In the autumn of 2012 I was approached by Les G. via my website asking me if I knew anything about ‘The Northwood Collapsible Dart’.
“I can find no details about it on the Internet and wondered if any of your readers could remember anything in their past about it. I have recently been to the Antiques Roadshow [a long-established UK TV antiques valuation show] but had no success only that the expert thought it was made between the first and second world wars…”
My original response to Les was “I’ll see what I can find out about it and get back to you” but then, soon after I had pinged my reply to him, my old brain whispered, “Pat. You’ve been here before.” I checked through my files and ‘Voila!’ I discovered that I had researched that very dart back in the late 1980s.
(I was so much younger then…).
Constructed almost entirely of brass (the metal of choice until tungsten arrived) the three darts could be assembled into a single unit so as to be transported in a coat pocket without apparently causing damage to clothing.
The Northwood Collapsible Dart was invented by Robert Bowles in the mid-1930s and he patented the idea in 1938. The shaft of each dart was contained within the hollow body of each arrow and had to be screwed out and tightened before flights could be inserted. The patent specification (extract shown here) shows a number of alternative methods of construction. FIG 5 is merely an extension of Bowles’ idea which allows for a longer dart by way of a telescopic shaft.
The collapsible dart was expensive to make and had other disadvantages. For example, the construction of the dart would, by its very nature, have to be lightweight; the body of the dart having to be fairly large in order to contain the shaft. This led to an unusual centre of gravity, which made the darts clumsy and awkward to throw. In addition, the metal-to-metal thread connections had a tendency to work loose during the course of play; darters finding this irritating and off-putting. Also, even though the darts collapsed neatly into the compactness of a large propelling pencil and could be slipped into the pocket without injury to the person, there was still the risk that the pointy end might pierce a shirt or jacket plus the player would still have to carry his or her flights separately.
The Northwood Collapsible Dart was, not surprisingly, produced by The Northwood Darts Co., and was presented in a smart blue box. A similar design was apparently produced by Magnatex but I have yet to find any details of their collapsible dart products.
Back in the late 1930s and 1940s the collapsible dart was of some value as a novelty but I doubt that many serious darter would have purchased a set as a serious replacement for their ‘old faithfuls’.
Having said that it is an intriguing piece of darts memorabilia…
© 2012 & 2019 Patrick Chaplin
(Images of the collapsible dart © 2012 Les G.) (Patent © HM Patent Office)
The original version of this article was first published in Dr. Darts’ Newsletter #33, December 2012 Supplement.