The Best Wood For Axe Throwing Target & Why

If you plan an axe target build, one of the first things you need to know is the best wood choice to construct the axe throwing boards.

The various woods have different characteristics which affect the board’s performance and lifespan.

Therefore, it is essential to choose wisely, as the wrong choice of wood might spoil the entire purpose of the target.

What Is the Best Wood for Axe Throwing Target

When looking for a suitable wood type for building an axe throwing target, you want to start with softwoods. These are easy to hit, an axe will stick easily, and forgiving of bad throws.

The two main softwoods that are very popular for building axe throwing targets are poplar and Cottonwood. Both are excellent choices and have the same advantages as above; however, each has disadvantages.


Cottonwood is a well-known wood that comes from a Cottonwood tree. The tree can grow up to 100 feet tall with a diameter of around 6 feet at its base. This type of tree grows well throughout much of North America, so poplar is easy to find locally.

The trees grow quickly, and the wood is readily available. This makes it a great choice when looking for an excellent wood for an axe throwing target.


  • Very lightweight and easy to work with.
  • Very long-lasting.
  • It does not easily split or crack from abuse.


  • It can be a bit moist and mold over time unless you buy wood that is treated to prevent mold. However, if you store it properly, you can reduce the risk of mold growth.


Poplar wood is another type of tree that grows throughout North America. It grows in shorter lengths than Cottonwood, typically growing about 80 feet tall with a diameter of about 3 feet at its base.

This makes poplar easier to transport, especially to remote locations where it may not be easily accessible to cut it down yourself. It is widely available at most lumber yards.

They are also self-healing from axe strikes, so you should be able to get a lot of use out of your target before you have to replace it. Actually, I’ve heard of tests done where it was found that softwood targets lasted 3 times longer than other woods like SPF and, in some cases, even up to 7 times longer.

Pros (the same as Cottonwood) :

  • Very lightweight and easy to work with.
  • Very long-lasting.
  • It does not easily split or crack from abuse.


  • Poplar tends to rot a bit faster than Cottonwood if not stored properly.
  • It can also develop mold if not stored properly.

Some Other Good Choices

For me, Cottonwood and poplar are the best options, but other softwoods get an honorable mention from me and are decent choices too. These include:

  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Willow
  • Cedar
  • Palm

Types Of Wood To Stay Away From

You will not want to use certain types of wood for your axe throwing target. These woods will not hold up to an axe throw and can actually be very dangerous to use.


SPF was one of the most popular, easy to find, and accessible wood types for axe boards and targets. Recently though, with supply chain issues due to the things happening in our world these days, it has been harder to come by and more expensive.


  • It does not mold.


  • It cracks or splits easily. One throw can sometimes crack the entire board.
  • Hard knots. Sometimes the knots in the wood can be as hard as steel. If you hit one just the right (or wrong) way, it could cause the axe to not stick or sometimes even bounce back.
  • It used to be reasonably cheap but fairly expensive right now in 2022.

Other Hardwoods To Stay Away From

For the same reasons as SPF, there are other woods that you will want to avoid:

  • Maple.
  • Oak.

What About Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood is not a bad option, especially if you plan to build an outdoor target. It is more expensive than untreated wood and is not as easy to find as other types of lumber, but it is a good choice outdoors and will last a long time if properly maintained.

Getting More Out Of Your Target Wood

An advantage of the softwoods I mentioned above is that they don’t split from the impact of an axe thrown at them. What’s cool about this is that when a target board is chewed up from a lot of axe-throwing practice, it can quickly flip over to show the other side without buying a new one. Essentially getting you double the use out of each board.

Why Does Wood Type Matter?

Wood type matters when building an axe throwing target because the type of wood you use will affect how the axe sticks to the board and how the board holds its shape after an impact is made on it.

Different woods will each have different strengths and weaknesses depending on what you are trying to accomplish with your board. For instance, if you have used a board made of soft pine and you notice that it is still a little weak even after a lot of practice, you may want to try a board made of Cottonwood instead and see if that makes a difference for you.


Out of all the wood types, I would recommend Cottonwood or poplar as the two top choices. If you cannot find those, go with spruce or pine but be prepared to pay a bit more for them during this time in 2022.

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