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Yew as a body/top wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by CosmoReverb, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Lately I've been photoshopping up some bass design ideas for a) sh*tz n' giggles and b) to keep a portfolio of ideas for the off-chance that I ever get off my lazy ass and actually try my hand at building a bass or two. Anyways, I was looking around for image samples to use as a base texture ("bass" texture?)for the mock-ups and in my journeys I came across some sample images of yew wood.

    I was struck by its nice, long tight grain which seemed like it would flow beautifully with a well contoured body shape as well as the intermittent burling and occasional, compact knotting that added some neat aesthetic attributes. The wood seems to have a lot of nice visual character and its nice light tone with subtle red coloring is fairly unique looking and appealing (at least to my eyes) as well.

    So of course I'm wondering how it would actually work as a choice for bodies or at least as a top wood. I haven't heard of anyone using it before but I imagine some folks have tried it or at least experimented with it. I did find this thread that had a lot of nice information and opinions/theories about hardness or how it would be to work with but no first hand practical knowledge or impressions of actual examples/results or how it would work as a tonewood. Anyone here actually try it? If so what are your impressions? What are its tonal characteristics? Bright? Dark? Would you use it again? There seems to be conflicting impressions of how soft the wood is. Anybody have a definitive take on that?

    Mostly just curious so nobody need go out of their way to research it, (my google-fu is decent,) just looking to see if it has been used in that capacity before and, if so, what some first-hand impressions might be.

    Thanks gang!
  2. Oh and if anyone is unfamiliar with it and is curious about what the wood looks like here's the resulting mock-up I made. I think that it is a fair approximation of how the wood might work with a contoured body shape. (The top design is the one I'm referring to that features the yew wood, the bottom bass is a walnut top.)

  3. Triad

    Triad Commercial User

    Jul 4, 2006
    Luthier - Prometeus Guitars
    I've considered it a few times but never pulled the trigger... anyway I really like those mockups! :)
    I think it will be nice... but you really have to try to find out. :rolleyes:
  4. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    Quote from Wikipedia:

    "The late Robert Lundberg, a noted luthier who performed extensive research on historical lute-making methodology, states in his 2002 book Historical Lute Construction that yew was historically a prized wood for lute construction. European legislation establishing use limits and requirements for yew limited supplies available to luthiers, but it was apparently as prized among medieval, renaissance, and baroque lute builders as Brazilian Rosewood is among contemporary guitar-makers for its quality of sound and beauty."

    Be careful when working it. Just about every part of the yew tree is toxic. Dust extraction and face masks might be a good idea.
  5. Thanks so much for the info guys (and the praise for the mock-ups Triad!) Not sure how I missed that blurb on Wikipedia. Guess my google-fu is not as strong as I thought.

    I guess I'll just have to try it out and find out for myself (eventually...)
  6. Yew is very popular in the UK with furniture makers. I own 3 pieces of yew furniture and I can honestly say it is one of the most beautifull of woods. I am not sure if you can get large quantities of Yew in North America, I have only seen it available as a veneer. I hope you will share the build with us as I for one would follow suite if you find enough wood to make a Bass from. If not I know the veneer is available and this would make a truly stunning top for any guitar. Good luck with the build and keep us posted.
  7. ACNick

    ACNick Guest

    Oct 23, 2012
    South Florida
    From the few yew boards I have seen, even the "plain" yew has an amazing figure to it. I'd be very interested in seeing that build come together!