Talent hits a target no one else can hit.
Genius hits a target no one else can see.
One of the joys of knife throwing as a hobby and art form is that it requires little outlay on equipment to get started; you need something to throw, and something to throw at! It is easy to focus primarily on the sharp pointy end of that relationship, and the knives are important, but investing some time and energy in making a decent target is key to good (and safe) practice.
In this section of the site I will be showcasing a number of designs and builds that I have produced along the way – some have been designed to be lightweight and mobile, others are fixed objects which are suited to specific throwing environments.
There are plenty of throwing games out there too with targets suited to that purpose – snooker, tic-tac-toe, happy families – you name it, someone has played it with knives and I will show a few of those rigs too along the way.
Whatever your budget, availability of resources and space, you should find something here that you can use.
My first target
The first target I ever made was an ambitious project that ended up looking more like a battering ram! It was somewhat over-engineered because it was made to withstand spear throws as well as knives (for the full story you can read about the Warrior Games which kick-started the Thronin challenge here).
The target face itself was an ‘end-grain’ design, meaning that it consisted of a whole series of sections of wood that were glued together and held tightly together in clamps overnight. Then a frame was built around the sections and that in turn was designed to be bolted to the body of the unit. The advantage of this kind of face is that the knives are striking the grain and so the wood is more resistant to splitting and it has longevity.
I would recommend a soft wood for the target face and it will be a lot less tedious if you can get access to a buzz saw to cut the segments. For this target I was lucky enough to get a little help from the woodwork shop at the school where I teach and it took almost no time to cut a whole pile of even 10 cm deep blocks. The second target I made was done at home over a weekend and I cut them all by hand – it took me almost two hours and a lot of elbow grease!
another tool that makes building the face a lot easier is a multi-angle band clamp to hold the blocks under tension while the glue sets. The adhesive I used was Gorilla wood glue and I also screwed them in place from the back (making sure the screws were not so long that they risked contact with the knives) while attaching a backplate made from a square of MDF. This whole set up made for a solid target that withstood a weekend of 30 people throwing at it multiple times – a decent field test I hope you’ll agree. By the end of that weekend it was looking well-loved but continued to absorb impact and I am still using that same target today, alongside others I have made since.
The target stand had to be easily transportable and so I constructed it so that it could be quickly built or taken apart using a series of M12 bolts and screws. The legs of the stand were attached to base boards which had holes in them and these were pegged into the ground using long tent pegs – again, in hindsight this was overkill and subsequent targets I have made have been far less robust but equally effective (see some of the tripod designs further down this page). Below is a video clip that should give you some idea of how it was put together.
If you are looking for a portable, relatively lightweight and easily constructed target, then you could do far worse than a tripod design.
The model I made here is constructed using relatively cheap lumber and is held together with M12 bolts and wingnuts. The end grain target is resting on two arms which are close enough together than a log round can sit in place just as easily.
An additional feature is a tip I picked up from Mike Gross of the OSM Knife and Tomahawk Throwers Academy (you can find the details in my resources section) – the target is held under tension using a bungee cord and two ring eyelets, one of which is screwed into the target’s backplate and the other into the rear leg of the structure. This is especially useful if heavier throwing weapons such as tomahawks or axes are being sent down range.
Competition target template
Sooner or later, if you have aspirations to take part in throwing competitions, as I do, then you’ll need to design a target face that closely resembles the kind of scoring pattern favoured by the event organisers. In my case, KATTA UK uses a 10 cm bull with four additional concentric rings moving out in 10 cm increments. The diameter of the face is therefore 50 cm.
By throwing at a target marked up to those dimensions I am able to track my scores (in this case a bullseye is worth 5 points, then next ring outwards is 4 and so on to the outer ring which would get you a single point) in simulated competitions and psychologically the design becomes familiar to me; so much of throwing seems to be a mental game and I will take any edge I can get!
In this case I have used a simple cardboard template and spray paint, rotating the stencil about its centre and respraying to produce unbroken rings.
Basic self-standing target with plank-backboard
This target design has the advantage that it includes a backboard to stop any stray throws that don’t quite make it to the target face! It is therefore ideal for beginner throwers of for use in environments where a miss might result in damage to the surrounding area (such as in a domestic garden).
The materials used are all easily sourced and the structure can be easily taken apart and transported if required. I have attached two rounds to this same design, one above the other and that has worked fine too.
Improvised 3 target competition range
To more accurately measure my progress towards competition standard, a single target was no longer ideal because it meant that I would be risking damaging my knives (in fact, by definition, the better I become, there will be an increased likelihood of knives striking one another around the bullseye!).
Consequently I needed to build a three target range but my garden is too small to set up a permanent structure and so it had to be portable, or at least easily put up and taken down again. My solution is not elegant but it has proven itself effective!
Two wheelie bins alongside one another, together with a few well placed bits of wood formed the platform onto which I sat my three rounds / planks. Then I covered the bins with an archery backstop cloth and put a cardboard backstop in place to protect the gates behind the structure. Set up time is less than 5 minutes and the weight of the target faces makes it a stable and absorbent throwing face. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention!