Not A Straight Tree

Not A Straight Tree - blog post image
BY Julia Thum | 0 Comment(s)

I so adored this post on yew trees and yew wood  from Roni Roberts, and artistic woodcrafter in Wales, I thought I would share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Yew tree "Yew trees are beautiful and I love working with Yew wood.

 Yew wood is one of the most interesting and beautiful woods, highly sought after by wood turners and furniture makers. It has a creamy coloured sapwood with much darker orange brown heartwood creating a striking contrast. The patterns created by the Yew tree as it grows tend to be very varied and ‘wild’. Yew trees also do not tend to grow smooth and round but undulating in and out.

This means that if I can make things from yew that retain the natural edge this adds an interesting feature to the piece. However, yew also tends to surface crack as it is seasoning. To create perfect pieces without cracking I would have to cut off this interesting edge. Where it doesn’t detract from the beauty or usefulness to have slight cracking I usually decide to keep the edge.

Yew trees themselves I love. They grow in wild shapes with branches coming out at all odd angles reaching far out with the first branches start a lot lower than with most trees. Quite often the trunk of the Yew tree can be several branches almost fused together rather than a solid trunk, so, not a ‘straight’ tree – very frustrating when one thinks one has a big piece to work with. The Yew tree lives to a great old age. There are some in Britain thought to be up to 5,000 years old. It tends to be very difficult to age ancient yew trees as they hollow in the middle. The hollowed middle then fills with the needles, rotting wood, bird nests, etc. (See my blog on “Milling Wood Problems”.) This mixture often rot to form a fertile compost and the tree sends growth down into this compost to become new roots. In this way the Yew tree regenerates and starts again. So it was thought to be immortal, which may be why it was held to be sacred. Often Yew trees are older than the ancient churches in which they grow. This suggests that churches were built on older sacred sites and the trees have sacred associations.

It is also true that Yew trees gave the best wood for longbows and so would safe in churchyards. The longbow played such a great part in the history of this country perhaps this is another reason why the Yew was revered and treasured."



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