by Laurie Byrne
Deadeye Darts
February 22, 2009

It’s difficult to find out which is the correct spelling let alone their history. One thing is for sure bristle dartboards were never made from pig or boars skin. Never quite sure where this originated from, but I remember as a small child back in the 1950’s my father soaking a dartboard overnight to return it to its original state. Next morning the board was removed from the water and put out to dry, as the board dried it virtually fell to pieces, ruined. He was sure that his father or someone had told him that was what you did to restore your dartboard. So on the next Saturday he was up at the local sports store where he originally purchased the board looking for, I think, a refund.

It was explained to him that the bristles on the dartboard were actually sisal and it was not to be placed in water under any circumstances. To this day I’m not sure if my father believed the shop assistant but we left with a new board which he had to pay for.

I don’t think anyone really knows where the dartboard or darts for that matter originated from. I’ve read that the boards were made from the bottoms of wind cases to log ends of the elm tree. The log end of a tree sounds the most logical source for the earlier dartboard and it would made sense that you would need to soak it to stop it from drying out, cracking and becoming too hard.

From what I can ascertain the dart board as we know it was made of plasticine which needed to be smoothed with a hot iron after each leg. Apparently this procedure gave off a rather unpleasant odour. In 1932 an English company Nodor – from No ODouR patented the first sisal dartboard as we know it. Nodor still holds the patent and manufactures in my opinion the best dart boards in the world.

Sisal is actually come from a cactus of the Sisalana family. The highest quality sisal is grown in Africa but is also grown commercially in South Africa, India and China. Sisal’s main use apart from dartboards is rope and carpet making.
The leaves of the plant are harvested and stripped of their exterior skin. The leaves are then bleached and combed. Sorters then feed a machine which pulls the sisal into a bundle 15cm in diameter. The bundle is then tightly bound with paper and cut into biscuits. The biscuits are placed within a frame and compressed into one tight circle. Warm glue is then spooned from a heated tub and spread evenly over the compressed sisal ready for the backboard placement. The wooden backboard is then slid into position and pressed onto the surface. The outer steel band is joined, and the dartboards are stacked to allow the glue to dry.

Screen printing then adds the colours to the face of the dart board, green, red and black are added in three separate processes. The black printing reveals a reconisable dart board ready for the hardware fitting. The inner and outer are punched into place first, then the wire spider is placed face down ready for the board to be pressed on. A special assembly holds both in alignment during this operation. A final press from the front ensures the wire is flat and secure.

All that remains now is to add the adjustable number ring. Protective gloves are used whilst fixing the number ring into place. The entire dart board manufacturing process is now complete.