Shiny Happy Darts – A Guide to Dart Maintenance

toolsThe very heart and soul of your game is your darts. They are not only a mechanical extension of yourself, but represent the spirit of your unique darting expression. Just like Odin’s spear, Gungnir, your aim is true and your darts always hit their mark. At least, that’s how I feel when I’m playing well, and I’ve imbibed a few draughts of quality ale.

If I can just take my head out of the clouds for a second, let me explain one of the most overlooked keys to consistently throwing magic arrows. Second only practice, practice, and more practice is the maintenance of your darts. These are the tools of your trade, and as such, need to be treated with the utmost respect.

Finding the perfect set of darts for you is not an easy task. It could take many years to find the perfect set that you can’t live without. Perhaps you are one of those people with more money than sense who buys the latest and greatest innovation in darts every time your game goes off. Maybe you’re a bit more frugal, and like to try out other people’s darts now and again to get a feel for them before you make a switch. As your dart playing progresses, there may come a day when you find a set that’s just right, and you will never want to switch. I call those your weapons of mass dart-struction, and with proper love and care, they will last you a lifetime.

Of course, you don’t have to have the killer set of darts to run regular maintenance on them. You should always keep whatever darts you own in tip-top condition because if they are not flying at optimal performance, they will seriously affect your game. So let’s work our way from front to back, and go over what you can do to keep your darts happy and healthy.

Points and Tips

steel dart pointThis is the scary business end that sticks in the board and, to the delight of children, a lot of other things.

If you play with soft tip darts, you should always have a bag of replacement tips. Plastic on these tips is prone to wear or even snapping, and if your tip is too short, you will have trouble making it to the board. This is one of the main drawbacks of soft tips, but luckily, replacement tips are fairly inexpensive and come in bulk bags.

While steel tip players may think that replacing all those soft tips is annoying, few of them actually take care of their own points. Over time, points do get dulled, and burrs form on the surface. Not only will this will produce more bounce outs as the dart doesn’t enter the board easily, it also causes damage to the dartboard when you remove a dart. Use a sharpening stone or paper to smooth the point of your dart. You are looking to maintain a rounded point to the dart, which makes it more resilient to damage than a sharp needle point. When not in use, store your darts in a point protector to prevent them from blunting.

Although it’s unlikely you will ever bend your points out of shape, eventually they will be victims of wear and tear, and need to replaced. Your points should stick out about one inch from the barrel, any less and you shold consider replacing them. I’ve seen guys play with darts where the front of the barrel is slamming into the board. This not only leads to more bounce outs, it also damages the dartboard. The dart points need to be pulled out with a special re-pointing tool, and it is cheaper to get your local dart store to do it for you. Alternately, you could try doing it at home, but it’s not that easy to get them out. You’ll probably need a bench vise, vise grips, and brute force. Putting in new points is fairly simple. Simply place the new point into the barrel, and then press into a piece of wood. Then, with a single blow, strike the top of the barrel with a mallet to set the point into the barrel.

Barrels

Selection of different dart barrelsBarrels come in the bewildering array of shapes, materials, and weights, and once you have found the perfect dart for you, this is the part you should never have to replace. It is also the most neglected part of the dart when it comes to maintenance. Your darts will get dirty no matter what. It could be the natural grease from your skin, the salt and grease from bar snacks, you could have been picking your nose while waiting your turn, or you foolishly set them down on a beer-soaked bar table. When we talk about a difference of as little as one gram in dart weights, your own fetid filth can easily add unnecessary weight to your dart. Wash your dart barrels in a mild soapy water to keep them fresh as a daisy, and shiny as a new penny.

Shafts

Assortment of dart shaftsShaft maintenance is fairly easy—for the most part, they break you replace them. Well at least that’s the case with most plastic flights. Even if just a little piece of the flight holder breaks and your dart still works, you should still replace them. To get the most out of plastic flights, make sure they are screwed in tight. For extra protection, you could use a flight protector to help deflect following darts from hitting the shaft. Occasionally, the plastic stem will snap off right above the thread leaving you nothing to get a purchase on to unscrew it. In these cases, it is worth investing in a simple shaft extractor tool to make removing them a breeze.

Aluminum shafts are a very popular choice as they are lightweight and can handle a lot more abuse than a plastic shaft. The main problem with aluminum shafts is that they come loose very easily. This can be solved by using rubber O-rings. If you don’t use O-rings, you have to check that the shafts are tight after every throw. If they’re loose, simply insert the point of another dart into the shafts to tighten them. The flight holders on aluminum shafts take the most abuse. With a multi-purpose dart tool, you can easily move a bent section back into place, and get extra use out of them. After a lot of abuse, though, it’s hard to get them back to their original shape, and they should be replaced.

Dart shafts are available in a gazillion styles, and they are a cheap replaceable part. Always keep a couple of spare sets as they like to break at the most inconvenient times.

Flights

flightsFlight are cheap, and they get damaged very easily, so replace them often. To extend the life of your flights, invest in a case for your darts that lets you store your darts with the flights still in the shafts. The constant removing, folding, and re-fitting of flights shortens their life just as quickly as the abuse they suffer from knocking into other darts on the board. If the flights pop out of your stems a bit too easily, you can also use springs that slip over your stem and tighten the grip on the flight. To further improve the life of your flights, you can also use flight protectors. These are small bits of metal or plastic that sit on the back of the flight to help protect the seams. As they deflect points away from the flights, they also help protect the stem from damage.

Keep your flights properly fanned out. Each wing should be at a 90º angle to the next. Inspect your flights regularly for any signs of damage or separation of the plastic.

Those are my tips for keeping your darts in top condition. Keeping your darts well maintained will help keep your throwing consistent, and may even give you an edge over a lazy opponent. If you have any tricks or obsessive compulsions you employ to keep your darts happy, please share them with us.

Comments

  1. Ralph Jackson says:

    What, if anything can be used to keep a dartboard (soft) as ours seems very hard and the darts have to be thrown with more speed to enable them to stay in.

    Thanks in advance
    JRJ

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