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Thread: Yew wood any good? Been offered a standing dead yew tree. Never worked with it.

  1. #1
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    Yew wood any good? Been offered a standing dead yew tree. Never worked with it.

    I take trees down periodically. This one is just over 2.5 feet at the base. It has been dead a while so it's dry and hard.
    Sawing it up into planks could be a lot of work and very hard on my chains so I wonder if it's worth it.

    Does yew crack a lot when it dries? What is it like to work with, grain, colour etc?

    Staves make good bows but usually Pacific yew seems to be used. My interest is in furniture.

    Thanks to anyone who has worked with it.

  2. #2
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    Great for traditional bows. I've never heard of it used any other way but yew is scarce here in tx.

  3. #3
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    Yew ought to give it a try.

    Sorry, couldn't resist,

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  4. #4
    Let us know how it works out.....would love to harvest some wood myself...

  5. #5
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    Yew never know.....
    Jerry

  6. #6
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    In England yew is used a lot for traditional Windsor chairs, and I think it is found occasionally as a decorative veneer on 17th-18th century cabinetry.

  7. #7
    Yew is very, very soft even when dry. It can't take an impact for nothin' and will dent if you look at it too hard. It is very elastic though and not easily broken. Since it's a conifer its heartwood is pretty good in compression but its sapwood is fairly good in tension, unlike most others of the type. That's why it's used in traditional English longbows. If the sapwood is too thick though, it can crack and of course the bow becomes a wall decoration.

    The best stuff is very tightly grained. It's had a hard life and the growth rings are paper thin. Lawn yew kinda sucks for bows as It's been watered and pampered. Pacific yew is only one breed; we use it here in the states because, well, it can be had.

    The worst thing to look out for with regard to other projects than bows is all the bazillion pin knots it can have.

    Edit: 2.5 feet across at the base? That's a big mamajama. Never seen one that big, personally. Lots and lots to play with there.
    Last edited by Glen Canaday; 12-20-2016 at 6:48 PM.

  8. #8
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    There are several varieties of yew and some (maybe all) are toxic and can cause sensitivities. Regarding sensitivity think red cedar or cocobolo. Note on this chart of maybe a couple hundred woods there are only a few labelled with skull and cross bones and yew is one of them.

    http://www.wood-database.com/wood-ar...-and-toxicity/
    Last edited by Jim Belair; 12-20-2016 at 7:28 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Belair View Post
    There are several varieties of yew and some (maybe all) are toxic and can cause sensitivities. Regarding sensitivity think red cedar or cocobolo. Note on this chart of maybe a couple hundred woods there are only a few labelled with skull and cross bones and yew is one of them.

    http://www.wood-database.com/wood-ar...-and-toxicity/
    Apologies, I rarely consider power tool users since I'm not one myself. The above chart is something to consider.

  10. #10
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    Wow! note that that Wood Database article opens with this quote:
    “Not to omit any one of them, the yew is similar to these other trees in general appearance . . . It is an ascertained fact that travellers’ vessels, made in Gaul of this wood, for the purpose of holding wine, have caused the death of those who used them.” –Pliny the Elder, from Naturalis Historia, ca. 77 AD

    So, not a great choice for bowls or cups!

  11. #11
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    Post #9 seems VERY strange: Yew is a pretty HARD wood,though it looks like a cedar. It was used to make the long bows which the English used to such great effect in their early wars. They used yew so much that even in medieval times they had to import it from Spain.

    Most English yew these days is grown in cemeteries,fenced off so cattle can't graze beneath it.

    I LOVE yew wood. It has a VERY high strength to weight ratio. I made some very deep frame marquetry saws from it. Used one of them to saw out the marquetry on the marquetry guitar I have posted here before.

    I'd LOVE to get some yew wood to make a bow!!! Or to make any thing else out of.

    I know that cattle can be poisoned by eating fallen yew needles. haven't had any health trouble working it,but I haven't had trouble with any wood,though some certainly have. Especially wood like cocobolo.

    I would regard that tree you have as a great treasure,and definitely would have it sawn into useful planks. And,don't leave it laying on the ground. I don't know how long it can stand that before starting to spalt,which would be a HUGE SIN!!!!!

    William,what state are you in?
    Last edited by george wilson; 12-21-2016 at 10:24 AM.

  12. #12
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    Yew is excellent for bentwood chairs, and I agree with George- very hard stuff. Ironically, I was just reading up on Yew the other day, and there were many cautions about the toxicity of it. Apparently even the pollen can be irritating. I would be very careful when felling and resawing it.

  13. #13
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    I have heard of 2x4"s,cut in the Pacific North West,having an occasional yew wood 2x4 mixed in the lot. Never been lucky enough to have spotted and bought one though!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    Yew ... used to make the long bows...
    I recall a medieval weapons program on one of the big-number cable channels did an episode on the English longbow. The expert said they split the Yew blank for the bow to include both heart wood and sap wood, one for strength and the other for 'spring'. The combination made it powerful enough to penetrate armor, but tough to draw (>80-90lbs if I remember). I would assume that the position, symmetry, and proportion of the respective wood types is very important.

    And for our next adventure down trivia lane, I bring you...

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the reply. Seems I will have to take it down. I am in South West Ontario.
    I had not thought about making tool handles from it. I considered drawer bottoms. I will have to cut 7 feet off the end and split out bow staves for fun. The rest of the trunk can be boards out of the middle then quarter sawn for chair spindles or tool handles.
    I know the leaves will kill cattle. This one is on a very large lawn at the top of a creek bank so it may have been spoilt with water.
    It has been on his great grandfathers property a very long time.

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