When it comes to woodturning, many enthusiasts are always on the lookout for the perfect type of wood. So, is yew wood suitable for woodturning? Let’s find out!

Yew wood has a rich history and unique properties that make it a popular choice among woodturners.

In this article, we will explore the characteristics of yew wood, its advantages and disadvantages for woodturning, and offer some tips on how to work with it effectively. So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders of yew wood for woodturning!

is yew wood for woodturning?

Is Yew Wood Suitable for Woodturning?

When it comes to woodturning, there are many different types of wood to choose from. One popular option that often comes up in discussions is yew wood. But is yew wood actually suitable for woodturning? In this article, we’ll delve into the characteristics of yew wood and explore its pros and cons for woodturning projects. Whether you’re a seasoned woodturner or just starting out, understanding the properties of yew wood can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s the right choice for your projects.

Characteristics of Yew Wood

Yew wood, derived from the yew tree, is known for its exceptional beauty and distinct coloration. It has a creamy white to light yellow sapwood, which contrasts beautifully with the reddish brown heartwood. The heartwood is often prized for its rich and warm hues, making it a favorite among woodworkers and artisans.

Yew wood is also renowned for its fine grain pattern, which adds to its appeal. The wood has a straight grain with occasional knots, adding some visual interest to the finished piece. Additionally, yew wood is moderately dense, with a hardness comparable to that of cherry or mahogany. This makes it relatively easy to work with using both hand tools and power tools.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind when working with yew wood. It contains natural oils that can make it difficult for certain finishes, like oil-based stains or varnishes, to adhere properly. Additionally, this wood can cause respiratory irritation in some individuals, so proper safety measures, such as wearing a mask, should always be followed when working with it.

Pros of Using Yew Wood for Woodturning

1. Beautiful Aesthetics: Yew wood is highly valued for its striking appearance. The contrasting colors and unique grain patterns make it a visually appealing choice for woodturning projects.

2. Easy to Work With: Yew wood has a moderate density and hardness, allowing for ease of cutting, shaping, and refining on the lathe. It can be a great option for both beginners and experienced woodturners.

3. Versatility: Yew wood can be used for a wide range of woodturning projects, from small intricate pieces like pens and bottle stoppers to larger bowls and vases. Its unique characteristics make it suitable for both functional and decorative items.

Cons of Using Yew Wood for Woodturning

1. Limited Availability: Yew trees are not as common as other wood species, and finding large pieces of yew wood for larger projects may be challenging.

2. Potential Health Risks: Yew wood contains natural oils that can be irritating to some individuals, so proper safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear, should always be taken when working with it.

3. Finishing Challenges: The natural oils present in yew wood can interfere with some finishes, making it important to carefully select appropriate finishing products.

Tips for Working with Yew Wood in Woodturning

1. Prepare Your Tools: Yew wood is relatively dense, so it’s essential to keep your tools sharp to achieve clean cuts. It’s also a good idea to have extra tools on hand as the wood may dull blades more quickly.

2. Use a Dust Mask: As mentioned earlier, yew wood can cause respiratory irritation. Protect your lungs by wearing a dust mask or respirator while working with yew wood.

3. Consider Finishing Options: Given the natural oils in yew wood, experiment with different finishes to find the one that works best. Water-based finishes are often recommended as they are less likely to have adhesion issues.

Comparing Yew Wood to Other Wood Species for Woodturning

When it comes to choosing the right wood species for your woodturning projects, it’s important to consider how yew wood compares to others. Let’s take a closer look:

Yew Wood vs. Oak

Yew wood offers a more refined and consistent appearance compared to the prominent grain and texture of oak. Oak is a harder wood, making it more durable for functional items.

Yew Wood vs. Walnut

Walnut has a darker and more uniform coloration compared to the distinctive hues and grain patterns of yew wood. Both woods are relatively easy to work with and suitable for a variety of woodturning projects.

Yew Wood vs. Maple

Maple wood has a lighter and more even coloration compared to the vibrant colors of yew wood. Maple is also known for its exceptional durability and denseness.

Care and Maintenance of Yew Wood Turned Items

After completing your woodturning project using yew wood, it’s essential to care for and maintain the finished item to ensure its longevity. Here are some tips:


Regularly dust the item with a soft cloth to remove any surface dirt or debris. For deeper cleaning, use a damp cloth with mild soap and water, taking care not to saturate the wood. Dry thoroughly.


Apply a thin layer of high-quality wood polish or wax to enhance and protect the finish of the yew wood. Follow the product instructions for best results.

Avoid Direct Sunlight:

Yew wood can react to prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, potentially causing fading or discoloration. Display your turned items away from direct sunlight to preserve their beauty.


Yew wood can be an excellent choice for woodturning projects, offering striking aesthetics and ease of working. However, it’s important to consider the limited availability, potential health risks, and finishing challenges associated with this wood species. By following proper safety precautions and experimenting with suitable finishes, you can create beautiful and unique projects with yew wood. Remember to maintain and care for your finished items to enjoy them for years to come.

Key Takeaways: Is Yew Wood Suitable for Woodturning?

– Yew wood is excellent for woodturning due to its fine grain and beautiful color.
– It is relatively easy to work with, making it suitable for woodturners of all levels.
– Yew wood can be turned into various items like bowls, vases, and decorative objects.
– It possesses natural durability, making finished woodturning pieces long-lasting.
– It’s important to wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated area when handling yew wood.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you curious about using yew wood for woodturning projects? Check out these commonly asked questions to learn more!

1. What makes yew wood suitable for woodturning?

Yew wood is highly valued by woodturners for several reasons. First, its unique combination of strength, stability, and beauty makes it ideal for various projects. Yew wood also possesses a fine and even texture, which contributes to the smooth finish it can achieve when turned on a lathe. Moreover, yew wood is known for its rich colors and intricate grain patterns, adding aesthetic appeal to the finished piece.

Additionally, yew wood possesses excellent workability. Its medium density allows for easy cutting, shaping, and carving without excessive wear on tools. This characteristic, along with its ability to hold fine detailing, makes yew wood a favorite among woodturners who want to create intricate designs.

2. Is yew wood safe to work with during woodturning?

When treated with caution, yew wood can be safely used for woodturning projects. However, it’s important to note that some parts of the yew tree, such as the bark and the red, fleshy part of the berries, contain poisonous substances. Therefore, it is crucial to remove these parts and only work with the heartwood, which is considered safe.

Furthermore, it is recommended to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles and a dust mask, when working with any type of wood, including yew wood. By following safety guidelines and using proper tools and techniques, woodturners can enjoy the artistic and rewarding process of working with yew wood.

3. Can yew wood be used for all types of woodturning projects?

Yew wood is versatile and can be used for a wide range of woodturning projects. Its strength and stability make it suitable for turning bowls, platters, vases, and even small furniture pieces. It can also be used for creating spindles, pens, and other finely detailed items where precision is important.

However, it’s worth noting that yew wood contains small knots and irregular grain patterns, which can present challenges when turning large or delicate pieces. It’s important to carefully consider the characteristics of the wood and select the appropriate project that utilizes the unique qualities of yew wood to its advantage.

4. How should yew wood be prepared before woodturning?

Prior to woodturning, yew wood should be properly prepared to ensure optimal results. Start by selecting well-seasoned yew wood, as this reduces the likelihood of cracking or warping during the turning process. It is recommended to let the wood dry slowly in a controlled environment for at least a year.

Once the wood is properly seasoned, it should be cut into rough dimensions that match the desired project. It’s advisable to rough-turn the piece and let it further dry for a period of time to minimize any potential distortions. Finally, the wood can be turned to its final shape and size, ensuring to take precautions to avoid tear-out and achieve a smooth finish.

5. How should yew wood be finished after woodturning?

After completing the woodturning process, it’s important to apply a proper finish to yew wood to enhance its beauty and protect it. You have various options when it comes to finishing yew wood, including oils, lacquers, and waxes.

An oil finish, such as Danish oil or tung oil, can bring out the natural colors and grain patterns of yew wood while providing a protective barrier. Lacquers can offer a durable and glossy finish, highlighting the wood’s beauty. Alternatively, waxes can provide a soft, low-sheen finish that is easy to apply and maintain.

Regardless of the finish you choose, it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply multiple thin coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Proper finishing not only enhances the aesthetics of the wood but also protects it from moisture and everyday wear and tear.

is yew wood for woodturning? 2

Turning My Own Wood For YEW!!! – Wood Turning


So, is yew wood good for woodturning? Well, it’s certainly a popular choice among woodworkers. Yew wood has a beautiful appearance with striking grain patterns that make finished pieces look stunning. It is also known for its durability, making it suitable for functional items like bowls and pens. However, yew wood can be challenging to work with due to its tendency to split and splinter. It requires special care and tools to ensure a smooth and safe turning experience. If you’re a beginner, it might be worth exploring other, more forgiving woods before tackling yew. But if you’re an experienced woodturner looking for a unique and eye-catching material, yew wood could be just what you’re looking for. Happy turning!

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