If you are going to play darts, it is also recommended to understand how your dartboard has been manufactured. By knowing the materials, your dartboard is made from and how everything has been set up will give you a deeper understanding of how your dartboard really works.
You will know what to look for when buying a new dartboard and how to look after your dartboard. You will better understand where you should put your dartboard and why things like not rotating your dartboard or leaving your darts in the dartboard can damage some boards.
Let’s look at how dartboards are made and what materials are used while also covering some interesting trivia about the dartboard manufacturing processes and dartboard history.
How is a dartboard made?
Dartboards are made by gluing sisal fibers on a wooden particle board. The sisal fibers are sanded, painted, and the wiring system is installed on the dartboard. Dartboards undergo quality checks, which makes sure each dartboard is made according to specifications.
The sisal fiber is prepared for the dartboard
Sisal fibers are made from a plant, and one of the most widely used types of sisal is the African sisal, known for its durability, resilience, and visibility.
The sisal fibers are then collected, cleaned, and weaved into long skeins. They are wrapped tightly by tape and cut into small buns. (This tape is the reason why some dartboards do have cracks, which is entirely normal.)
The sisal fiber is packed onto the dartboard
Once the sisal fibers have been tightly packed and cut into small buns, these are assembled together. They are squeezed and compressed together into the base of the dartboard.
The dartboard base is usually made from wooden particle wood, which has the outer ring—or composite edging—already attached to it. A layer of glue is applied before pressing the sisal fiber buns into it.
Usually, the sisal buns are fairly small—being about 3 inches in diameter on average—which means that on average, about 36 different sisal buns are needed to make a standard 18-inch dartboard.
The sisal fibers used are calculated to provide optimal levels of density. The level of density will determine how the dartboard plays, the level of penetration of the darts, and the odds of producing bounce outs.
The dartboard is sanded
After the sisal fibers have been glued on the backboard, you have a rough-looking surface. To fix that, each dartboard goes through a sanding machine, which smooths out the surface of each board.
This removes any rough edges and creates the even surface that you see on the finished dartboard.
The dartboard is painted
After the dartboard has been sanded and the surface is even, it is time to print the dartboard pattern. Some dartboards are often screen printed.
The quality of the paint is important as it affects the longevity and vividness of the colors.
Usually, food-grade eco inks are used as they provide the best results.
This type of ink penetrates deep into the individual fibers offering better visibility, richer colors, lower glare, and adding more strength to the dartboard. It is also eco-friendly and does not pose any harm when touched.
The wiring is attached to the dartboard
After the printing process is finished and the paint has thoroughly dried up, the wiring system is embedded into the sisal fibers. This is done by a press that will embed—or simply push—the wiring system deeply into the dartboard.
There are different wiring systems that you may find. Their quality and effect on gameplay will vary, too.
The standard round wires that were used on dartboards manufactured before usually take more space and are also held by small round wire staples. This results in a higher number of bounce-outs and can not only make the game of darts less enjoyable, but you can also damage your darts in the process.
Overall, round wires are not the best possible choice and are normally found on cheaper dartboards.
However, not all dartboards have staples. Today the vast majority of dartboards come with razor-thin, blade-shaped wires, which are designed to take as little space as possible. This lowers the number of bounce outs.
One of the problems with these wires is that they may be prone to bending, which is one of the areas where dartboard manufacturers have been working on improving. Winmau and one180 are good examples of dartboard manufacturers that have been working on improving the wiring they use on their dartboards, making them more and more durable.
See article: Winmau Blade 5 vs one80 Gladiator 3
The dartboard undergoes quality checks
Although much of the manufacturing process has been streamlined and automated, due to the nature of the sisal fibers, dartboards should go through a quality check.
This ensures everything is looking good, and the condition of the dartboard is assessed.
In this step, people look for misaligned scoring sections and wiring, uncolored parts of the sisal, or loose wiring. This is often one of the steps that separate the good from the best dartboards.
The dartboard is fully assembled and packed
Now that the dartboard is nearly ready, there are just a few final touches that need to be done.
The composite edging of the dartboard and the number ring are attached to the dartboard.
After the dartboard is fully assembled, it is packed. The owner’s manual and any other extras that may be included, like the mounting hardware and extra darts, are also included in the packaging.
This short video follows the process of making a Bandit dartboard.
What materials are dartboards made of?
The first dartboards were made from planks of wood or a section of a tree trunk. Usually, dartboards were made from elmwood, but other types of wood may also have been used.
However, wood is harder, tends to wear out with time, and needs to be periodically soaked in order to stay soft.
Around the 1930s, the first dartboards using century plant sisals (a type of agave plant) were manufactured. These dartboards were a huge success and resembled the dartboards we have today. They required less maintenance and were more durable.
Today dartboards are made of:
- Wooden particle board.
- Sisal fibers.
- Metal or Plastic composite edge sides.
- Metal wiring
Of course, there are different types of dartboards like electronic, soft tip dartboards, coiled paper dartboards, cork dartboards, magnetic dartboards, and velcro dartboards.
- Soft tip dartboards are usually made from various types of plastic and rubber, and electrical components. These dartboards are also used with soft-tip darts and can easily be recognized by the perforated face of the dartboard.
- Cork dartboards are made of a thick layer of cork. These are cheap dartboards that do not have good longevity.
- Coiled paper dartboards are made from tightly bound paper. They are very cheap and are a good option for kids that want to have some fun. However, they do not self-heal, and each dart will leave a hole in the dartboard. They do not have good longevity.
- Magnetic dartboards are good casual dartboards. They are made from a layer of metal to which the magnetic darts can attach. They are cheap and will last a long time.
- Velcro dartboards are usually considered dartboards for kids as they are usually used with small velcro balls or darts that are kid-friendly. They are made from cloth that the velcro balls or darts will stick to. They are cheap and long-lasting.
Are quality dartboards made differently?
A lot of people may wonder if investing in a high-quality—read more expensive—dartboard is worth it. The saying “You get what you pay for” is applicable here as well.
More expensive dartboards will often have thinner and denser sisal fibers, while cheaper dartboards can have more sisal fibers that feel rough and raw.
Undeniably there is a big difference between the low-quality and high-quality dartboards. This difference, naturally, is a direct result of the materials used and build quality.
There are a few things that you can expect to see in a higher-quality dartboard like:
- Staple-free wiring.
- Fewer bounce-outs.
- No visible cracks on the surface of the dartboard.
- Better mounting hardware systems.
- Higher quality sisal, wiring, colors, and better self-healing capabilities.
- Removable numbers ring.
- A better sounding and looking dartboard.
The good news is that high-quality dartboards do not cost a lot. Steel tip dartboards cost between $15 on the lower, entry-level, end and up to $100 on the higher end, while soft tip, electronic, dartboards can cost up to and in excess of $800 with some of the free-standing dartboards reaching several thousand dollars.
You can find more information in my detailed guide on how much do dartboards cost, where I go in full detail explaining the subtle differences and giving plenty of examples of what you can expect to see in terms of prices.