Yew’ll Never Walk Alone – but Olive Would

You know my guitar? The one that’s being built for my 50th?

Remember how everything was sorted and I had decided on the woods?

I’d even decided on the soundboard inscription (Dave gets a quote, translates it into Gaelic and inscribes it on the inside of the soundboard – it can’t be seen; but you know it’s there). I’d decided on “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Well, Dave White ( contacted me yesterday to let me know that the Tasmanian Olive Wood had arrived – along with a really nice set of English Yew – what did I think?

Well, I can’t make up my mind. this is what a guitar with yew back and sides can look like:

Yeah, I know, gorgeous, isn’t it? And Yew has such a ‘religious’ history – being planted in many church yards to ward of evil spirits.

It was also used to make English Longbows and is, I am told, the wood of choice for wands and ‘anti-vampire’ stakes.

It is a fairly rare wood to use in guitar making as the Yew tree doesn’t grow straight and, to get a piece that’s big enough for a guitar means that the tree from which it came must have been hundreds of years old – and most of them were cut down to make Longbows. I am reliably informed that it’s not a particularly easy wood to work with, either.

And there’s something quite edgy about playing a guitar that’s poisonous…

So, what do I do? Tasmanian Olive Wood (which, by the way, isn’t really Olive Wood – but when we sent our criminals over there, they just named it olive wood because that’s what it reminded them of most) or English Yew?

Below are the two samples – Olive wood on the left and Yew on the right. What do you think?

Olive Wood

English Yew

5 Responses to Yew’ll Never Walk Alone – but Olive Would

  1. al says:

    Yew yew all the way

  2. Tim Roberts says:

    71 Yew Tree Road? Or was it 73? Either way… Definitely Yew tree.

    Tasmanian Olive Wood sounds cooler but the Yew looks cooler.

    Depends how smug you wanna get with your audience I suppose. Tasmanian Olive Wood is a wood to think about but the Longbow chat and the particular difficulty when working with Yew is something that only the few would know about.

    I’m all about the Yew.

    ps – going London tomorrow for the march against the cuts. I promise not to get arrested and/or put on TV. x

  3. leoroberts says:

    Yeah, Yew won … Good luck tomorrow, remember that it’s a MARCH not a fight!

  4. Doug Smith says:

    No question about it — do yew. It was used for the best lutes of the Renaissance, probably for sonorous reasons. I’m very curious whether you went ahead and ordered a yew guitar, and how it turned out with respect to sound. I’m thinking of commissioning one myself.

  5. leoroberts says:

    Indeed I did, Doug … and I love the result! Yew is quite a bright wood with good resonance across the range so the luthier (Dave White: recommended that it be paired with something a little more mellow which, as I wanted a cedar top anyway, suited me perfectly.

    Yew is also an outstandingly beautiful wood (particularly with the sapwood element). Getting a good chuck of yew is quite difficult. I know that Dave has access to some, and the guys at Brook guitars in Devon ( have some beautiful stuff in stock, too.

    I suppose it all depends on what sort of sound you’re aiming for (and what sort of material you intend to play). Of course, the back and sides is, musically, one of the more minor decisions! Soundboard, scale length and body depth are more important.

    Good luck if you do decide to have a commission built. If you’re not too far away from Manchester, you’re welcome to come and have a look at Sybil …

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