Saturday, 8 February 2014

comme ci comme ça

Mixed fortunes yesterday, I went to visit a local tree surgeon who had some Yew. He was a nice bloke and a good contact. The Yew had been in a log pile with a torn tarpaulin over it for about 7 years. There looked to be a couple of bows in there but the bark was wet and falling off, not a good sign.
Anyway I loaded up up the roof rack and gave him a hefty 'drink' (I don't know if that expression travels outside the UK... it just means some cash... as in 'buy yourself a drink')
I spent the rest of the day tackling the wood. The best bit was too big to get through the bandsaw, and the knotty side was too bad to risk splitting. That's to say the split would wander round the big knots and could go anywhere. The trick was to saw half way through the log every 10" or so and then use an axe and wedges to split off that section.... yes, that's hard work! (see pic right).
Eventually I reduced it to half a log, fairly clean and straight. I roughed it out on the bandsaw to approximate warbow dimensions, but could see a blue/grey line between heart and sapwood (see first pic, a bit of well seasoned Yew below a sliver of the stuff with rot in it). Not good, mind I've seen Yew bows that people have bought on line from Eastern Europe with that sort of rot starting to set in, and indeed on the last bow I did there was a hint of it at one end which I sawed off.
Ever the optimist I pressed on and took off a wafer thin scrape of sapwood which was discoloured, it revealed a clean creamy colour, but with threads of black rot meandering through it and also some splits... damn.
Never mind, all is not lost, I have a nice slat/lamination of Hickory which one of my bowyer buddies gave me and I've been hankering to do a Hickory backed Yew flight longbow for myself. Another mate wants a Bamboo baked Yew longbow.

This shows the ups and downs of sourcing Yew, and the work that gets put in. It goes to show that those rather expensive staves online are maybe not as expensive as one might think, of course they are still very much a case of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) as you can't really tell what a stave is like until you start working it. I think the stave for the last bow I did was an exceptional E-bay purchase by the guy who commissioned the bow and was certainly value for money.
The day left me tired, hungry and a tad down. This morning I've perked up and I know I'll get at least one bow and maybe a primitive or two from the smaller pieces. My big Sis will also get some hard won firewood! The good thing is I've made another local contact for future Yew.

Meanwhile back to the bows, I've started work on an Osage short Native American bow, modelled roughly on the bow (B) on p52 of The Traditional Bowyers Bible Vol 2.  This is for a friend from the club who gave me the Osage log for a V small drink and the promise of a bow. The log was split in two ages ago an will give us each a bow.


  1. Looks like a prime candidate for a selfbow out of yew heartwood! The sapwood might rot quickly with yew, but the heartwood is usually still very usuable. A (bamboo) backing is of course a good solution, but I'd be tempted to try a selfbow as well. Easy to bring down to one ring, since you can follow the sapwood/heartwood border as a guide.

    Jorik a.k.a. DarkSoul

  2. Good call, a self heartwood bow is on my to do list...
    It's a very long list ;)