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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 13, 2013

Mechanical performance of yew (Taxus baccata L.) from a longbow perspective

  • Ingela Bjurhager EMAIL logo , E. Kristofer Gamstedt , Daniel Keunecke , Peter Niemz and Lars A. Berglund
From the journal Holzforschung


Yew (Taxus baccata L.) longbow was the preferred weapon in the Middle Ages until the emergence of guns. In this study, the tensile, compression, and bending properties of yew were investigated. The advantage of yew over the other species in the study was also confirmed by a simple beam model. The superior toughness of yew has the effect that a yew longbow has a higher range compared with bows made from other species. Unexpectedly, the mechanical performance of a bow made from yew is influenced by the juvenile-to-mature wood ratio rather than by the heartwood-to-sapwood ratio. A yew bow is predicted to have maximized performance at a juvenile wood content of 30–50%, and located at the concave side (the compressive side facing the bowyer). Here, the stiffness and yield stress in compression should be as high as possible.

Corresponding author: Ingela Bjurhager, The Ångström Laboratory, Division of Applied Mechanics, Department of Engineering Sciences, Box 534, SE-751 21 Uppsala, Sweden, Phone: +46(0)18-4717259, e-mail:

The authors wish to thank Elli Ovegård, Sara Jansson, and Robert Sandell for able help in mechanical testing. The bow building expert and Swedish longbow champion Roland Bexander is also gratefully acknowledged for fruitful discussions and contributing with valuable information on the subject. Gabriella Josefsson is acknowledged for valuable comments on the article.


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Received: 2012-9-19
Accepted: 2013-1-18
Published Online: 2013-03-13
Published in Print: 2013-10-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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