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3. Measure the length between inside bow holes (for a 6” yoke, this would be 10” on each side of the center mark)

4. Measure the diameter for the inside bow hole (1 1/2” for the 6” yoke)

5. Measure the length between the bows (6” for the 6” yoke)

6. Measure the length from the outside bow holes (1 1/2” for the 6” yoke)

7. Measure the end pieces (4-5” for the 6” yoke)

8. Carry the lines from steps 1-7 to the front of the yoke.

9. Measure the width at the center of the piece and mark the middle. This is where your ring and staple will be.

10. On the front, find the center of the neckpiece. This will be the highest point of the neck.

11. Draw the curve of the neck as smooth as possible. Although compasses may be used, best results are found by stepping back, reviewing your work, and making adjustments. Remember that the recommended thickness depends on the wood type, the shape will still need to be smooth and round.

12. Measure out at least 1 1/2” off the top of the yoke between inside bow holes to reduce the center of gravity riding on the steers necks.

13. Once all lines have been drawn, drill your bow and staple holes. Bow holes should be drilled with a bit slightly larger (approx. 1/8” ) then the bows themselves will be. This will allow for swelling of bows during hot, humid summer months. Important—drilling of holes must be exact. The holes must be straight, or the yoke will not be of any use to the team or teamster.

Follow safe and proper drill operating instructions.

14. Measure the belly of the yoke. This will be important to draw and cut correctly to ensure your cattle will be able to pull well.


15. Now that the bow and staple holes have been drilled, it is time to saw out the basic shape of the yoke. Using safe and proper ban saw techniques, carefully follow the drawn lines to cut out the neckpieces, above the belly and ends. You can now sand your yoke.

16. Sanding of a yoke may begin with a power sander. Sand only enough to smooth out all rough and sharp edges following safe and proper power sanding instructions.

17. Once smooth, use fine sandpaper to finish out details. It may be helpful for the teamster who uses a yoke with a sliding ring to find the center of his yoke and mark it in order to give both steers equal weight.

18. Yokes may be stained, weatherproofed or painted to the fancy of the teamster. Most teamsters prefer polyurethane finishes.

19. Once sanded and finished, the staple and ring may be put in place (ring towards belly) and tightened.

20. Try your yoke and see how it works. Make modifications as needed.

21. When you stop work for the day, apply a 50/50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits generously. This will help prevent the wood from cracking overnight.

Bows Bows are attached to the yoke. They wrap around the neck, and hold the yoke to the steer’s neck.

Most bows are made out of hickory, white oak and ash, which is strong, but capable of bending while still holding its shape.

When choosing wood for bows, choose pieces that are straight grained, as imperfections will

produce twisted and inferior bows. Starting lengths of bows can be as follows:

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Goad sticks Making a goad stick follows the same principles of bow making. From a piece of quartered white oak, choose a straight grained piece of wood for your goad. Remember which end of the piece is which; the end located farther up the tree will be your handle while the end from closer to the stump will be the thin, limber, business end.

Do not use heartwood for a goad, as it is weak and capable of easily breaking. Shape your goad as you would the bows, with the handle being comfortable to hold and the tip slightly larger than the limber, smallest diameter of the middle goad.

As a general standard produced by the New England Ox Teamsters Association, a goad stick should be no longer than 4 ft. and must be able to have a 1/2” washer fit down the top half of the goad. Teamsters will find that they do not need this much goad for a small pair of steers, and may require a longer goad for larger pulling oxen.

At shows make sure you follow proper goad regulations.

Whips with lashes are optional, though regulations should be followed.

41 Glossary of Terms Teamster Terminology Backchain – backchaining occurs when a steer backs over the chain or drag during a workout.

This is a bad habit, which should be corrected immediately.

Back-Gee – much like “Gee off”, but teamster moves in a circle with team. Team’s back feet remain in same place while moving front end to the right.

Back-Haw – much like “Haw to”, but teamster moves in a circle with team. Team’s back feet remain in same place while moving front end to the left.

Back up step – command used in conjuncture with steer name to back him up one step. Helpful in hitching/unhitching to cart or drag.

Bloated – animals’ belly swells up. May result from increased water intake or illness. Contact veterinarian if condition persists.

Castration - surgical procedure to remove or render useless the testicles of a male animal.

Come up step – command to make team move forward one step. Helpful unhitching/unhitching to cart of drag. (May be used instead of “giddup step”.) Draft – many New England teamsters refer to draft as the angle of the chain from the bottom of a yoke to the stone boat.

Drag - anything that you can pull behind your team, typically attached to yoke with a chain.

Easy – command used to slow team from walking/pulling too fast. Used much like the “whoa” command, without actually stopping.

Fitting - term used to describe how a showperson has prepared animals for show. Fitting refers to condition (weight) of animal, cleanliness, properly trimmed hooves, clipping, etc.

Gaunt – thin appearance of animal resulting from decreased feed/water intake. May occur in new environments (such as fairs), but veterinarian should be contacted if condition persists.

Gee off – command where team sidesteps away from teamster. Helpful in working with cart or drag to reduce rubbing against pole or chain.

Goad Stick - wooden stick (less than 4’ long) used to gently tap/touch steer to encourage proper movement.

Haw to – command where team sidesteps towards teamster. Helpful in working with cart or drag to reduce rubbing against chain or pole.

Head up – command used to make steers pick their heads up if they are eating grass or otherwise.

Tap the underside of their chin while saying the command.

Heartwood – usually a dark circle of wood from the middle of the tree, weaker than white wood and unsatisfactory for neckpiece wood.

Matched – a team that is of the same breed, color pattern, size and bone structure and also work well together.

Mated – a team placed together based on working capabilities. Do not have to be of the same breed or color, but should be relatively close in size and work well together.

42 Nigh – steer closest to teamster when yoked.

Off – steer farthest from teamster when yoked.

Polled – animals bred and born without horns. Do not make a desirable team.

Roan - body color that consists of a mix of white and other color hair, giving the steer a mottled color.

Step in – command preceding or following steer’s name, used to make steer step in closer to the pole or chain. Usually used before starting to pull a load to ensure the safety of team. (May also use “put in” or “stand in”).

Step out – command preceding or following steers’ name, used to make steer step away from pole or chain. Usually used while hitching or turning a load. (May also use “put out” or “stand out”).

Stone Boat – a small, flat sled developed for moving stones. Usually 3-3 1/2 feet wide and 6-8 feet long and made of 2-inch hardwood planks.

Umbilical Hernia – a muscle tear in the abdomen at the site of the umbilical cord, just under the skin, allowing part of the stomach or intestines to bulge out of the abdomen. A serious problem that requires surgery.

Parts of a Yoke

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