Today’s post is by special guest Scott Gracia, who runs the knife throwing site The Great Throwzini.
Half the fun of throwing knives and tomahawks is trying to hit a target. Luckily, there are quite a few types of targets you can easily make for knife and tomahawk throwing. Here are a couple tips to get you started.
Planks of Wood
Perhaps the easiest target to make are from boards or parts of wood. Always place the grain of your target vertically, because the knife or ‘hawk will cut into the grain easier this way. Thin “planks” aren’t the greatest targets to have, but are better than not being able to throw at all.
To build a good target, get about four 2X12 planks, about 6 feet in length. Lay them out next to each other and attach them in the back with a few 2X4’s and lots of screws. Place a 2X4 on the top, bottom and middle of the planks and screw them down. Be sure to get a “softer” wood.
These are my favorite target to throw at! Get them as wide across as you can. That way you can fit more targets on the face of the log and that will help prolong the life of the target.
If you only have one target on your log, you’re always throwing at the same exact spot (usually a bullseye), and that’s one sure way to chew up a target fast! (If you plan to compete in one of the many throwing competitions going on throughout the US, the standard target is 16″ so I would recommend getting a log with at least a 20″ diameter).
If you only plan on throwing knives at your target instead of ‘hawks, you should be able to get away with a section only 4″ thick, but I recommend getting thicker ones if possible. When the face gets chewed up, you can just turn the log around. When both sides need replacing, get a chainsaw and take off a few inches from each side until you have 2 brand new target faces! Just paint your bullseyes over and you’re ready to throw!
Axes and ‘hawks chew up targets much faster, so I would get the thickest stumps you can find. Be sure they aren’t too much for you to handle because you’re going to have to move and set them up.
Best Types of Wood for Targets
If you use a harder wood (like oak) your throwers may be more likely to bounce out or not get a good solid stick. This also depends on the knives/axes you are using. Some throwers may have sharper points and edges that make them stick a little better in hard woods, but I suggest always going for a softer type of wood if you have a choice.
My favorite wood to use is Cottonwood. After it’s been outside for awhile, getting rained on and soaking up all the moisture, it acts like a “self-healing” dart board. The holes seal up quite a bit after you pull your knives out. Other softer woods that work great as knife and axe throwing targets include Pine, Palm, Spruce and Poplar.
Try to stay away from plywood because although it will work for some of the smaller throwers, it’s not the greatest target. Plywood is loud when the knives hit it, throwers will bounce off more often and heavier knives have the tendency to fly right through it. Nevertheless, plywood does act as a decent backstop to put behind your target to catch those occasional misses.
Where To Get Target Material
Lumber Yard/Firewood Dealers
If you’re having trouble finding log rounds, call a lumber yard or firewood-type place. I recently stopped at a lumber mill in Kenosha, Wisc., and the guy told me he would save a bunch of soft wood like Pine and Cottonwood and cut me 12″ thick logs (no smaller than 16″ in diameter) for $5 a piece!
The phone company has crews trimming limbs and cleaning up downed trees after storms quite a bit, so stop and talk to one of the crew to explain your dilemma. A simple 12-pack of beer could yield cheap wood and a valuable resource.
Air Force Bases
If you are close to an Air Force base, you can pick up “aircraft chaulks” from the base recycling center. These things look like the cement curbs in parking lots, but they’re made out of wood. They’re usually 12 inches wide and 4 feet long, but they’re also heavy as hell and can take a lot of abuse from axes and knives. They only cost about a dollar a piece, so pick up as many as you can!
Another option is to call your local junkyard or recycling center to see if they have any old railroad ties because those also work very well.
And finally, use your friends. People cut down trees everyday, so tell your friends to call you if they have or see a decent-sized stump on the side of the road. Once people know what you’re looking for, you may end up with more targets than you need.
To learn more than a dozen simple and easy ways to set up your targets indoors or outdoors, check out my official targets page.
Best of luck with your search for the perfect target and beware of flying metal!
— Scott Gracia