Choosing a Dart Board

dartboard closeupDarts is a fantastically social game and what better way to enjoy a game of darts than with a few close friends over a couple of cold beers? Sooner or later, you’ll become hooked and you will be wanting your own dart board.

There may be many reasons why you want to get your own dart board. You may find you’re spending too much money going to bars to play, or you might want to have a dart board to liven up your own parties at home. Ultimately, your underlying goal will probably be to improve your dart skills and earn bragging rights amongst your peers.

No matter what your intentions are, knowing how dart boards are made and what they offer will help you make an informed choice and give hours of pleasure. So let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of dart boards and see what they offer:

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Bristle Dartboards

Without a doubt, the bristle dartboard is the most common dartboard you’re likely to encounter. The bristle dartboard was invented by Nodor in the 1930s. But the new bristle Nodor dartboards did not become popular until the 1970s, when they were adopted as standard tournament boards due to Dutch elm disease decimating Britain’s supply of wood for traditional elm dartboards.

These dartboards are made up of compressed sisal fibers glued to a backing board, with the edges held by metal banding. The main advantage of this type of construction is, when you remove a dart from the board, the hole will close behind it. This means bristle dart boards tend to last a lot longer than any other type of dartboard.

To ensure long life, look for a dart board that meet competition standards. Cheaper dart boards tend not to pack the bristles as tightly as quality boards and will wear a lot more quickly. Also, sisal is widely regarded as the best fiber for bristle dartboards, so avoid any made of other materials. Damage will eventually occur to your bristle dartboard, so look for a removable number ring that will allow you to rotate the most popular areas so you get even wear on the board.

If you look at manufacturers such as Winmau or Unicorn, you will notice their boards are pretty much built to the same standards, but there is a substantial difference in price from the low end to the high end models. Generally, what you are paying extra for is for the construction of the wiring system, also know as The Spider.

The wiring is what separates the scoring sections of the board. The lower end bristle dartboards tend to have round wires and staples to hold the wiring in place. These are fine, but hitting the wire is more likely to result in a bounce-out. As you go up in price, look for a staple-free bullseye, staple-free wiring systems, and features like super-thin wires with triangular edges that will guide the dart into the scoring bed.

Electronic Dart Boards

One form of darts that’s growing in popularity is electronic darts. Electronic dart boards are popping up in more and more bars, and many of these arcade dartboards can be set up for league play against other members on a network. Electronic darts is also known as soft-tip darts after the type of darts used in this game. The electronic dartboard and soft-tip darts were invented by Arachnid the company at the forefront of the popularity of electronic darts.

The electronic dart board consists of a playing surface covered in thousands of tiny holes. When the dart enters one of these holes, the score is automatically recorded. Due to design limitations, the targets on the board are generally enlarged and this is thought to have helped the popularity of the game by making it less frustrating to the novice.

There are currently many models of electronic dart boards available for home use today. If you play in a league, or maybe are interested in joining one in the future, look for a regulation sized 15.5” electronic dart board. Also look for extra thin segment dividers as these allow for more holes in the target areas. If you are serious about improving your scores, look for a board with a dart averaging feature that will keep track of your performance. Also look for handicapping options that can level the playing field when you have trouble trying to convince your friends to play against you.

The biggest difference in pricing for electronic dart boards comes from the number of options they offer, and the types of displays they have. All electronic dart boards offer multiple games, and variations of the games, so make sure the game you want to play is included. If you like to play a lot of cricket, many boards feature dedicated cricket scoring displays, but not all boards have the X/O style scoring you’d be used to chalking up on a regular board, so this is a great feature to keep an eye out for. Many electronic dart boards offer scoring for multiple players, generally up to 8 or 16, but will only display two scores at a time. If you regularly play in large groups, look for a board that can display at least four separate scores at any given time.

Electronic dart boards are no longer strictly the domain of soft-tip darts. There are now quite a few models that will also accept the use of steel-tip darts. These are very similar to bristle boards, but with the added bonus of automatic scoring. Although the technology is constantly improving on these boards, they do have a tendency to wear out more quickly than the soft-tip versions due to the constant abuse from heavier steel-tip darts.

Coiled Paper Dart Boards

If you fancy trying out darts and want something recreational, or something for the kids to play on, you might want to consider a coiled paper dart board. These boards tend to be a lot cheaper than bristle dart boards, and are prone to damage more quickly.

The idea behind a coiled paper board is that when a dart enters the board, it will go between the layers of paper. When the dart is removed, the paper should heal and you won’t see and holes. However, this is rarely the case, and even the slightest burr on your dart point can easily damage the surface. In addition to keeping your darts sharp, you also must make sure to twist the darts as you remove them to minimize damage.

If you want a longer life and higher quality paper dart board, consider trying out American Darts. The Widdy Company makes a fine American style dart board. The coiled paper Widdy dart boards ensure long life thanks to Widdy’s patented manufacturing process. Also, the board can be rotated in its frame to move the highly played areas of the board around.

Wooden Dartboards

Traditionally, dart boards used to be made of wood like elm or poplar. The main problem with these solid wood dart boards was that they tended to dry out and crack so they had to be soaked overnight to keep them in top condition. It is thought that the modern “clock” layout of dart boards is derived from the natural growth rings and the radial cracks that would have appeared on the old wooden dartboards. Wooden dart boards were in use in England up to the 1970s when Dutch elm disease wiped out most of the elm supply. Since this time, bristle dartboards have become the dart boards of choice.

Today, wooden dart boards are not that common, although they have prevailed in the American style darts game. These boards are made by companies such as Widdy and Darto, and rather than a solid piece of wood, they are handmade from pieces of end grain basswood. American style dartboards are unique in that they feature a round scoring area that you can rotate in a square frame. As generally the same numbers on a board are hit over and over this allows for badly worn areas to be moved to less popular areas. These dartboards are usually printed on both sides so they can be flipped over when damage becomes too great.

Cork Dart Boards

Although not as prevalent as they used to be, you can still find cork dart boards. These tend to be cheap dartboards as cork wears out quite easily. Not recommended for heavy play.

The term cork dart board can often be misleading as people often mistakenly refer to bristle dart boards as cork dart boards. Also, the bullseye on an American style dart board is called the cork, and some will refer to them as cork dart boards although they are made of wood.

Magnetic Dartboards

Magnetic dart boards use darts that have flat magnetic tips on them. The darts will stick to the ferrous surface of the board. Well, that’s the theory!

Magnetic dartboards are not for anyone serious about playing darts; they are strictly toys.

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