Traditionally, dartboards have been constructed of wood, usually elm or poplar. Both are soft woods and are thus easy to cut and shape and to receive the incoming darts. The first dartboards were cut from the end of a tree-trunk and it is believed that the circular pattern of the rings and the way the wood eventually cracks, suggested both the design of the dartboard in terms of its double and treble rings and the separate scoring segments.
The dartboard is a descendent of the archery target (in miniature) made more complicated by the addition of segments and higher scoring rings. A small concentric archery target would not have proved popular for long indoors as players would have enough proven skill to hit the bull’s-eye (100 points) with comparative ease. The game of puff and dart utilised a diamond-shaped target featuring many random numbers, the idea being to score as high a score as possible with three darts. The dartboard was further improved by the addition of individual wires (by skilled wireworkers) to segregate the numbered segments. In later years, these wires would be manufactured as a one-piece unit and eventually became known in the 1970s, especially in the USA and Canada, as ‘the spider.’
By the late 1920s a standardised dartboard was introduced and remains the most popular dartboard today across the world. However, the ‘standard’ dartboard (also known as the ‘London’ board) was not an overnight success in the UK. Initially it had to compete with other different existing target boards played on in some localities. These have come to be known as ‘regional dartboards’ and were usually named after their region of origin, for example, the Yorkshire Doubles board, Kent Doubles, the London Fives and the Manchester Board.
In the early 1930s, as the first darts boom occurred in England, a London-based company named Nodor filed a patent for a new type of dartboard. Made of compressed biscuits of sisal fibre, this dartboard had many advantages over the wooden dartboard. The latter had to be soaked overnight, otherwise it would dry out and crack, damaged darts could pull out pieces of the wooden dartboard when being removed, and those boards had a limited life. The ‘bristle’ dartboard as it was known, was long-lasting, did not need soaking and was more resistant to damage by darts than the elm or poplar board. In addition, with the bristle dartboard, when darts were removed from the board, the sisal fibre closed the hole behind it. With the wooden dartboards this did not happen.
But the cost of bristle dartboards to ordinary people proved its downfall and although the dartboards sold in sufficient numbers to enable Nodor to continue making them, it would not become standard in the darts world until the 1970s when Dutch elm disease destroyed the supply of wood.
Today, wooden dartboards are rare and bristle boards are seen almost everywhere darts is played.
Winmau Blade 3
The evolution of the sisal dartboard has also changed. Dartboard
scoring segments are separated using wire fixed to the board usually
with staples. This is commonly known as the spider. Round wiring is
still the main way for dartboard manufacturers to make up the web, but
over the years we have seen further development in this area.
Triangle wire and a staple free bullseye have been introduced to
help decrease the dreaded bounce outs.
Further development and the professional players choice has seen the introduction of blade wiring: Strips of metal cut directly into the sisal to separate the scoring areas. This type of construction has removed the need for staples and reduces the wiring thickness which also again reduces bounce outs.
The dartboard shown here is the Winmau Blade 3 which has now been succeeded by the next generation, the BLADE 4 dartboard.
© Patrick Chaplin 2010 (Updated 2012)