Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one who will get burned!
There are plenty of excellent resources online where you and I can investigate the pros and cons of various knives, axes, bolts and other projectiles (see Links section). As someone with relatively little experience in the field, I don’t think I can add much value by simply echoing their hard-won knowledge.
Instead, in this section I will restrict myself to the knives I have thrown and how they compare to one another. I am also hoping to make my own knives along the way and will report on the lessons learned in pursuit of the ultimate throwing blade!
What makes a good throwing knife?
Search YouTube for long enough and you’ll find people successfully throwing and sticking all manner of objects from custom-made Bowie knives to needle-nosed pliers and everything in between! However, if you are looking to learn how to throw accurately and consistently, there are certain kinds of design that are better suited to throwing.
As a general rule, most purpose-made throwing knives tend to be between 10-16″ in length (25-40 cm) with a weight to length ratio of 1 ounce per inch of length (28 g to 2.5 cm). Beginners often favour a heavier knife because they tend to be more forgiving if form and skill isn’t quite dialled in.
Typically throwing knives will be weighted so that they balance at the centre of their length, allowing for an even rate of spin.
The two most common materials are carbon steel or stainless steel; there are pros and cons to both metals. As a rule, carbon steel has more flex and so can take punishment and burrs are more easily ground out but it has a tendency to rust and needs maintenance. In contrast stainless steel blades are more brittle and harder to work but they are impervious to the elements.
Contrary to what Hollywood might have us believe, a decent throwing knife does not need to be razor sharp; in fact that would be a design flaw for all but the most specialised of knives, designed for combat applications. In most cases a dull edge and a point but not a particularly aggressive one will do just fine, as long as the weight, length and balance are suitable.
The first knives I threw with, as part of the Thronin Project, were Coldsteel Pro Balance knives. Here are the basic facts about these heavy but reliable blades:
Weight: 470g / 16.5oz
Length: 33.7cm / 13 ¼ “
Balance: Nicely balanced, as you’d expect from an established company, specialising in mass-produced weapons.
Materials / resilience: 1055 carbon steel / composite plastic handle
Design, look & feel: I found these very comfortable to hold and throw although I suspect they would feel a little too weighty for throws over 5 m unless you had a good throwing arm. The only issue I have with these knives is the fact that the scales are plastic and held in place by screws which quickly come loose. Most people in the community who throw the Pro Balance knives tend to remove the handles and either throw the blanks or apply tape/cordage instead.
Certainly this is what I will end up doing; one of my handles has already broken in half as a result of a clash with another blade which is inevitable if you throw enough volume over time.
Price / value: At the time of writing (July 2015) the Pro Balance throwers retail at around £26 each which is, in my opinion, a reasonable price point.
Fairly soon after I brought the Coldsteel Pro Balance Throwers, I started hunting about for UK stockists of some of the American knives that I saw thrown on various shared social media sites. I was disappointed that so few decent quality brands were available here and the costs of importing knives from overseas was prohibitive (typically I was facing shipping and import tax costs which doubled the cost of a three knife order).
I did find a few places that offered the Gil Hibben range of knives however and so I ordered a set of the 12″ Competition Throwers. Here are the details so you can get a sense of how these compare to my first set of throwers:
Weight: 300g / 10.4oz
Length: 30.8cm / 12 1/8″
Balance: Nicely balanced about the mid-point
Materials / resilience: 420 stainless steel
Design, look & feel: These are nicely machined knives that came in a leather sheath and were finished to a high standard. For me they felt a little light in comparison to the heft of the Coldsteel blades but I soon adjusted and found that they threw well; I was consistently achieving three good target sticks with single and double spin throws after an hour of experimentation.
Price / value: These knives offered great value at just £38 for 3, making them ideal for a beginner on a budget.
Having thrown both the Coldsteel Pro Balance and Gil Hibben Competition throwers, I was beginning to get a sense of what kind of a knife might best suit me; one was heavy carbon steel, the other lighter and made from stainless steel for example. One had scales, the other was a single piece of metal. Both came in at competition standard length (over 12″/30 cm) but I felt that I was going to get on best with something in between the two; a simple and elegant profiled blade that had some heft to it, but where to find it?
I had already pretty much exhausted the UK commercial market; most of the other knives for sale were, frankly, junk! As a rule of thumb, anything that is toxic green, includes the word ‘zombie’ somewhere in the title, or is so concerned with looking like a ninja’s wet dream, is unlikely to be of much use!
I looked into ordering some of the more popular and respected blades from the States but the cost of importing and shipping more than doubled the price of the knives themselves, putting them beyond my budget and so I found myself at a loss.
However, I had recently made contact with the KATTA UK community (The Knife, Axe, Tomahawk Throwing Association UK) and was making some excellent new friends via their Facebook page. Time and again I saw people posting about the virtues of the ‘JT Throwers’, particularly for beginners. After a bit of research I found out that these were designed and made by John Taylor, a well-respected thrower and ambassador for the UK Throwing scene.
John runs a throwing club in West Yorkshire and has been instrumental in bringing the Eurothrowers World Championships to Nottingham this year (you can find details for that event here if you are interested). Having competed in a number of international competitions since 2006 and placed in several categories, he is clearly a man who knows his way around knives and so I set about trying to source a set of his designs.
I didn’t have to search for long because a day later Paul ‘Billy’ O’Brien reached out and offered to help me in my plight; he sent me three hardly used JT Throwers along with another set of hand-forged knives and throwing bolts to widen my experience. It was as if I had summoned the KATTA UK genii and I cannot express how grateful I am to Paul for his generosity.
I knew as soon as I opened the package and picked up one of the JT Throwers that I had found the knives for me! Here are the details of what have quickly become my throwers of choice:
Weight: 300 g /10.5 oz
Length: 30 cm / 12″
Balance: The knife is perfectly balanced at the center point and this results in reliable and consistent throwing.
Materials / resilience: The knives are stamped with the following logo near the handle end of the stock – ‘J Nowill & Sons, Sheffield England’; I assume that John outsources the forging and manufacture of the knives which seem to be made from a good quality stainless steel. I have emailed John and will confirm the build materials asap.
Design, look & feel: These knives are exactly what I was looking for – the shape and profile of the blades are simple but effective. The edges are rounded rather than sharp, meaning that they will be more forgiving if they strike one another and yet they end at a point aggressive enough to ensure they will stick well into the target.
Price / value: My first set of JT Throwers came to me at considerably under the market price because of Paul’s generosity, but even when brought directly from John as new, I believe they are excellent value. I have asked John for more details about his designs and will update this page as soon as I have the specifics.