|"Training and Working with Oxen"
Harnessing Ox Power
Neck yokes, head yokes, harness and collars are all ways to harness ox power. Read on for a look
at neck yokes or click on one of the other options below.
Click on this link for information on head yokes.
Harness and Collars
Click on this link for information on harness and collars.
Click on this link to see how ox power can be a natural alternative to modern technology.
Tiller International's pattern for an ox yoke, used by permission.
For a full-sized copy of this yoke, contact Tillers at:
For information on where to buy a ready made yoke, click on:
A sideview of how to attach the pole to the yoke.
Prairie Ox Drovers' Home Page
- Measuring the animal(s):
The yokes are sized by the measurement on the inside of the bow shafts.
To find out the size of the yoke that you need, use ox callipers to
measure the width of the middle of the animal's neck, at the place
where the bow would naturally sit in a resting position.
- Selecting the wood:
The best woods for an ox yoke are hardwoods that are difficult to split,
such as birch, elm, oak, and maple. In our area, a suitable wood that is
fairly hard is aspen poplar. Choose a log that is free of knots.
The center grain is the weakest part of the wood, so ideally, choose a
log that is large enough that the yoke can be made out of a quarter of the tree,
and so avoid the center. Avoid cracked yokes by slowing down the drying time of the log,
or by using a log already dried and seasoned. Slowing the drying time
can be done by keeping the wood painted with linseed oil before you begin,
between each step, and after the carving is done, and especially on the ends
where wood dries out the fastest. Also by keeping the yoke in a cool building
out of the sun.
The sizes below are approximate, and increase in 6" increments.
Adjust the yoke for the size and shape of your animals and the type of work
they will be doing. A longer yoke is necessary for the easy pulling of a cart,
with the extra space between the animals for the ease of a lot of turning,
and a shorter yoke is better for the heavy pulling of plowing or logging,
with the animals placed closer together for greater combined strength.
|Rough Cut Lumber Sizes for Neck Yokes
||Rough Cut Lumber Sizes for Bows
|Yoke size ||beam dimensions (in.) ||Yoke size||bow dimensions (in.)|
| ||width x depth x length || |
|4 ||4x4x30 ||4 ||1x1x36|
|5 ||5x5x36 ||5 ||1.25x1.25x42|
|6 ||6x6x42 ||6 ||1.5x1.5x54|
|7 ||6.5x7x48 ||7 ||1.5x1.5x60|
|8 ||7x8x54 ||8 ||1.75x1.75x66|
|9 ||7.5x9x66 ||9 ||1.75x1.75x66|
|10 ||8x10x72 ||10 ||2x2x72|
|11 ||9x11x72+ ||11 ||2x2x72|
|12 ||10x11x72+ ||12 ||2x2x72|
- Selecting and tracing a design:
Make a cardboard pattern of the yoke, and use this to transfer the design on a new piece of wood.
Make sure that both sides of the yoke are identical.
- Carving the yoke:
Square the beam, draw the design, and drill the holes, before you start to carve the yoke.
The holes must be slightly larger than the diameter of the bows. Take care to drill holes
as straight as possible, and in the center of the yoke.
Traditional hand tools, a commercial band saw, a chainsaw, or a combination of them all,
may be used to carve the yoke. Take especial care not to cut the neck seat to deep.
Also take care that it is smooth and uniform in shape, with all the corners rounded.
Reduce the yoke's weight by cutting away excess wood on the top of the center of the yoke,
and on the ends, but take care not to cut away too much, as the yoke's strength lies
in the uncut grains that run through the length of the yoke.
- Sanding and finishing the yoke with a preservative:
Round all the edges of the yoke, sand it well, especially the neck seat, and cover the
yoke with linseed oil. Keep the yoke inside a cool, dry building when not in use, out
of direct sunlight, and recoat with a sealer periodically.
The hardware in a yoke these used to attach the animals and the yoke to whatever you
want to pull. Hardware is basically a ring to which the load is attached, and held
in the yoke with a long steel pin that runs vertically through the middle of the yoke,
and is fastened by and not and washer. Create hardware, or have it made for you.
Again make sure that the holes you drill for the hardware are straight, and in the
center of the yoke. Bolts that run through the yoke in the middle and at the ends help
keep the yoke from splitting.
Bending wood requires a steam box for the wood and a form to bend it around, and then
holding it in its shape until it cures.
It also requires green lumber of the kind that will bend, and yet not break, such as
hickory, oak, and ash. In our area these types of wood are difficult to get, so we
need to look at other options:
There are bow makers in the States where you can buy ready-made bows.
You can laminate strips of supple wood around a form, let dry, and then round the edges.
The bows in this picture were made this way.
You can bend black pipe by heating it and hammering it around a form, or by using a pipe bender.
And you can bend plastic pipe by: filling the pipe with sand, heating the pipe as you bend
it around a form, let it cool, remove the sand, and place a dowel in the straight ends of
the pipe for extra strength.
Bows are held in the yoke by pins, and the adjustable bow is placed at the desired
height with a use of wooden and leather spacers.