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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Complete newby starting with a kind of shilelagh stick out of yew branche (matured & dried for three years) about two inches thick. Any tips for curing after final sanding?

Thanks in advance,

Pieter
 

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I happen to be working w. some yew. I don't know what species. Canadian yew is native to this area, but what I have is from ornamental plantings in yard.

I'll offer what I am experiencing, and have learned online.

Yew is peculiar in that the transition between sap wood and heart wood is not as clear as in many other woods. I'm risking 1 piece I have by carving into it while it is still green. There are areas where 4 or 5 years of growth rings are both pale sap wood, and the darker heart wood. I'm a little perplexed by this. While a mixture of sap wood and heartwood appears to be desirable for yew archery bows, I was taught that it is better to not have a mixture of both in carvings. Even dried, the two kinds of wood expand and contract at different rates, leading to cracks.

I have a number of shorter lengths that I plan on using as handles for tau shapes canes. I stripped away the sapwood from some of these immediately. The sap had just begun to run, but water was oozing from the wood as I cut. When I got down to solid heartwood, I found no trace of moisture. The wood has a waxy feeling to me. I can easily sand it to a gloss finish that is as smooth and clear as anything w. varnish, lacquer, shellac, etc. If I learn it is naturally water resistant, I may not put any finish on it at all.

It reminds me of some tropical hardwoods I have worked.

I'm currently using tung oil as a finish. I tried some on a bit of yew heart. Not much was drawn into the wood, and it is drying very slowly.

I've read that wooden utensils made from yew can be finished w. walnut oil. I've read that English yew long bows were finished w. a mixture of tallow oil and wax, and I've read that some contemporary boyers finish their bows with oil then wax.

Have fun w. your shilelagh. I'm noticing that after just a few months of drying, the sap wood is becoming quite tough. The heartwood, depsite the pressure needed to cut it, has a fine grain, and not to hard to shape.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The stave I used is very dy (bark stripped after cutting and two years of indoor drying) With a fine sanding it is indeed possible to give it a nice shine. (especially the reddish heart). I'm trying linseed oil and beeswax for finish and waterproofing. After reading your words about natural waterproof wood, something came back to me. All parts of the tree (except the red bit of the berry) are poisonous. This might make it less prone to fungi etc. Be careful when sanding though, wear a dust mask! I did n't and after two days my throat was still a little sore.
 

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Good point about the mask. I seem to be resistant to wood irritants. Some wood workers get rashes from various woods. I've used sassafras and black walnut, both of which cause problems. No problems with those. I was watching for skin problems when I started working the yew. Didn't occur to me that I should avoid breathing the dust.

Reading around more, I did find a few references to yew water resistance. It is both rot and water resistant. But oil finishes are common.
 

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Gdenby, please be careful with the wood dust.

Wood dust of all kind may be dangerous, some more than others. And yew wood is indeed toxic!

Some woods are sensitizers, and the problems occur later, maybe when working with other woods.

If you work with machines producing wood dust, please wear a dust mask, as Pieter recommended it too.

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/

http://www.woodworkerssource.com/wood_toxicity.php

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/wis30.pdf

http://www.shopsmithacademy.com/Tips_Archives/TP124_Toxic_Woods_files/TP124_Images/TOXIC%20WOODS%20CHART.pdf

http://www.woodturner.org/resources/toxicity.htm
 

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Gdenby, please be careful with the wood dust.

Wood dust of all kind may be dangerous, some more than others. And yew wood is indeed toxic!

Some woods are sensitizers, and the problems occur later, maybe when working with other woods.

If you work with machines producing wood dust, please wear a dust mask, as Pieter recommended it too.

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/

http://www.woodworkerssource.com/wood_toxicity.php

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/wis30.pdf

http://www.shopsmithacademy.com/Tips_Archives/TP124_Toxic_Woods_files/TP124_Images/TOXIC%20WOODS%20CHART.pdf

http://www.woodturner.org/resources/toxicity.htm
I'm not using any machines at this point, altho I do lots of hand sanding. I knew that the yew berries should not be eaten, but was happy to be reminded that the whole plant is toxic.

My job as a preparator in an art museum, as well as my crafts and hobbies, exposed me to lots of sawdust from table saws, routers, sanders, etc. Was fortunate enough to never have a bad reaction. Worst response I ever had was rather like prickly heat after sawing a lot of exterior grade plywood.

So far, cutting myself has been the biggest hazard. On another forum the acronym SWMBO (She who Must Be Obeyed) is often used. After my last cut, SWMBO told me to get a carving glove, which I did. And I even use it, tho' it doesn't make my hands any less clumsy.
 
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