a richness and luminescence that is second to no other wood in the world. The most revered Koa has a wavy grain pattern called "curl." Only 10% of all Koa is curly. Martin & MacArthur pays harvesters to get the finest curly Koa to make its furniture.

Are there different kinds of koa wood?

There are no established sub-species of Koa. However, Koa wood grown in each island of Hawaii looks different in terms of color and grain. No two Koa trees are alike. Koa wood can vary widely from one tree to another. Buying Koa in large lot quantities as we do, enables us to extensively match all the Koa used for a single piece of furniture. If the wood does not match, it would not be right, and it would not pass the quality standards of Martin & MacArthur.

Can I take a piece of Martin & MacArthur furniture to another place with a different climate than Hawaii?

Yes.  All Martin & MacArthur Koa furniture is designed to be taken and enjoyed anywhere in the world.


We engineer for the expansion and contraction of the wood that occurs with changes in humidity. For example, the seat on our rocking chair is not glued to the frame but is held by screws in oversized holes.  This insures no warping, cracking or creaking.

How do we refinish Koa furniture?

Refinsihing Koa furniture is a tedious process. First, we strip off the existing finish down to bare wood. Then, resand in detail, multiple times to achieve a smooth surface. We pressure steam out any "dents" in the wood" that can respond to humidity. We also repair the damaged parts, possibly even replaicng wood that is missing. Finally, we finish the piece as we would any new furniture.

What finishes are on the furniture?

Most of our Koa furniture is sanded and oiled multiple times with increasingly higher grades of paper.  Finally, the piece is sprayed with catalyzed lacquer finish. Table tops are finished with “polane”, to help prevent water marks.

How do we prolong the life of Koa? Can the sun damage it?

The rich color of Koa can be damaged by continuous exposure to direct sunlight. Do not put your Koa furniture in direct sunlight. We also suggest that an occasional gentle wiping of koa with a high grade furniture oil -- such as Milsek -- will extend the life and finish of your furniture.

What differentiates Martin & MacArthur furniture?

Martin & MacArthur has been making fine furniture in Hawaii for nearly 50 years, longer than anyone else.  We have a team of skilled craftsmen that are world class.  The aveage tenure of our fine furniture craftsmen is 20 years.  We have a detailed apprenticeship and journeyman program to train talented young woodworkers that we scout.  It takes roughly 10 years to move from apprentice to journeyman, and another 10 years before a craftsman is qualified to be called a "master."  Obviously, this program takes stamina, perseverance, and a passion for fine furniture.


Our fine furniture is found in many of the gracious Hawaiian homes and the most elegant resorts, including the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Moana Surfrider, the Halekulani, the Four Seasons Maui, the Ritz Carlton Maui, the St. Regis Princeville Kauai, Mariott Ihilani, and the Mauna Lani Resort on Hawaii Island.


We purchase more raw Koa wood than any other furniture maker in Hawaii -- by far.  This vast selection of Koa wood allows us to perfectly match the wood used for each piece of furniture.  Our extensive Koa inventory also allows customers a chance to "walk the walls" of Koa with our master craftsmen in order to choose the Koa wood that perfectly suits their tastes.


We have the largest, most extensive array of furniture making equipment and pre-production equipment in the State of Hawaii.  In the past two years, we have invested over $500,000 in new equipment, including the latest computer-assisted-design (CAD) capabilities in order to make our furniture profoundly better than anything else available.

How much does Koa cost by the board foot?

Martin & MacArthur buys only premium grade Koa for its furniture. We look for the best color and the highest amount of curl. Only 10% of the Koa harvested is good enough to be made into our fine Koa furniture. The price per board foot varies in the open market, depending on quality.

Why is veneer used on some very expensive pieces of furniture?

Veneer should not be used simply to cut corners when a solid piece of Koa can be used appropriately.  That destroys the integrity of the piece.  However, if the furniture calls for a solid wood border separate from the wood used in the center of the piece, then we must use veneer in order to accomodate natural expansion and contraction of the wood.  Othewise, the solid wood border would crack or break. Veneer permits repeating grain patterns, often seen in table tops with pie wedge shaped designs. Note that a lot of the finest European furniture of last century used veneer.

How long does it take to kiln dry Koa?

Martin & MacArthur has two kilns on premises at our Furniture Workshop. Each kiln can hold up to 3000 board feet of wood for drying.

Typcially, it takes 30 days to dry Koa wood that is one inch thick. It takes 45 days to dry Koa that is two inches thick. On the other hand, bedposts and solid plank dining tables can take up to six months to dry completely before they are ready to be crafted into furniture.

By drying our own Koa, we maintain a standard of dryness that is perfect for making our fine furniture. This prevents any warping or bowing of the wood. After all, we guarantee the workmanship fo our furniture for life.

Are the backs of the dressers finished?

Our Koa dressers and bureaus are designed to be placed against a wall.  Therefore, the backs do not have a finishing detail.  However, our two and three drawer tansus do have finished backs because they are sometimes used within a room , and not against a wall.

Is there anything that can keep termites away from the wood used for furniture? Do termites like Koa?

Fortunately, termites do not prefer Koa. Chemical pre-treatment will work to prevent termites, but it may discolor the wood. We do not recommend this.

Do the beds require box springs?

Our beds do not require box springs.  Our beds do have adjustable cross bars to allow for the perfect height no matter how thick the mattress.

Since Koa is a hardwood, what is its relative hardness compared to teak, oak, walnut etc.?

Koa is about as hard as walnut. It is harder than teak, and sometimes harder than maple. The hardness of Koa, like any wood, varies.

What type of wood is used on the inside of tansus & other bureaus?

We use mahogany  wood inside the drawers of the bureaus and dressers.

What forestry management program is underway for Koa?

On State land there is no management for koa production. Private lands vary from extensive replanting of seedling trees, scarification or just taking the cattle off the land. Koa itself grows very easily, but is a highly desired food by cattle, goats and sheep, all of which are a problem on the Big Island. Hence, animal control is the main management action needed to grow Koa.

Hawaii Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) is an organization in the Hamakua district of Hawaii Island that has begun an extensive re-forestation of Koa in over 2700 acres of cattle pastureland that was once Koa forests. Martin & MacArthur is proud to be partnering with HLH to re-plant new Koa trees in this district.

Tell us about the biscuits used in Martin & MacArthur furniture and why the're so strong?

Biscuits are made from diagonal grain compressed maple or birch. They are shaped like a oval Ritz cracker.  Fine furniture makers, including Martin & MacArthur use birch biscuits in the process to join together planks of wood.  When applied with glue, the biscuits swell up and create the most durable bond.

For what purpose did ancient Hawaiians use Koa?

Koa was the name used for the ancient Hawaiian warriors. It also means "brave, bold, and fearless." Hawaiian warriors fashioned their combat weapons out of a hardwood that grew throughout the Islands. This hardwood, endemic to Hawaii, became known as Koa.

Besides warrior weapons, ancient Hawaiians often used Koa for canoes, paddles, and umeke, or hand-carved bowls. In later years, as westerners settled in the Hawaiian Kingdom, Koa became the wood of choice for fine furniture crafted by local artisans. It was even used for early surf boards.

What is used to give the wood such a smooth finish?

The craftsmen of Martin & MacArthur take great care in creating an ultimately smooth finish for all its furniture.


Even before a piece is assembled, all the Koa wood pieces receive their first sanding. then, once the piece is assembled, each piece of our fine furniutre goes through a detailed finishing process which invoives up to four rounds of sanding.  Each round of sanding involves an increasingly higher grit of sand paper so that at the end, it is like sanding with a facial tissue.  Finally, the sanded piece of furniture receives a very light coat of our specially-formulated lacquer.  Over five decades making fine furniture, we have perfected the ultimate light lacquer that preserves the natural color of the wood, without ever yellowing.  This light lacquer provides durability for the piece.  Additonally, we finish all table top surfaces with a duravar finish which provides additional protection from watermarks and stains.

Is Koa grown anywhere else in the world?

Acacia Koa grows ONLY in Hawaii. It does not grow anywhere else. Sometimes people confuse Koa with other tree species from the "Acacia genus." However, the species "Acacia Koa" is endemic to Hawaii.

The Koa grown in each Hawaiian Island looks different. Martin & MacArthur uses only Koa wood harvested from the Big Island of Hawaii because this wood shows off the richest color and grain.

A few years ago, some people tried to pass off Australian Black Waddle (Acacia Melanoxin) as Koa. Even today, some unethical importers from the Philippines still try to pass of their cheap nara wood as Hawaiian Koa. However, these misguided, ill-fated efforts are illegal and have been halted. There is no substiture for Acacia Koa. Koa grows no where in the world, but Hawaii.

What do you recommend people "clean" their furniture with if it's dirty? For example, chairs with continued hand rubbings on the ends.

We recommend using Milsek oil applied with a light soft cloth.  Do not use cheap aerosol/spray polishes.  These cheap spray polishes create a build-up on the surface of the furniture.  Milsek oil does not.  A light wipe of Milsek oil is only needed once every 1-2 months.  It is not necessary to polish your Koa furniture more often than that.  Enjoy.

How old should a Koa tree be before cutting it? How big is a Koa tree when it is cut?

Koa trees are sometimes harvested as young as 20 years. However, Martin & MacArthur uses only previously-fallen trees and already dead trees. We never cut down live Koa trees to make our furniture. The ages of these dead trees range from 50-80 years. Koa trees have been known to grow as old as 200 years, but in areas where there are not much topsoil, these majestic trees may die after 60 years. Koa trees are usually between 15" to 60" in diameter.

How long does it take to make a piece of furniture?

The craftsmen of Martin & MacArthur make each piece of fine furniture one at a time.  There are no assembly lines.  We do not have workers who create one part of the furniture and pass it down to another worker who does another part of the piece.  Instead, we have the biggest team of  fine master craftsmen in the State of Hawaii.  Each master craftsman creates a piece of furniture from start to finish, even selecting the Koa wood frrom our vast stash of Koa harvested from the Island of Hawaii.  Rockers are made in 2-3 weeks. Individual pieces of furniture rarely take longer than 2 weeks. The longest wait is to get into the production schedule.  We usually have 4-6 weeks of furniture orders in queue to be made at all times.

What makes Koa curly? What percent of a typical Koa tree is curly? Where on a tree is the curly wood found?

There are time-worn arguments about whether the "curl" in Koa occurs because of genetics or environmental factors. Famous scientists fall into each camp. However, it is widely agreed that "curl" is often around where the tree forks or where two bough branches part. This is often called "stress curl" or "crotch curl."

Traditionalists argue that curly Koa is only found in only 10% of all Koa wood. This underscores the reason why curly Koa is so highly prized and valued.

Is each piece of furniture original?

Each piece of furniture made by the craftsmen of Martin & MacArthur is a design that has been either conceived of by our internal design team or inspired by historic pieces of furniture.  Much of our Heritage line is directly inspired by pieces owned by the Monarchs of Hawaii.  Some of these original pieces can be found at the Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, or at Washington Place, the former residence of Queen Lili'uokalani.  We have also crafted furniture on classic European design styles, such as our Queen Emma line which is styled after the Biedermeier design prevalent across Europe at the time that Queen Emma lived.


All Martin & MacArthur furniture has been re-engineered to meet today's comfort standards.  For example, all drawer pulls have quiet, automatic closures.  The interior halogen lights in all display canbinets have hidden, touch sensitive on-off switches and dimmers.  The bed frames are all adjustable to any height of mattresses and are made in any width, including California King and Eastern King.  We apply a special duravar finish to all table tops to eliminate risk of watermarks from hot or cold cups.

How many furniture makers at the factory?

Martin & MacArthur employs the largest team of fine furniture makers in the state of Hawaii.  Roughly 20-25 highly skilled craftsmen create all our furniture, located at our Furniture Workshop in Kalihi on the island of Oahu.  Of this number, four are master craftsmen, each with over 25 years of experience making fine furniture.  We have roughly four journeymen who have been honing their skills making fine furniture for between 10 to 18 years each.  The rest are apprentices with less than ten years of experience.  We have the largest and only structured apprecticeship program for furniture making in the state.  This is our future.  The apprentices of today, become the craftsmen of tomorrow who will be responsible for carrying on the legacy of Martin & MacArthur.

Can furniture be special ordered? How long does it take to get it?

Yes, because we have the largest team of furniture craftsmen in Hawaii, we can custom deisgn any piece of furniutre using any wood imaginable, not just Koa.  If you have an idea, or if you have seen something you like, we can draw it up and create computer-aided designs for you to review, before we begin crafting your furniture.  Timing for completion of a custom order usually takes 6-8 weeks.

How long will our furniture last?

Martin & MacArthur guarantees the materials and workmanship of its furniture for a lifetime.   Our Koa furniture is a legacy, and meant to be passed down from generation to generation.   We take great pride in creating the highest quality furniture that will stand the test of time.  We do not guarantee against wear and tear or damage.

What makes the color variations of Koa? (Does lighter Koa mean a younger tree & darker Koa an older tree?)

No one has definitive answers to what makes some Koa darker than others. However, the widely held belief is that the color of the Koa is due, in part, to the soil from which it grows. The nutrients and organic compounds in the soil help create tonal differences in the colors of Koa. It is also believed that the Big Island of Hawaii grows Koa with the best color -- from golden blond to deep chocolatey brown. Since this island is the youngest of the Hawaiian chain, it is believed that the soil is richer and more likely to create Koa of these colors.

Are wood fillers used on our furniture?

We do not use fillers in our furniture.  However, we do have a technique to patch small knot holes to make them indistinguishable.  Also, Martin & MacArthur never uses stains or dyes on the Koa, unlike some other makers that do.  We believe the natural beauty of majestic Koa should be seen without synthetic coloration.

Is Koa an "endangered" wood? Will we run out of Koa in the next 50 years?

Koa in NOT an endangered wood. While Koa grows only in Hawaii, it is still the second most common tree in the State. There are presently over 100,000 acres being grown commercially. Current projections of Koa industry consumption require less than 6,000 acres on a sustainable basis. Hence, there are currently significantly more acres of Koa available than the industry will use. That being said, much of the original Koa forest land from old Hawaii had been converted to cattle pastureland in the past century. Pro-active efforts of Hawaii Legacy Hardwoods and Martin & MacArthur will re-plant new Koa trees on the Big Island near Hamakua.

What do you do with the wood scraps that are too small to be used for the furniture use?

Martin & MacArthur has a disciplined approach to utilize almost all the Koa wood we purchase.  We use the largest pieces of Koa to make fine furniture.  Then, the "shorts" or remainders left are used to create a wide assortment of Koa home accessories, including picture frames, photo albums, desk clocks, wall clocks, coasters, serving trays, placemats, trivets, pepper grinders, wine stands, money clips, business card cases, etc.

What is meant by "turned legs"?

The rounded legs of a table or desk are created by "turning" a long piece of Koa on a lathe.  The craftsman then carves the leg shape from the turning wood.