Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Generosity of Others

It seems that we are an affable bunch, I try to help people out here and there, and that's one of the reasons for this blog.
I recently got a contact on my website from a guy in the USA who was looking to clear out his 'raw bow woods' collection. This Yew was cut back in the early 90's. The Yew was found at around an elevation of 2000 to 2500 foot in the Cascade mountain range.
He was hoping for some advice and direction....what is it worth, to whom, etc.
Well, I offered some advice and expressed my personal interest.
Unfortunately he hadn't realised I was in the UK, and overseas shipping is a cost issue especially for his full length staves.
However with great generosity he sent me 4 of his billets as a gift (about 45" long to be spliced into staves) so I could at last try out high altitude Yew and see how it compares to English Yew.
So a huge thank you to Joe.
You can see how it compares with the English Yew I'm currently working with, (English Yew on top). The sap wood layer hasn't been reduced at all on the piece from the Cascades and has a really clear heart/sap boundary.
I sanded down a small area to show the grain, it felt harder and denser than the English wood. If you click on the pic to enlarge it you'll get a better look, but the grain just under the sapwood is so fine you can't make it out.
There are endless discussions about the qualities of high altitude grown Yew vs English Yew, and my stance is that it may well be better (I'll soon find out!), but that's not to say that English Yew doesn't make a fine bow. It's also not necessarily the reason why it was imported for bowstaves.
It was imported because the supply was there and we could levy a tax of so many staves per ton of goods imported.
The fact that it was high altitude Yew may only be due to the fact that fertile valley land had been turned over to farming! All this is just my opinion of course, but had the Dutch been cultivating Yew for bow staves maybe we'd be be clamouring for sea level grown Yew?
I can't wait to start work on the billets, they are very dark and tight grained and have lovely thin sapwood which will not need working down. Yew darkens with age and I've worked English Yew as darl as this, but none with such consistently tight grain.

The shipping cost was pretty steep and HM Customs made me pay import VAT due to a mix up over the value. Hopefully I can claim it back.
The other day, I made the schoolboy error of sawing to the wrong line with my bandsaw, fortunately I spotted it just about in time. A mistake like that is a timely warning, and with the Cascade Yew, I shall be ultra careful and spend plenty of time cleaning it up and measuring before stepping anywhere near the bandsaw.

Meanwhile, the steam bend on the current longbow has had plenty of time to settle down and looks pretty good (the steamed limb is the top one). The bow now has about 1" of reflex overall, which will doubtless settle out during tillering.
BTW. The snow isn't really blue! The camera screwed up the colour balance, but it shows of the yew nicely.
I've popped the bow up on the tiller with a long string and wound on 40 pounds of pull, it barely shifted which is great. It means I have a fair bit of wood to play with. It's looking good, I'd been worried about going too light and too narrow, but I'm a bit more confident now.
It's a bit cold to do too much in my garage, but that will stop me rushing at it.
Slow and steady wins the day (other platitudes are also available)

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