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Working with Yew


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#1 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:51 AM

I know Yew is great for bows ... especially know for the legendary Long Bows...
Does anyone have any experience working Yew for handles?
Any recommendations?
My boyer books have lots of info on working staves into bows.... just thought I would see if there were any thoughts or advice...
Thanks
Craig

#2 EdgarFigaro

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 03:36 AM

Seems like some over on the british blades forums have made some knives with yew handles, I do recall seeing some.
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#3 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 11:33 AM

Seems like some over on the british blades forums have made some knives with yew handles, I do recall seeing some.


Thanks... I'll hop over and check them out... doesn't seem like many here use it, did a quick search on the forum, but I thought I would ask....

Craig

#4 tsterling

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 01:01 PM

I've done quite a bit of carving in yew, and some handles. It works beautifully, is fairly hard, and is quite pretty. It will darken significantly over time, so take that into account and don't depend on it's fresh-cut color. The heartwood is a nice orange color, and the sapwood (new growth outside part) is quite light and makes a nice contrast, so you might want to include some of it.

Here are a couple examples, you can see some sapwood in the first picture:
YewHandle1.jpg
YewHandle2.jpg

#5 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 12:27 AM

Thanks for the pics and the information... Wow those are nice... I've got some Pacific Yew... I've read that parts of the tree are toxic so I thought I would check... I use a respirator but wanted to know if there were any special considerations... seems odd that I also read that folks used to make utensils out of it not just bows etc.... so thought I would check....

I love the lore behind Yew and would love to make a few knives with it....

Thanks again.

Craig

#6 tsterling

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 01:24 AM

Yew is toxic, it's what a breast cancer chemotherapy drug is made from, but that's mostly in the bark. Ancient peoples used it for several medical purposes, was important/magic to the Celts, and yew berries were used by native Americans as an abortifact. Yew's toxicity is what makes it such a long lasting wood - most bugs won't eat it. But any wood that doesn't rot quickly is also toxic to some degree. It's best not to use yew for eating and cooking utensils, but as a knife handle it shouldn't be a problem. Yew sawdust, like any sawdust, isn't good to breathe so use a dust mask. It won't make a good toothpick, either, but your knife handle won't ever rot...

#7 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 02:48 AM

Thanks for the reply and information

and by the way.... Great website....

If you don't mind me asking.... Do you have some good sources for yew?

#8 B Finnigan

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 11:26 AM

I got a good stash of thick yew limbs and have used it for alot woodworking projects. The inner bark has taxol in it which has been synthesized into Tomoxifen used in treating breast tumors. I have never had any problems with the sawdust even while sanding it on the lathe.

There are several wood turpenes that give me contact dermatitis but I have not had any problems with yew. As mentioned above the heartwood has a very deep red to red orange color that gets richer in tone as it ages. The limb wood also has alot of little black knots that make the grain flow very errratic and fiqured.

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Edited by B Finnigan, 16 February 2008 - 11:33 AM.

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#9 tsterling

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 11:49 AM

Thanks for the reply and information

and by the way.... Great website....

If you don't mind me asking.... Do you have some good sources for yew?


Thanks for the kind words about the website. I usually get my yew from local downed trees, but I have obtained some in lumber form from here: Edensaw Hardwoods (Seattle and Port Townsend, WA USA)

Their website claims they have it in stock...and they've been good folks to work with in the past.

#10 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 12:21 PM

B Finnigan - Thanks for information... That helps alot... Wish we had some Yew trees here in Hawaii to build up a nice stash like yours... all we have is Koa, Pheasantwood etc <_< Great pic .... Thanks for sharing...

TSerling - Thanks for the link. I'll check them out and see what they have.

I really appreciate all the information and help on this question !

#11 B Finnigan

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 08:05 PM

I would glady trade you some yew for some koa. I have not seen any koa trees in western WA but I am still looking. :unsure:
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#12 Craig Hashimoto

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 08:15 PM

I would glady trade you some yew for some koa. I have not seen any koa trees in western WA but I am still looking. :unsure:


I've got some pieces I could toss in a box and send off to you.... I'm all out of the super curly koa but I'm sure you could use the pieces I have... I'm up for the trade.... :0)

#13 Giuseppe Maresca

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 02:22 PM

I've worked with yew, It's a great wood for knife handles, and for hammer and hawk haft too. It's pretty light and not vert hard but has great resilience and flexibility, and I really love the look. On the other side it's easily breakeble in the sense of the grain, like other conifers.
Tom Sterling, the yew you have used for the Stingray dagger it's really outstanding.
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#14 tsterling

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 06:08 PM

I've worked with yew, It's a great wood for knife handles, and for hammer and hawk haft too. It's pretty light and not vert hard but has great resilience and flexibility, and I really love the look. On the other side it's easily breakeble in the sense of the grain, like other conifers.
Tom Sterling, the yew you have used for the Stingray dagger it's really outstanding.


Thanks, Giuseppe. That piece of yew was a particularly good one. Most of the local yew has lots of little pin knots in it, a little harder to carve, although I like the way the grain curves around them.




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