Patrick Chaplin: Darts in Education

Darts in Education

NUMERACY (AND GCSE ENGINEERING)

With darts playing an important role in adult numeracy in which Andy Fordham has been actively involved, it came as no surprise to me that the esteemed publication the Times Educational Supplement carried a story recently on the benefits of our sport to those of all ages learning basic numeracy skills.

However, perhaps what it little known is that this year darts actually feature in the GCSE in Engineering. Under the Engineering Fabrication sector of the exam this year the first Section will include a range of general questions relating to the application of technology but ‘Section B’ involves the carrying out of ‘research into the stages in manufacturing mass produced sets of darts suitable for the darts player.’ The exam candidates then have to ‘investigate the use and impact, advantages and disadvantages of various technologies in the design and manufacture of this type of mass produced set of darts.’

I have been alerted to this educational advance for darts by a number of teachers and pupils e-mailing me via my web site and pleading for help. Unfortunately for the students and their teachers the darts industry tend – quite rightly in my opinion - to keep all the ‘secrets’ of the manufacture of their darts to themselves. That’s why the process is so difficult to track down and why they are reluctant to discuss the processes with anyone.

My historical research into darts concentrates mainly on pre-1970 darts history, but I couldn’t let my enquirers down, so I have put together some short notes about the process without giving any secrets away.

For those looking for some information about the manufacture of tungsten billets, which is the material from which most darts are made today, I strongly recommend you visit the web site of A&M Tungsten Powders Ltd. The company is based in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire and their website address is www.tungstenpowder.co.uk

Following other enquiries about the process, I have obtained the following information which might be of help to you.

The 'blend' of materials used in construction, particularly of the barrel, is a trade secret between each company and they are not usually willing to let this information out.

The barrels are all made from billets that are either bought in from outside or in the case of NODOR the only fully integrated dart manufacturer in the World they make everything for darts and boards from its raw material.

Once the Tungsten has been made into one-off several hundred various billet sizes and shapes it is then machined by a various amount of methods dependent on the maker into a finished dart. The designs and settings are all dependent on the maker and their technology and the range that has been developed over the years.

Once the barrels have been made they are turned on the lathe, and the points of the darts are not friction welded – as some believe – but the billets are drilled and tapped and the points are forced in. The dart points are forced into a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the point to render them fixed, yet not irreplaceable.

The flights are made from special material that is then cut out as a template, the complicated designs are put through high cost computer machinery that actually imprints the design to the material. The tapping is the preparation of the dart for the insertion of the point; the point is 'forced' in obviously to an interference fit drilled hole. That way it is not permanent and the points can be replaced

Shaft makers used by the NODOR company would injection-mould the nylon and bubble shafts but the aluminium is cut and machined from rod.

By the way, as you all probably know, before the tungsten revolution in the 1970s, dart barrels were mainly made out of brass. Before that they were constructed from wood.

© Patrick Chaplin 2005

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