18th c English Early 18thC Yew longcase

DeanT

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Mar 22, 2009
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Here's a challenge for my clock case restorer (Scott Bennett in Oxfordshire). Early 18thC burr yew and solid yew wood 8 Day longcase clock by Hugh Willis of Suckley (Stuckley) in Bucks (Buckingshamshire). Stepped top hood with glazed door over burr yew wood trunk, case door with solid yew wood interior. I've only seen one similar yew longcase (London made) of a similar vintage and 4 bracket clocks making burr yew so extremely unusual. I can't find any meaningful references to yew in any of my books so far. The only comment I have found is "yew cases are rare". Buckinghamshire is close to London so while provincial the style and quality is London standard.

Does anyone have any information on yew clock cases?

2b0f40fa-5ddf-48e8-abcd-ad1901421c30.jpg 2b6cb26f-9a66-4c43-9863-ad19015a5965.jpg 4d18f2a8-1e09-43e3-b2a0-ad190157a4b8.jpg 07b2b7e5-4463-44f8-8225-ad19015f343f.jpg 8dfd8c49-0ba3-44e4-8797-ad1a01086f17.jpg 9b4611f5-0dd7-4abb-9e63-ad19015facb5.jpg 729b9bf8-4649-4cd8-87ea-ad190153805f.jpg a332d021-30d3-4ddb-ae11-ad1901486928.jpg c4f54da7-0ddf-4db8-88f2-ad19014deeb2.jpg de1549dd-52f5-42f5-bc57-ad19015e873c.jpg
 

Chris Radano

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Feb 18, 2004
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A rare and mostly complete 17th c. longcase. Congratulations!
Loomes has him, "b. 1656-c.1690. Also blacksmith."

I recently bought a caddy top longcase. So when I saw your clock listed at the auction I was especially keen on it.

Can't help with your case, but we have several yews on our property. I keep them trimmed as shrubs so every year I get familiar with them. That yew had to be fairly mature for that case to be made.
Most commonly yew was used as stringing inlay on clock cases.
 

DeanT

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Mar 22, 2009
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A rare and mostly complete 17th c. longcase. Congratulations!
Loomes has him, "b. 1656-c.1690. Also blacksmith."

I recently bought a caddy top longcase. So when I saw your clock listed at the auction I was especially keen on it.

Can't help with your case, but we have several yews on our property. I keep them trimmed as shrubs so every year I get familiar with them. That yew had to be fairly mature for that case to be made.
Most commonly yew was used as stringing inlay on clock cases.
Interesting which book is that? I haven't found a reference to him either...mystery case and maker
 

Chris Radano

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The last pic is 7 of our 11 yews. I get familiar with this one especially when I wear it's needles when I trim. The other 4 are standard sized shrubs.
Has anyone seen James Willis' watch?

DSCN7570.JPG DSCN7571.JPG DSCN7572.JPG
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Here's a challenge for my clock case restorer (Scott Bennett in Oxfordshire). Early 18thC burr yew and solid yew wood 8 Day longcase clock by Hugh Willis of Suckley (Stuckley) in Bucks (Buckingshamshire). Stepped top hood with glazed door over burr yew wood trunk, case door with solid yew wood interior. I've only seen one similar yew longcase (London made) of a similar vintage and 4 bracket clocks making burr yew so extremely unusual. I can't find any meaningful references to yew in any of my books so far. The only comment I have found is "yew cases are rare". Buckinghamshire is close to London so while provincial the style and quality is London standard.

Does anyone have any information on yew clock cases?

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A very lovely clock in a case using a very lovely wood.

I'm surprised that it was not used more often.

Was there something about the wood or the tree itself that made it more inherently difficult to use for cabinet making, thus deterring people from its use?

RM
 

Chris Radano

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I think yew would be difficult to work with. It's very springy and not easy to saw. Apparently it's good for making bows.

Says here yew is "volatile and unpredictable to work with" although the font is small:
 

novicetimekeeper

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A very lovely clock in a case using a very lovely wood.

I'm surprised that it was not used more often.

Was there something about the wood or the tree itself that made it more inherently difficult to use for cabinet making, thus deterring people from its use?

RM
They were grown in churchyards to supply the timber for making longbows, perhaps availability or just fashion as it was used more in furniture.
 

novicetimekeeper

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I was discussing this clock earlier today with the carrier and the chap who will do the movement. I thought the fact it was on the move today was why Dean posted about it, but when he gets up he will find he has more pics which I hope he will post.
 

zedric

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I guess one question is how do you know that it truly is yew, other than by the auctioneer's description? I was reading something yesterday about a Tompion clock that was in what had been through to be a mulberry case. On very close examination it turned out that it was more likely to be maple, but treated with nitric acid, then rubbed with charcoal to bring out the grain. This "recipe" for treating wood in this way was found in a book of the time.

So could it be that the wood is something other than Yew, but with some kind of fancy "pickling" to bring out the grain? Either way, it's a good looking clock!
 
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zedric

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Dial matting looks good, and the pillars are nicely turned - he put some effort into his work.
 

DeanT

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Dial matting looks good, and the pillars are nicely turned - he put some effort into his work.
Have a look at the front of the barrels which you can see side on.
 

jmclaugh

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Lovely clock Dean. Other than as you already know it is rarely seen I can't help about its use in longcases but it has been used for centuries to make furniture.
 

novicetimekeeper

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We will soon know if it is yew, though the cabinet maker has already seen the pictures and and when first showed them I got a very detailed and considered answer. I quote...

very nice and rare buy buy buy!

Sadly I don't have the space nor the funds to pay for both the clock and the extensive restoration. However I am really pleased to be involved with such a fantastic opportunity to restore what will be a fabulous clock. Yew veneered furniture has always been a bit of a fascination for me though burr yew is another level.
 

JimmyOz

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Yew was used to make a lot of chairs, typically Winsor type that needed the ability for the timber to be bent. This said, the cabinetmakers would know the issue about the grain being a bit 'wild', therefore prone to twisting, to compensate they would have had to use smaller width boards so the grain would fight each other to hold true.
 

new2clocks

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Most commonly yew was used as stringing inlay on clock cases.
I think yew would be difficult to work with. It's very springy and not easy to saw. Apparently it's good for making bows.
Was there something about the wood or the tree itself that made it more inherently difficult to use for cabinet making, thus deterring people from its use?
Yew was used to make a lot of chairs
The yew tree also has medicinal value.

Today, two of the most common chemotherapy agents - Taxol and Taxotere - are derived from the yew tree.

Regards.
 

Les harland

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The bark , leaves and seeds of Yew trees are highly poisonous to people and livestock
Yew trees were planted in Church yards to discourage common folk from grazing their animals on Church property
 
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zedric

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That’s great - it will be magnificent when it is tidied up
 
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novicetimekeeper

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Touch of English understatement there but once scott has finished with it will certainly be magnificent, movement is no slouch either. I don't usually say much on dean's clocks in his threads but I was so keen he buy this because I couldn't afford it and I could see how rare it was. I am very pleased I didn't promote a dud!
 

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