«TABLE OF CONTENTS Section 1 – How to Select a Throwing Knife or Axe. 2 Section 2 – Javelin Selection and Construction. 14 Section 3 – ...»
HOW TO SELECT AND MAKE THROWN WEAPONS
Lord John Robert of York
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Section 1 – How to Select a Throwing Knife or Axe ………………........... 2
Section 2 – Javelin Selection and Construction.…………………….......... 14 Section 3 – Self-Made Throwing Knives and Axes ………………….......... 19 Section 4 – Scabbards
Section 5 – Target Stand and Target Panel Construction …………….......... 38
INTRODUCTIONThese instructions are intended for Society for Creative Anachronism members who are interested in selecting and making their own throw weapons and equipment. The sections below are selected appendices from the report ADVANCED THROWN WEAPONS
INSTRUCTIONS FOR AXE, KNIFE, JAVELIN AND THROWING STICKS. Foradditional details, see that report.
1 SECTION 1
HOW TO SELECTA
THROWING KNIFE OR AXE
INTRODUCTIONAlmost any thrown knife or axe can be stuck in a target, but some weapon designs, sizes and weights will be much easier than others for you to stick consistently and accurately.
This discussion is intended to help beginning and intermediate throwers pick a suitable knife or axe design. If you intend to throw these weapons in SCA competitions, check your local kingdom regulations for any limitations or design requirements. Also check your state laws regarding possession and use of dangerous or concealable weapons.
Thrown weapons are no different than any other sport you are starting to learn – it is generally best to pick your initial equipment in the mid-range of suitability rather than at the extremes. The general ideal range for knives is about 10-16 oz. in weight and about 10-16 inches in total length (not blade length). For some knife designs, the total length may be increased to about 18 inches. For axes, the general ideal range is about 16-24 oz in weight (up to 32 oz for reasonably fit throwers) and about 14-18 inches in total length.
Longer ax handles may be used for long-distance throwing (15 feet or longer). In general, weapons near the middle of the above range recommendations are best, as they will have reasonable weight and be less sensitive to poorer throwing techniques.
However, personal throwing techniques, weapon preferences, and your physiology may allow weapons that fall outside the above recommended criteria to work well for you.
There are two approaches to buying a throwing knife or axe:
• Pick a weapon that falls within the recommendations listed above and learn how to throw it;
• Throw as many different weapons as you can and then pick the weapon style, weight and length that work best for you.
The internet is a good place to find discount cutlery companies – many have a large selection of reasonably priced throwing knives and axes. Inexpensive, good quality throwing knives and axes will range in price from about $15 to $35. Very inexpensive weapons (under about $15) may work for you, but they tend to have fragile wood handles (axes) and may be poorly tempered. Home-made throwing knives and axes made from mild steel flat stock purchased from large hardware stores like Home Depot or from a metal fabrication shop are a good way to get started. These weapons can be made with simple hand tools for about $2 to $4 each. Instructions for making basic throwing knives and axes are included in Section 3.
Some modern knives and axes can be very close in style to period weapons. An example is the modern roofing hatchet, which is very close in style to axes used in 7th to 9th century 2 Scandinavia (see Section 3). A good-quality, period-looking axe is the Cold Steel Norse Hawk®, at around $25-$30, plus shipping. Most high quality, period-correct axe reproductions will be in the $40 to $65 range. Good-quality throwing knives will range in price from around $20 to $35. High-quality commercial knives strong enough for extensive throwing can be expensive; from $40 to over $100!
Most people have two axes and two knives for throwing – this is not necessary, but it does give you something else to throw if your first one doesn’t stick. Some competitions will require you to throw two axes or knives before you are scored, so this is another reason for having several weapons. The main reason for having two matched axes or knives is to have a replacement if a weapon is lost or is too damaged to throw safely.
The guidelines below are intended to help a person starting out in SCA thrown weapons competitions select weapons that will be reasonably easy to learn with. A more advanced thrower can use these guidelines to help define criteria that they already have experience with. Your ‘perfect’ throwing knife or axe probably does not exist. All weapons will be a mix of good personal fit and the thrower’s need to adapt their throwing techniques to the particulars of the weapon. Thrown weapons expertise is partially technical skill and partially art, with a lot of personal preference thrown in. These suggestions are not the final word on weapons selection - use this information as a general guideline only!
Most knives used in SCA competitions are single pointed and fairly straight-bladed.
Multiple-pointed knives like the Japanese shaken or Indian chakram are usually considered specialty weapons and allowed only in events intended for that type of knife.
WEIGHT Ultra-light knives (3-9 oz). Ultra-light knives are difficult to throw, as they tend to ‘float’ (behave erratically in response to minor inconsistencies in throwing techniques). They also do not have the mass to resist strong side winds or to stick consistently when thrown with a moderate force unless they have very sharp, acute points. Ultra-light knives are usually short, so their very short sticking arc makes them harder to stick unless the thrower is very consistent. Knives in the upper portion of this weight range may throw well, depending on their overall design. With a lot of practice, ultra-light knives can be thrown well, but for beginners, a little heavier knife is usually a better choice.
Moderate-weight knives (10-12 oz). Knives in this weight range are usually a very good choice. They are easier on the arm than heavier knives and are more forgiving of inconsistencies in technique compared to ultra-light knives. Many of the larger commercial throwing knives are in this weight range. The heavier knives in this weight range tend to be a little easier to throw accurately, depending on style.
3 Heavy knives (13-16 oz). Knives in this weight range are solid stickers, and can be a very good choice, but they will require a little more arm strength to handle accurately for a long throwing session. A minor drawback to heavy knives is their slight tendency to ‘lever’ themselves out of the target with a less than solid, point-on stick, as their weight may keep them spinning slightly after sticking.
Ultra-heavy knives (17 oz or greater). Knives in this weight range are generally for experienced throwers or for those who need a period-correct knife. They stick with authority, but their weight may make them hard to throw accurately towards the end of a long session. A minor drawback to ultra-heavy knives is their tendency to ‘lever’ themselves out of the target with a less than a solid, point-on stick, as their weight will tend to keep them spinning slightly after sticking.
TOTAL LENGTH (not blade length)
Short knives (4-9 inches). Single-blade knives in this length range can be difficult to stick consistently because of their fast rotation - the rotation arc in which they can stick is very short. Throwers who successfully use knives in this length range tend to be very experienced throwers. Many inexpensive commercial throwing knives are in this length range. With a lot of practice short knives, particularly those in the upper portion of this length range may throw well. However, a longer knife is usually a much better choice for beginners.
Moderate-length knifes (10-12 inches). Knives in this length range are usually very good throwers. They are easier to stick compared to shorter knives because of their moderate rotation speed. Many of the larger commercial throwing knives are in this length range.
Long knives (13-16 inches). Knives in this length range are usually very good throwers, particularly if they have point-heavy blades like the bolo or kukri designs. Some knife designs in this length range have very light and narrow blades – examples are perioddesign daggers, modern military fighting daggers and throwing spikes made from SKS bayonets. These relatively light-bladed knives may be challenging to throw!
Ultra-long knives (17 inches or greater). Knives in this length range can be good throwers, but need to be selected with care. Point-heavy styles like kukris are preferred by many throwers. The relatively slow rotation of these knives generally makes them very easy stickers. Excessive weight might be a concern for knives in this category.
Ultra-long knives tend to be used by throwers who need a long, period-correct knife or who just want to throw something different!
STYLE The style of knife you throw is your personal choice, but two basic style characteristics
should be considered when selecting it:
4 Point Shape - Point shape and point weight influences how easily a knife will be to stick.
Beginning throwers should pick fairly symmetrical blade shapes and avoid strongly curved blades that place the tip significantly above or below a line drawn through the center of the grip and main portion of the blade. Knives with strongly curved points like the kukri design can be good stickers, but it is usually best to start with a fairly symmetrical, straight-bladed design when first learning to throw. See Section 3 for suggested knife designs.
Point shapes that place some of the blade weight near the knife tip, like the spear-point and drop point designs (see page 24) generally will be easier to stick consistently compared to narrow, light-bladed dagger designs like the stiletto and Scottish dirk.
Modern knives in this category include narrow-bladed fighting daggers. These knives can be good stickers, but the light blade usually doesn’t give a strong sense of blade position during a hilt throw and the thrower may have to work harder to achieve consistent accuracy. Many light-bladed knives are hilt-heavy and are best thrown from the blade.
Grip Shape – The shape of a knife’s grip will influence how consistently the knife can be released during the thrown. Ideally, a throwing knife should have a fairly straight, smooth grip (but not polished, which will feel ‘sticky’ if the hand is moist). A straight, smooth grip allows a clean and consistent release of the weapon during the throw. Grips with pronounced finger grooves, heavily textured, high friction surfaces (like rough leather) and/or large or strongly hooked pommels will be difficult to release consistently due to drag on the hand by these features. Knives with some of these features can be thrown well, but they will require a very consistent grip pressure and a clean release.
The basic style categories of knives are:
Generic knives. Generic knives are modern or home-made knives of no specific style.
The thrower usually doesn’t care what a knife in this category looks like as long as it throws well. Most knives in this category tend to have no hand guards or grips, as these items break or fall off fairly quickly in use. Home-made versions tend to be made from mild steel flat-stock, military surplus bayonet blades or from partially-finished commercial knife blanks. Commercial knives in this category are usually made from the less-expensive, lower-carbon content varieties of stainless steel and some can be very futuristic looking!
Modern military or civilian combat and utility knives. Generally, these are knives made during or post World War One. Most of the knives in this category are: (1) military bayonets, either commercial versions or military surplus; (2) military general utility knives, either military surplus or commercial versions; or (3) true combat knives, of either civilian or military design. Combat and utility knives usually make good throwers, as they are designed and made to withstand the rigors of combat. Select knives with a fairly thick blade and those that do not have fragile hand guards or grips. Grips made from smooth leather or high-impact plastic are preferred. Bayonets may require the removal of various bits of hardware. This can be very easy to moderately hard, depending on the bayonet’s construction.
5 Military surplus knives can be inexpensive ($20-$30) while the better commercial examples can be fairly expensive ($50-$120). Make sure you buy a true military surplus or a military specifications version (if new) – cheap knock-offs that probably wouldn’t last a day of throwing are common! In general, avoid sportsman’s hunting knives – they are designed to cut up big game, not for throwing. Most tend to be too fragile to stand up to prolonged throwing. However, some heavy-duty hunting knives can be good (but expensive!) throwers. A basic rule of thumb in thrown weapons is to only throw weapons that you are willing (and can afford) to either see break when they hit the target or disappear forever in the grass!
Historic patterns. Typically, these knives are simplified commercial or home-made reproductions that are patterned after historic knives but are not exact reproductions.
Knives in this category might have a blade that is a close reproduction of the original style, but will lack the hand guard or fancy grips, as these usually will not stand up to continuous throwing. Many of the knives in this category tend to be home-made, as the user will have specific ideas about what he/she wants. Avoid true reproductions, as they are usually too fragile and expensive for throwing. Consider this category if you want a knife that fits your SCA persona and time period.