How to Carve Yew Wood

Written by don kress
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How to Carve Yew Wood
Yew wood sap is poisonous, and must be worked carefully. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Even though Yew is an evergreen tree, it does not have the same properties that are normally found in evergreen wood, such as pine. Yew has a uniform but unpredictable grain pattern, is flexible even after drying and is much denser than pine wood. For these reasons, Yew is used in a number of small items, including the creation of long bows for archery. Yew is also useful, however, in creating small decorative carved items.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Carving knives
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    Draw the image that you want to carve into the wood with a pencil. It is best to draw all sides of the image or item onto the Yew wood blank to give you a good visual reference for what you are doing.

  2. 2

    Hold the carving knife in your dominant hand with its handle in the crease between your fingers and palm. Depending on the direction of your cut, the knife edge should be facing either toward you or away from you with the blade on the thumb side of your hand.

  3. 3

    Shave a small amount of Yew from the negative space of the piece that you are carving. Ideally, the shaving should take the appearance of a small curl of wood, approximately 1/16 of an inch in diameter. Due to Yew's being a tough but flexible wood, it is best to confine your cuttings to very small shavings made with the grain of the wood. This will prevent the wood from splintering as you cut into it, creating longer cuts than you intend.

  4. 4

    Turn the Yew wood in your hand while you cut it rather than turning the knife. It is best to make all of your cuts with the knife on a horizontal plane whenever possible. This will reduce the risk of your being cut due to the knife being drawn in an awkward direction.

  5. 5

    Cut away the remaining negative space from the carving's design, and then cut the necessary details into the carving until you have completed the carving to your satisfaction.

Tips and warnings

  • Yew should be thoroughly dried before you attempt to carve it, as its sap is toxic. After handling the wood, even in its dry state, you should wash your hands before eating anything or touching your face.

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