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Complementary page on Hand made throwing knives

My CUSTOM throwing knives

May., 1999 Matthew Rapaport /

In the other "knives" file, I describe a number of off-the-rack knives, purchaseable from knife company mail order catalogs. In this file, I will describe the professional throwing knives I now own. These knives are generally larger and heavier than the catalog knives, but not always. For example, BlackJack makes an excellent thrower 12 inches long weighing 14 ounces, well within professional parameters.

Click here for a picture of some of these knives.

The knives described below all come from the knife makers listed in the CUSTOM file, while those in the "knives" file come from various catalog companies listed in the CATALOGS file.

One thing these knives have in common (also with the Black Jack), their edges are NOT sharp. In fact one of the points to the design of a PROFESSIONAL throwing knife is that one may grip from the blade more-or-less the same as one grips from the handle. This promotes consistency in the throw. The Viper, is an exception.

BOB KARP KNIVES: Bob Karp is one of the few professional knife throwers left in the world. Bob designed his knives which were fabricated for him by Randy Lee up through the early 1990's. I do not know who makes them now. There are a number of unusual things about them as compared to most of the custom knives, but in summary, they are the best throwing knives I have ever used.

Bob Karp is the only throwing knife supplier I know of who makes the same knife (in fact he has only ONE design) in multiple configurations. They can be obtained in 4 sizes (11, 12, 13, and 14 inch), in two thicknesses (3/16 and 1/4 inch), in stainless or carbon steel, with or without handles. Adding handles or choosing stainless steel adds immensely to the price of these knives. I happen to own a set of 11 inch, 1/4 thick stainless with handles (these would be about $90 U.S. if new), and a set of the 14 inch 3/16 stainless without handles. I bought both sets used from Randy Lee himself. I have ordered a set of 12 inch, carbon steel knives without handles in the 1/4 inch thickness. These will weigh about 14 or 15 ounces.

These knives are the narrowest of the professional knives I have seen. They have dull edges, but very wicked points and will penetrate deeper into my targets than any other knife I own. They throw well from handle or blade. I can throw them easily up to two turns, and they are the only knife I own I can throw reliably for one half or one turn with my LEFT hand. Because they are so narrow, they can be held easily with several grip styles.

A few extra comments on the Karps. I happened to buy stainless steel Karp knives from Randy Lee because that is what he had to sell. Stainless is, in fact, inferior to carbon steel in throwing knives says Bobby Branton at least. There is no need to pay the extra $30 or so Bob charges for the stainless variety. Even he does not recommend it. As for handles, Bob doesn't think you really need those either. He likes to take his own handleless knives and wrap the handles in linnen strips (three layers), and then cover that with three layers of common black electrical tape. This makes a light but otherwise indestructable handle. When wrapping, start at the end furthest from the point and spiral up, down, then back up with both the linnen and the tape. This causes the layers to point DOWN toward the end of the handle, like the shingles on a roof. Bob tells me this insures that the layering will not impede release from the hand.

TRU-BALANCE KNIVES: These are the knives designed by Harry McEvoy himself, and now sold by his sons who still run the Tru-Balance Knife Company. I have one of their eight or so models, the basic #79. This is a very traditional McEvoy design. It is shaped so that one pretty much *must* hold the knife with the thumb facing forward placed on the spine of the knife. This was Harry's recommended grip. As it turns out, I discovered this grip via a recommendation from the thrower list. I adopted it early on, so it felt natural on a McEvoy knife. If you *don't* like this grip however, this McEvoy at least (and several of the others that are similarly shaped) will not suit you because they are very wide and hard to hold with the thumb to the side. Most of the McEvoy knives are 13.5 inches long and weigh in at 15 or more ounces. Most are made from 3/16 inch carbon steel, but the #79 is made from 5/32 inch stock and is a little wider than any of the others.

Note that the way this knife is shaped, its width in the center, when you throw the way Harry intended (thumb on top), the knife dampens or supresses the natural tendency of most throwers to cork-screw the knife in the release. For a WIDE knife, this makes the #79 a suprisingly good two or more turn thrower.

The #79 has no handle. Most of the other McEvoy knives are handled and cost about $55. I do not know from experience about the ruggedness of the handles, but they look (in photographs) to be similar to the Pro Fly knife handles described below, so they should be pretty rugged. Price-wise they are still a pretty good deal at $30 each, or 3 for $85.

LOWCOUNTRY THROWING KNIVES: Now called PROFLY KNIVES, they are handmade by Bobby Branton, a protege of Harry McEvoy who designed Bobby's first four knives. Many Pro Fly knives have Tru-Balance counterparts, and there are a couple of other variations. I have had the honor to throw *all* of Bobby's line, at least as of 1996. I do own one set of his "Lew Botherton" design, and a single example of the "Eliminator", a new knife for 1999.

In spirit they are much the same as Tru-Balance knives. Each is done in 3/16 inch steel. There are six pure target knives in the lineup, four without handles, and two with handles. Each has its interesting characteristics. There are also two knives that are dual-purpose. One a large utility/thrower combination, and the other a bowie style. These can be delivered with fully sharpened edges. I loved the bowie, nicest one I've ever thrown. The handles are made from two slabs of some hard rubber and attached with hand punched large-head rivets. They cover only the sides of the handle, the spine and belly of the handle show through. Finally, the handles ar beveled a bit so that hits from the side will not make too much contact with the handle and thus not knock it loose. I have to admit, in many throws and misses, not one of the handles came loose. I assume the McEvoy handles are of similar composition.

Pro Fly throwers are $35 for the handleless, and $55 for the handled variety. Except for one unusually small one, a 9.5 inch 8.5 oz. "Pro Fly Sticker" for $20, each of Bobby's knives is 13.5 inches long and about 15 ounces in weight. My personal favorite was one of the handled knives shaped much like a long thin triangle with another shorter triangle on top of it to form the point. I do not know why, but it threw unusually easily for me from 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 turns. Bobby has told me that this particular knife is the favorite of Mr. Lew Brotherton who does a 4 turn throw with it.

The "Eliminator" is new for 1999. It is 1/8" shy of 14" long, not quite 2" wide at its widest point. The knife is bilatterally symetrical with something of a leaf-shaped blade, and weighs in at a hefty 15 oz or so. Balance point is about 1" behind the center. The knife is handled with slabs and rivits, the slabs being a composit compressed material that is very dense and appears almost to be wood. It is, however, much more resistant to breakage with the abuse (slapping) that throwing often imposes.

The knife is doubled edged, but neither edge is sharpened, and many possible blade grips are quite practical given the smooth and gentle curve from point to the widest point of the blade about 4" behind the point. The handle also swells slightly from 1" at the neck to 1.25 inches in the middle of the 5" handle. This is a great knife for a big hand, especially in blade throws.

Not that it doesn't work well in a smaller hand like mine, especially from the handle. Target penetration is excellent, even into relatively hard woods thanks to the over-all weight, and the point design! Bobby also seems to have found the right balance between point geometry and strength. He may also have taken the trouble to get some decent tempering done because my knife has not gotten a bent tip, nor an over-all bow in many hundreds of throws against different sorts of targets. Even falling on bricks a few times (yes ouch!) didn't seem to bother it.

My conclusion... This is a great sport target knife! Its shape, size, and weight, lend themselves to it very well. With sharpened edges and thrown from the handle, it could be a good hunting thrower too. Retail is $60! Remember 10% discounts to AKTA members...

Bobby has also taken on the mantle of the club once run by Harry McEvoy called the American Knife Throwers Alliance (AKTA). Membership is $25 for the first year (includes a patch), and $20/yr after that. There is a small quarterly newsletter, but best of all, Bobby offers a 10% discount on any Pro Fly throwing knife to members. The same discount is also offered to AKTA members by Harald Moeller of Viper knife fame, and knife maker Lee Fugat.

RANDY LEE KNIVES: Besides being the original Karp designer and knife maker, Randy Lee has dabbled in a few other designs. I own a set of his very clean and simple lined throwing bowies. These are handleless, 12 inches long, and weigh 15 ounces. They are made from 3/16 inch stock. The handle widens slightly from the point where it merges into the blade to the back making these bowies unusually good from-the-blade throwers. The blade is completely dull, even flattened a little bit to make the grip comfortable.

Randy also makes a 16 inch handled bowie which I have had the opportunity to throw around. This one, like most bowies is a better handle thrower. It is thinner than the more abstract bowie described above, and weighs in at about 15 ounces.

VIPER Knives Vipers are made by Harald Moeller in Parksville B.C., Canada. They are unusual in many ways. First, Harald was a machinist/machine-maker before he began to make knives. His throwers are therefore unusually detailed. Second, they tend to be thicker than other throwers, as much as 5/16 inch! Third, they are expensive, running anywhere from about $75 to $175 depending on the steel type (stainless vs. carbon) and the model purchased. There are a couple of very small (6 and 7 inch) models in his line that run around $45, but they don't throw quite the same way as the larger models.

These knives are thick, but their handles tend to be narrow, so holding them is almost like holding a good heavy spike. Their blades are sharpened and double edged, so blade holds are not recommended. The original Viper line (nos. I, II, and III) are center balanced. Newer models like the Viper Pro and the Frontiersman (a bowie) are not quite center balanced.

Harald sent me an 10.5 inch Viper II as a gift (the I is 12.5 inches long while the III is 8.5 inches), and a I subsequently bought a Viper Pro. They all throw very well if you can get used to holding the narrow handle. Like the center-balanced McEvoy models, the Vipers have a small turning radius and seem to move very quickly to the target. Because of the way they are weighted and their narrowness, they are difficult to see in flight. Perhaps they are not a good show knife from the viewpoint of an audience, but all in all, I can certainly recommend a Viper knife if you can afford it. Check out Harald's home page for more of his custom work.

Mike Butler makes these knives, sold through the Flying Cloud Trading Co. They are composed of T1 armor plate steel! They are thick (1/4 inch) and heavy; excellent throwers. I own one of the 13 inch models, and two of the smallest at about 9 inches, but am told the 10.5 inch are among the best throwers on the market. Though too short for AKTA competitions, they would be fine for the IKTA. These knives excede the 1oz/inch weight ratio recommended by H. McEvoy, and as a result throw very well even in their short length versions - demonstrating once again Harald Moeller's contention that weight is more important than length in a good thrower. The steel is interesting in that its hardness seems to be just about right for throwing knives without any special treatment. They are immune from breaking or bending. They have thick leather slab handles mounted with big rivets that take quite a beating and don't loosen up. At $35 retail for the largest version (less for the smaller ones) they are among the best priced high-quality throwers on the market! I highly recommend them. In a recent letter, Mike told me he was able to get the price almost $10 below even this point, so I would certainly email Mike and check out these knives.

Iron Wolf Fyne Blades C. Steve Story is a knife maker from Florida who makes a small spike from 1/4 inch key stock. His spike is elegant, forged, with a triangular blade section, and a handle made by twisting the back half of the steel stock first 180 degrees in one direction, and then an inch back, 180 degrees in the opposit direction. These twists alternate 4 times to make the handle which is roughly 50% of the knife.

The spike is nice, but in my opinion, way too thin and light for a good thrower. About 9 inches long, it weighs only 4 ounces or so. Still, it does 1/2 turns very well. I've asked Steve to make me one of these spikes from 1/2 inch stock. If he does, I'll let you know what that is like as well. Cost for the existing model, $25, $20 if you buy 3 or more.

D. F. "Doc" Gundersen of L&H Knife Company
Doc sent me a set of his knives back in early November, 1997. One of the first thing one notices is how well matched the set is. Indeed, Doc cuts each set of three knives at the same time to insure that each set is perfectly matched. The next thing one notices is how out of balance they seem for a throwing knife. Their handles are covered with steel slabs making them very handle heavy. This gives them an unusual characteristic.

Doc's throwers are very abstract. They don't look exactly like knives, but rather like specialized instruments. Like most of the other high quality throwers reviewed on this page, they are edgeless, but taper to a very fine point that gives them fantastic penetration. At the same time, the stock is thick enough, 3/16", that they will not bend or break. Alas I do not have a picture available to put up on the WEB, but they can be seen in the November 1997 issue of Blade Magazine if any of you happen to have it.

As you might expect, such a handle heavy knife is primarily a "blade thrower". Doc's knives are heavy enough over all (9.1 oz.) for their length (10.5 inches) to be thrown successfully from the handle as well. They make a very fast turn from the handle in about 10 feet, where most of my knives in this size range turn at about 11 feet or a little more. Yet it is the blade throw at which they really shine. Because the knife is so handle heavy, it is possible to choke way up on the blade, almost touching the handle and still make a stable throw. The result is a perfect half turn in about 12 feet with an ordinary McEvoy style grip. This is a nice, easy, natural which almost never misses. When I want to show someone a nice easy 12 foot toss, I use these particular knives which look pretty good in flight as well.

I have also taken to using this knife exclusively in the closest thing I have to a "trick throw". In this case I hold the blade in a more natural grip nearer the tip. I step forward with my RIGHT foot, while my throwing arm (also the right) comes up over my left shoulder and then down across my chest. This has been a very impressive throw which alas works well only for 1/2 turn, and best with smaller knives. My TFT handles it well at about 10', but Doc's knives do it at about 11.5', and again I can make it work out to 12' by choking half way up the blade! A more conventional (straight ahead) right-arm right-foot throw also works very well with these knives.

I think Doc's knives well illustrate the principle that proper weight over all is as, if not more, important than perfect, or near perfect center balance, but being out of balance does make these knives somewhat specialized. I have found it very hard to accomplish a stable two turns for example which should take place at about 18 feet, and a one and one half turn throw would theoretically occur at about 30 feet, a long throw, and I have been unsuccessful with it. Alas, the knives, as well as they do a 12 foot throw, are too small to be allowed in knife throwing contests sponsored by the AKTA, and are too abstract in appearance to be used at national black powder events. They would, however, be legal under IKTA rules. I'm encouraging Doc to try his hand at a 12" version that would make the AKTA cut. I would be very interested in how they would perform at that contest where the 12 foot throw counts for almost everything.

Otherwise, if you are into the abstract look, and want something unusual that is going to be an interesting conversation piece as well as a darned good, if specialized, thrower, give these knives a try. At $125/set of three, they are priced reasonably as compared to other throwers of similar quality. Experimenting is good, and these knives are one of the better experiments I've seen. The picture at left shows all three of Doc's throwing knife styles. Clicking on it will take you to his throwing knife page.

click here for ordering information, a link to Doc's home page, as well as some more technical information about the knife.

Throwing Hawks from Beaver Bill Forging Works in Ohio. Bill Keeler has designed and made some of the nicest throwing hawks I've seen. I got a chance to try them out in Redding CA, at the first West Coast Hurlathon in mid May, 1998. They were unusually light (the heads were made from 1/8" steel, hand forged), and threw very well. They are also fairly inexpensive at $35 each, so I bought a set of three, and have not been disappointed. The handles are long, over 18 inches of a blond hard wood (Hickory?), making the hawks beautifully balanced. Bill makes these hawks in 3 different weights, 1/8", 3/16", and 1/4". I got to try one of the medium weight ones as well, but I really like the lighter ones. Definately at deal, I hightly recommend them!

Newt Livesay
Newt sent me a set of his throwing knives. They are 14.25" long, 2" wide in their blade portion, and made from 3/32" stock near as I can tell. Their design is simple, balance is nearly centered, and they throw well from handle or blade. They penetrate well, and do not do much target damage (gouging out divits) when they miss, but this may be due in part to their weight. Their price is among the lowest of the customs reviewd here at $50 for a set of 3, or $20 each (and this for a 14" knife!). My only complaint is that they are a little too light coming in at something around .75oz/inch. Newt has promissed to make me a set from thicker stock, and I will comment on these when I receive them.

I did purchase a couple of Newt's neck knives just to have a look. Newt's "basic and less expensive" philosophy is applied nowhere so well as in his collection of neck knives. I have seen some very nice, and very elegant, neck knives selling in the $200+ range. Newt's are not so pretty, but at $20- $30, were highly functional in well made kydex sheaths. I was very pleased to see such functional knives at this price, and the smallest of them all, his SOP at $20 makes an excellent small throwing knife. It has just enough weight for its 5.75" size to work. Though I note that it is too brittle to survive extended throwing practice, it may be inexpensive enough to afford a few broken knives in the process of learning to throw it effectively. While the SOP is not heavy enough to be anything more than a distraction as a thrown weapon, sometimes a distraction is just what is called for!

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This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details