The Best Wood for Axe Throwing Target: Hardwood vs Softwood

Axe throwing has become increasingly popular each year for the simple reason that it is a ton of fun. What is better than feeling like a badass and throwing an axe into your own axe throwing target? But if you want to enjoy this at home you are going to need to know how to build an axe throwing target and how to make it safe.

Materials you’ll need to make a DIY axe throwing target

  1. You are going to need a good axe. I mean you need something to throw, right? If you don’t know what type of axe to use then check out our post detailing the best throwing axes available right now. We can help you walk through axes that have proper balance and weighting to throw.
  2. Wood boards for your target. A lot of axe throwing businesses I’ve talked with like 2×10 cottonwood boards because of the way it interacts with moisture it makes it seal up cuts and will last longer than other alternatives. The biggest benefit I like is that it can absorb shock a lot better than other woods which makes it quiet and less likely to fall out of a target stand. If you want to learn more we have a post about all of the types of wood you can use for axe throwing targets.
  3. A target stand or something to stabilize the target. You don’t want to go through all the effort of making an axe throwing target only to not have thought ahead and have nothing to put it on. A lot of people rig up their own stands that they can drill their targets into using 2x4s to create a sturdy stand.
  4. Saw to help cut down boards to the proper length. The last thing you want is to end up with boards that are uneven which makes it so your target looks bad or is unbalanced.
  5. Screws & Screwdriver to help stabilize and hold your target altogether. Use power tools I’m sure this isn’t a surprise but using a handheld screwdriver isn’t going to cut it.
  6. Refillable paint markers or what a lot of people call “paint pens.” These are used to mark the point lines so you know when you’ve nailed a bullseye or just missed. Refillable paint markers are nice because as the name implies you can easily refill them and reuse them without having to buy more products.

How to build an axe throwing target subframe and backboard

Before actually putting together your target you need to make sure you have a proper sub-frame or backboard.

When constructing an axe throwing target, it is important that at least one 1- ½ inches deep subframe layer behind the backboard be present. The thickness should vary depending on whether or not there are targets mounted onto concrete walls; 4 ¼” works well for both these situations with two 2×10 boards laid flat against each other top down bottom up respectively

A variety of woods can be used although I personally prefer cottonwood although many use other softwood like spruce, pine, and poplar. Softwood will prevent you from damaging your axe and makes it much more likely to actually stick when you throw your axe.

IDEALLY, you should also have a solid backboard or base for your sub-frame. To follow IATF guidelines the base of the axe target sub-frame should be 39 inches off the floor. There’s an allowance for any uneven ground surface, but it must still sit flush with a ¾” piece of wood (plywood) cut to 4×4 feet in size and mounted behind your target.

Assembling the Axe Throwing Target

The axe target itself should be made up of five 2×10 boards that are 4 foot long. Only three of these boards however will be used for the target itself with the two being on the far end of each side to prevent missed throws from damaging anything behind the target or the axe itself.

1. The center 2×10 target boards must be mounted in line with the vertical center of the backboard. A level should be used to ensure the centre 2×10 is straight;

2. The center of the bullseye must be measured to the center of the 2x10x4;

3. The remaining 2x10x4 boards are mounted on either side of the center target boards. There must be no gaps between the target boards, so make sure the boards are firmly pressed against the center board before fastening to the backboard.

Target Paint Line Dimensions

There are multiple different scoring styles and layouts for axe throwing targets. Personally, I like to use the dimensions of the International Axe Throwing Federation (IATF) not the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) because it uses less paint, which is:

Bullseye:

7 inch diameter. The bullseye should also be 63 inches from the floor to meet requirements.

Bullseyes generally are painted onto the target boards with black paint.

3 point ring:

17 inches in diameter

For the 3 point ring use red paint because you’ll be seeing red after you miss a bullseye. Trust me we’ve all been there.

1 point ring:

1 point ring is 27 inches in diameter.

For the 1 point ring use blue paint because you’ll want to jump into the ocean if you hit a 1.

Clutches:

2 inches in diameter. The centre of the Clutch is 5 ¼ inches in from the seam, and 40 ½ inches from base of target face board

Clutches are green because when you hit one you feel like a million bucks.

You can use whatever colors you want especially if this is a DIY axe throwing target it might be easier to just use one color but if you want it to look extra legit that is the color scheme to use. This black, red, blue, and green, color scheme is also what the IATF uses for official tournaments which I think makes it extra legit.

What is the best wood to use for axe throwing target?

There are four types of wood that are almost always used in an axe throwing target: Cottonwood, Poplar, Pine, and Spruce. Cottonwood and Poplar are hardwood while Pine and Spruce are softwood. Personally I think Cottonwood is the best because it gets the job done and is cheap.

What size of wood is best for axe throwing target?

Choosing the right wood for an axe throwing target is crucial. It’s best to prioritize boards with minimal knots, particularly in the center, to prevent axes from bouncing off the bullseye. Additionally, keep an eye out for lighter pieces of wood, as they tend to be denser and offer better stickability for your axe. Ideally, the board should have a thickness of 2×10 inches and a length of 4 feet.

Enjoy your own axe throwing target

So there you have it! Our comprehensive guide on how to make your very own axe throwing target to show off your axe throwing skills. Unlike a lot of other DIY projects, this is something you can share with friends on a Friday night with some beers and a beautiful wooden target board to break. So hopefully, it isn’t too frustrating but if it is by the end you can throw some axes to blow off steam with your backyard target.

Be sure to check out some of our other axe throwing content for more tips, tricks, and reviews. And most importantly, have fun and stay safe while you’re hitting those bullseyes!

About the author 

Cory