Dart enthusiasts will tell you that the make of the dartboard is crucial — and they’re probably right in saying so.
See, the better you know all the game’s components and what they are made out of, the more you can truly appreciate the game. Not to mention, it gives you a better idea of how you can take care of your dartboard too.
That said, if you’re looking to invest in a good dartboard to spark a bit of friendly competition among your friends and family through a game of darts, then you’ve come to the right place.
The history of darts, including dartboards, has gone through multiple changes since the game’s introduction. What used to be a game of throwing sharp objects into tree slabs has now evolved into circular boards that can be either made of sisal fibers, cork paper, or plain wood boards.
Today, I’ll walk you through a brief history of the game, the materials used to make for different types of boards, and how they are made.
A Brief History of Dartboards
These days, most quality dartboards are made of sisal fibers, but they weren’t always this durable nor polished. In fact, much has changed throughout the history of dart games.
Dartboards, in particular, have gone through a series of evolutions in terms of make and their care.
To better understand the degree of these documented changes, let’s travel back to its early days in France, where the game was said to have originated.
At the inception of the game’s design, players simply used a piece of wood of about 7-9″ in diameter. They used irregular concentric markings to determine the sections and the center bullseye. This was how they decided the accuracy of throws and the subsequent scoring.
In short, it was crude and rudimentary. However, the mechanics and scoring conventions were pretty much set in place even in these early days.
Eventually, it made its way to the UK during the Great War. English pubs would often host funfairs where the public would take bets against each other as to who can drive darts straight to the bullseye.
At this time, crude and rudimentary slabs of wood eventually gave way to the more polished elm dartboard. These new types of dartboards were cleaned and soaked carefully every night to close the holes that have been punctured through them from the previous games.
Elm dartboards were certainly a step up from the previous type of dartboard, but they were too time-consuming to care for.
Still, even as people began looking for other dartboard variations, this material has paved the way for the next varieties in the history of dartboards.
Since these early variations, dart game enthusiasts have continued experimenting with new dartboard materials to find the best possible one. While this is an ever-ongoing effort, we certainly have come a long way since the game’s creation in France.
Materials Used in Dartboards
Dartboards can be built out of various woods, with the first ones made using trunks and cylindrical planks.
While these may have served their purpose well enough, people have continued to look for other alternatives throughout the history of the game.
And so, these days, when choosing dartboards, players and enthusiasts are presented with a plethora of options to go with. Here are the top 5 most popular dartboard materials that are being manufactured as of today:
1. Sisal Fibers
Sisal fibers, also known as the agave sisalana plant, are a rigid substance that resembles hems. They are quite the popular option as they can hold the darts in place. This excellent grip on darts is largely owed to the coarse texture of the material.
Sisal fibers are highly sought after for various reasons: for their versatility, excellent availability, and low cost.
Because of their durability and versatility, sisal fibers are a widely popular material for making not just dartboards but ropes, papers, and linen.
They’re also quite flexible, so no holes show up after the dart is removed. Because of this, a dartboard made from this particular material tends to have a longer lifespan than most options.
Sisal is also a widely grown crop worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of tons harvested each year, lowering overall costs.
Sisal fibers are without a doubt the most outstanding alternative for making “bristle” dartboards (mistakenly a.k.a. horsehair dartboards), as evidenced by the fact that the highest quality boards used in the sport’s upper echelons are all manufactured with sisal fibers.
The creation of sisal boards was born out of the necessity to find alternatives to wooden boards that were too demanding to care for. We have the UK firm Nodor to thank for this leap in dartboard evolution.
How exactly are sisal boards made?
First, the sisal strands are braided into long bundles and then shaped into tubes to produce the actual board.
These tubes are then sliced into thin wafers, flattened into the circular shape we’re familiar with, and attached to a backboard. The sisal board will next need to be sanded down to remove the coarse texture of the fibers.
2. Wooden Board
Just as some games have purists, so do the game of darts. In particular, this translates best to their dartboard material preference. See, as tedious as wooden boards may be in their maintenance, there are still some players who prefer this type of material.
With just a few modern tweaks to its design, modern dartboards are still a lot like the early elm dartboards. They are just as tough, but also just as difficult to keep in good working order because they need to be moisturized regularly.
However, if you can stretch your patience enough to commit to its daily maintenance, wooden boards can last you up to a few decades.
Those looking for a more affordable option are likely to reach for cork dartboards. They’re lightweight and cheaper, sure. However, the downside to this type of material is that they tend to wear out quickly, rendering them unsuitable for heavy use.
Most professional players tend to avoid this type of material. Nonetheless, if you just want to play a friendly game or two during family game nights, for example, a cork dartboard will do just fine.
They are mostly used as practice dartboards and since they require little to no care, these can be a great introduction to those who are just discovering the joys of playing darts.
Another material utilized in the production of dartboards across the world is wound paper. These are made by coiling paper sheets together to produce the striking surface of the board.
Wound paper dartboards are also reasonably priced and, in principle, long-lasting. The theory is that the thrown dart would embed itself between layers of paper upon impact.
Still, the reality is that even a minor burr on the dart’s point can grab and shred the paper material, causing irreversible damage. As with cork dartboards, wound paper dartboards do not last long and aren’t recommended for serious, competitive play.
Technology has revolutionized multiple industries, and sports is no exception. These days, you can find electronic dartboards in stores, either online or brick and mortar.
These electronic dartboards are composed of plastic and have several benefits over traditional bristles fiber dartboards regarding the quality and projected length of life. The different score variants of the various dart games are pre-programmed onto the electronic boards.
Perhaps the deal breaker to plastic electronics boards is that they require more initial investment despite only offering soft-tipped darts. Still, they can be pretty valuable in certain situations.
The striking surface is constructed up of hundreds of tiny holes that catch the darts, increasing the chance of a bounce out.
How Dartboards Are Made
Want to know what goes on in the process of making dartboards? Let me walk you through the usual order of its creation in this chapter.
First, the primary material is bundled or braided to ensure its integrity and quality. They are then lined and cut into tubes to make biscuits.
Once a few of these have been formed, they will then be bound together with the use of a thin sheet of steel. Of course, said steel needs to be covered to keep it from being reflective.
All of these are then glued into place on a backboard that is often made out of wood. The final shaping, sanding, and cleaning of loose fibers are then done. By this time, you should have a well-compressed and perfectly rounded board.
The next part of the process is adding the finishing touches to your board.
This involves screen printing the different sections of your dartboard. And then, as a final touch, number rings are then added for easier scoring of the game.
Ultimately, the material you use should be determined by your playing style and your purpose for playing.
If you’re playing for fun and simply fire up a bit of friendly competition, the good news is that there are a lot of decent dartboards that are not prohibitively expensive.
The make of your dartboard of choice may also be determined by the type of dart that you want to use. If you wish to play with steel tip darts, a sisal board is probably the best way to go. Steel tip dartboards range in price from $15 at the low end to $100 at the high end.
On the other hand, if you would rather use soft tip darts, a plastic board may be the best option for you. Soft tip darts are used in electronic dartboards and may cost anywhere from $800 to several thousand dollars for the free-standing ones.