If you've experienced axe or knife throwing, chances are you'd like to do it again. Commercial axe throwing venues are opening up in many areas. If you don't have one near you, you don't want to pay the fees, or you simply would like to hone your skills on your time, here is a way to have a target in your backyard at little to no cost.
Instructions also for a simple throwing bowie that needs no forging as a tomahawk would.
My setup is totally from things I had around or could source from friends.
Slice of tree- a slab from the trunk of a tree that is approx 9-12" thick and around 24" in diameter
Legs x 3- Legs can be 2x4 or 2x6 (I used 2x6) and will be about 60" long
Rope- one piece about 10' long
Screws- 6 @ 3", 11 @ 1"
Piece of steel around 3/16" thick and 3" x 15"
Leather strips for the handle
Chicago screws or rivets x3
Drill/driver and 1/4 metal bit
Soap Stone or other metal marker ( I borrowed some sidewalk chalk from my girls)
Angle grinder with cutting wheel (I used 2 wheels to cut mine out), grinding wheel, and a wire wheel.
Knife or other means of cutting leather
Leather punch (or you could use the drill)
Screwdriver for tightening the Chicago screws
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Step 1: Choosing a Tree Slab
The right chunk of wood for the body of the target could be a hurdle for some. My piece came from the yard of a friend who was having an oak tree taken down. I knew it was happening and requested a slab from it. If you don't have access to a forest you could contact a local tree service to see if they'd save you a chunk. The stump I used ended up being about 9" thick and about 21" across. There are plenty of other wood types that will work however there are a few such as Elm that tend to be a little bouncy and end up being frustrating to throw at. Being 9" thick I can heft it around when mowing but it doesn't tend to split when hit with a knife or axe. A thicker piece may last longer but starts getting pretty heavy quickly.
Step 2: Target Legs
I used treated 2x6 that came from a dismantled deck. 2x4 would work as well. If you don't have scrap, a 16' 2x6 can be had for $12-15 at your local big box store.
Step 3: Front Legs
The front legs are screwed onto the back of the stump in a V shape with the 3" screws. I trimmed the corners off of the tops of my 2x6's to create a nifty fit and a better point for fastening the hinge and third leg (step 4).
Tip for cutting those angles- lay the boards in the position in which they'll ultimately be with the corners overlapping and cut the corner so that the blade of the saw cuts the top piece and scores the second for a perfect fit.
Also remember this isn't trim carpentry. You're going to be throwing choppy things at it.
Step 4: Tripod Leg
I use a hinge to fasten the third leg. The hinge I used has been in my shed for years and came off of a door I tore out of a house at some point. If you don't have your own personal used hardware store a hinge can be purchased for $1-5.
With the third leg laid out creating a Y the hinge can be fastened using the 1" screws.
I have made ridged target bases in the past that work well and can be made without a hinge and with a few more braces. This hinge style works well to fold the leg in when throwing it in the truck bed to haul over to your, soon to be jealous, friend's house.
Step 5: Rope Keeper
By screwing a rope from the back to the front legs the target can be kept at a stable and sturdy position. I used about 6' of rope and screwed directly through it to fasten it to the legs approximately 16" off the ground. Find the center of the rope and screw that to the back leg then screw the ends to the backs of the front legs. By fastening to the backs of the legs you'll protect the fastening points and the rope from errant throws.
Your target should now be making your neighbors wonder. It's ready to take a hit.
Pro tip- Your new target can be kept in your front yard as a conversation starter with random passersby.
Step 6: Bowie
If the target was the limit of your manufacturing prowess, throwing implements are available on Amazon and at many outdoor/hunting stores. If not read on.
This Bowie knife is designed strictly for throwing and following these steps will not gain you Master Blade Smith status.
I happened to have a piece of rusty 3/16 steel laying around that I used. I first drew a simple bowie shape with sidewalk chalk. The dimensions of this one are 15" long and 3" wide at the widest.
Step 7: Cutting the Bowie Shape
Using an angle grinder and a thin cutting wheel (I went through 2) I cut out the shape of the knife.
Step 8: Grinding the Edge
I used a grinding wheel to clean up the shape of the Bowie smooth out rough places, and give the illusion of an edge. The knife doesn't need to have a razor edge. The tip of the knife will be what sticks into the stump and will need to be pointy. The rest of the blade will do just fine if at least as sharp as a dull hatchet. I also went over the entire knife with a stiff wire wheel to remove any burs and excess rust.
Step 9: Sizing the Leather Handle
The handle on a throwing bowie may add a bit of comfort but is mostly aesthetic. Leather works well because it is flexible. A ridged handle would generally break from the abuse. I dabble with leather craft and used scraps for this knife. If you have no scrap leather laying around I'd suggest a thrift store belt to do the trick rather cheaply.
I cut strips 1 1/2 " by 4 3/4". These are intentionally smaller than the outline of the steel handle by approximately 1/8" on both sides and the butt of the knife. By holding the leather back from the edge of the steel it allows the knife rather than the leather to take the hit when it strikes the target on the handle.
Step 10: Fastening the Handle
Drill 3 holes, with the 1/4" bit, in the handle centered side to side and within the length of your handle leather. (Super precise. I know.) Then mark through the the holes onto your handle leather and punch or drill holes in the leather. I have a bunch of chicago screws handy so I used those to screw the leather onto my handle. It can also be done with copper or brass rivets.
Your creation is ready to throw!
Step 11: Throwing the Bowie
If you've thrown a knife before you may be able to skip this final step. If not here are some pointers.
A good starter throw will probably be from around 8 feet away from your target. It seems pretty close but at this range you should get one complete rotation.
When throwing a knife I use a grip as if I were gripping a hammer. Some like to use a pinch grip with the thumb and fingers on the sides of the handle.
As you throw you'll begin to recognize how the knife is hitting and adjust where you throw from. If the knife is hitting in the flat part of the blade before rotating to the tip you could back up a little to allow for a little more rotation. If the knife is consistently hitting on the spine or back of the blade it's rotating too far and you should step a bit closer. The more you throw the more you'll want to play with the distances. By throwing from the blade you can step up to half of a rotation or back to one and a half rotations. Back up even farther for two full rotations.
When throwing remember even though these knives aren't "sharp" they are hefty and will easily stick an inch into an oak stump. Be aware of what's behind your target. Also be aware that when throwing a knife it's not entirely uncommon for the blade to take a crazy bounce and fly willy nilly across the yard.
Happy throwing, be safe, have fun, and I'll see you at the next rendezvous.
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