What is Yew wood

As a woodworker or carpenter, you know that not all woods are created equal. Each type of wood has unique properties and characteristics that make it ideal for certain applications. One such wood that has gained popularity over the years is Yew wood. Yew wood is known for its durability, strength, and beautiful appearance. It has a rich history dating back to ancient times, where it was highly valued for its use in making longbows and other weapons.

Today, Yew wood is used in a variety of applications, including high-end furniture, cabinetry, and even in the medical industry. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, uses, and cultivation of Yew wood, as well as its significance in culture and literature.

Whether you are a woodworker, a furniture enthusiast, or just curious about the world of wood, read on to discover everything you need to know about Yew wood.

What Exactly is Yew wood?

Yew wood is a type of wood that is derived from the Yew tree, a coniferous tree that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. The wood is known for its strength, durability, and beautiful appearance, which has made it a popular choice for various applications throughout history. Yew wood has a dense, fine grain, with a rich reddish-brown or golden color.

It is a heavy wood that is resistant to rot, decay, and insects, making it an excellent choice for outdoor applications. Historically, Yew wood has been used for making longbows, as well as a variety of other tools and weapons.

Overview of Yew tree

Overview of Yew tree

The Yew tree is a coniferous tree that has a long and fascinating history, both in culture and in industry. Despite its historical importance, the Yew tree has become increasingly rare due to the special properties of its wood, which have made it extremely popular. In the past, the Yew tree was heavily felled for its wood, resulting in a decline in its population. However, thanks to its slow growth, Yew tree stocks have now recovered.

The Yew tree has a rich cultural history, playing an important role in pagan, Roman, and Greek mythology. It is known for its incredible regenerative powers, which have led to its association with the tree of life. The Yew tree’s magical powers have also been attributed to its use in the manufacture of magic wands, further cementing its importance in mythology and folklore.

Despite the decline in its population, the Yew tree continues to be valued for its wood, which has unique properties such as strength, durability, and resistance to decay and insects. Today, Yew wood is used in high-end furniture, cabinetry, and decorative objects, as well as in the medical industry, where it is a source of the chemotherapy drug, taxon.

The Characteristics of Yew wood

Yew wood is a popular wood type that is prized for its unique properties and characteristics. In this article, we will explore the specific features that make Yew wood so special and why it is a sought-after wood type for various applications.

Heavy, strong, and elastic

Yew wood is known for its impressive strength, density, and elasticity, making it an ideal wood type for turning and carving. Its strength and density also make it resistant to moisture, which is particularly beneficial for outdoor applications.

No resin

Yew wood does not contain any resin in the wood or bark, which makes it easy to work with. This is because resin can gum up woodworking tools and make the wood more difficult to work with.

Visible annual rings

One of the unique features of Yew wood is that the edges of the annual rings are very distinct and visible. This makes the wood very special and adds to its appeal for woodworking projects.

Excellent drying properties

Yew wood has excellent drying properties, which means that it can be worked with immediately after it has been harvested. This is a significant advantage over other wood types that require a longer drying time before they can be worked with.

Polishing and staining

Yew wood can be polished, stained, and finished very well. Its surface is suitable for treatment by all common means, making it an excellent choice for furniture and decorative objects.

However, there are some precautions that should be taken when working with Yew wood. Due to its toxicity, it is recommended that the wood is not used to carve spoons, children’s toys, or other objects that will be placed in the mouth. Some people may also react to the wood dust from Yew wood with headaches and mucous membrane irritation, so it is essential to take necessary precautions when working with it.

What Are The Uses of Yew wood

What Are The Uses of Yew wood

Yew wood has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes, including woodworking, medicine, and even as a symbol in mythology and folklore. Some of the common uses of Yew wood include


As mentioned before, Yew wood is prized for its unique properties that make it an ideal wood type for woodworking. The wood is heavy, strong, and elastic, which makes it easy to work with and ideal for turning and carving.

It is also resistant to moisture, making it an excellent choice for outdoor applications. Yew wood is commonly used in high-end furniture, such as chairs, tables, and cabinets, as well as for decorative objects like vases, bowls, and sculptures. Additionally, it is also used for making musical instruments, such as violins, guitars, and harps.


Yew wood and other parts of the yew tree contain alkaloids, which have been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. The alkaloids found in the yew tree, such as taxol, have been found to have anti-cancer properties and are used to treat certain types of cancer. Yew wood has also been used to treat malaria, fever, and other conditions.

Mythology and folklore

The yew tree has a long-standing history in mythology and folklore. In many cultures, it is viewed as a symbol of life, death, and rebirth due to its ability to regenerate even after heavy pruning or damage. The yew tree is also associated with immortality, as some species can live for thousands of years.

In Celtic mythology, the yew tree was seen as a symbol of the goddess and was associated with death and rebirth. In Christianity, the yew tree was often planted in churchyards and cemeteries due to its association with death and rebirth.

Other uses

Yew wood has also been used for other purposes, such as making tools and weapons, including bows and arrows. The wood is also used for veneers and paneling, as well as for flooring and decking. Additionally, the yew tree is planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens due to its beautiful foliage and unique appearance.

What are the Advantages And Disadvantages of Using Yew wood

Every material used in a woodworking project comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, and yew wood is no exception. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using yew wood in your woodworking projects:


  • Unique properties: Yew wood has a number of unique properties that make it ideal for certain applications, such as its strength, density, and elasticity. These properties make it a popular choice for woodworking and decorative objects.
  • Resistance to moisture: Yew wood is highly resistant to moisture, which makes it ideal for outdoor applications such as boat building and garden furniture.
  • Historical and cultural significance: Yew wood has been used for centuries in various cultures, and is often associated with mythology, medicine, and spiritual practices.


  • Toxicity: Yew wood is toxic, and exposure to the wood or sawdust can cause serious health issues. It is important to take proper precautions when working with yew wood.
  • Rarity: Yew trees are rare, and their slow growth means that they are not as readily available as other types of wood.
  • Cost: Yew wood is often more expensive than other types of wood due to its unique properties and scarcity.

How to Paint Yew wood

When it comes to painting yew wood, there are some important steps to follow in order to achieve the best possible results. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to paint yew wood:

Step 1: Sand the wood

 Before painting, you should sand the yew wood to ensure that the surface is smooth and free of any rough spots or imperfections. Use fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand the surface of the wood, taking care not to remove too much material.

Step 2: Clean the surface

Once the sanding is complete, use a clean cloth or rag to wipe away any dust or debris that may be on the surface of the wood. This will help ensure that the paint adheres properly to the surface.

Step 3: Apply a primer

To help the paint adhere better to the yew wood, it’s a good idea to apply a primer before painting. Choose a primer that is appropriate for the type of paint you’ll be using, and apply it evenly across the surface of the wood.

Step 4: Paint the wood

Once the primer has dried, you can begin painting the yew wood. Use a high-quality paintbrush to apply a thin, even coat of paint to the surface of the wood. Wait for the first coat to dry completely before applying a second coat if necessary.

Step 6: Seal the wood

Once the final coat of paint has dried, you should consider sealing the yew wood to protect it from moisture and other potential damage. Use a clear coat sealant appropriate for the type of paint you’ve used, and apply it evenly across the surface of the wood.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your yew wood is painted beautifully and effectively protected for years to come

Tips on Maintaining Your Yew wood Furniture

Yew wood furniture is an investment that can last for many years, but it requires proper maintenance to keep it looking its best. One of the most important tips for maintaining your yew wood furniture is regular cleaning. Dusting your furniture with a soft cloth or feather duster should be done frequently to prevent buildup of dirt and grime. For deeper cleaning, use a slightly damp cloth, but be sure to dry the surface immediately to prevent moisture damage.

Another important tip is to avoid direct sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause the wood to fade and dry out. It’s best to position your yew wood furniture away from windows or cover it with curtains or blinds to reduce exposure.

It’s also important to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on yew wood furniture, as this can damage the finish and even the wood itself. Instead, use mild soap and water or a specialized wood cleaner specifically designed for yew wood.

Finally, it’s a good idea to periodically apply a protective finish to your yew wood furniture to maintain its appearance and protect it from damage. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and test the finish in a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire piece of furniture.


In conclusion, yew wood is a unique and valuable wood type with a rich history and a range of applications in woodworking, furniture making, and even medicine. Its strength, density, and elasticity make it an ideal choice for carving and turning, while its resistance to moisture and excellent drying properties make it a durable and long-lasting material for outdoor furniture and decorative objects.

However, as with any valuable investment, proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure the longevity and beauty of yew wood furniture. By following the tips outlined above, you can help to preserve the natural beauty and unique character of your yew wood furniture for years to come.

Remember, yew wood is not only a beautiful and functional material but also a valuable part of our natural heritage. By taking care of your yew wood furniture, you are helping to preserve this precious resource for future generations to enjoy.

So why not invest in a piece of yew wood furniture today and enjoy the unique beauty and lasting value that this remarkable wood type has to offer?

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