I noticed it straight away – The board arrived in an amazon box, delivered straight to my door.
After I ripped off the amazon wrapping and opened the dart box like an excited school kid, I pulled out my lovely brand-new bristle dartboard only to find to my horror, that it already had cracks in it!
Like many new enthusiasts to darts it seems a little odd when your new dartboard sometimes comes with cracks permeating through its face when you haven’t even used it yet – but don’t send back the dartboard just yet.
Bristle dartboards often have cracks in them due to the manufacturing process. This is not a defect. The cracks follow the lines of the sisal fiber buns below and are a sign of quality materials being used.
Phew! Crisis averted.
How are Sisal Fiber (Bristle) Dartboards Made?
To fully understand why these cracks appear in a dartboard and why it isn’t a bad thing we need to understand how the boards are made, and why this leads to cracking.
It all starts with the Agave Sisalana plant (this is where sisal gets its name). Agave Sisalana is primarily cultivated in Brazil and some African countries.
The leaves are harvested and distributed for production into sisal fiber. Sisal fiber is obtained by crushing and beating the leaves before washing away any unwanted parts of the leaf. This leaves the raw fibers.
The fibers are then dried using either the natural sun or artificial heating methods to remove the moisture.
Now that the fibers are ready they can be spun out and braided into rope like strands made up of hundreds to thousands of individual fibers called buns.
For our dartboard, these buns of sisal are compressed together with other buns to form a dartboard shape. They can then be held together with an outer ring of material, often aluminium to force the buns into the 18” dartboard size used today.
From there the surface can be sanded to produce a flat finish for the ink dyes to be applied too and the steel spider overlaid until we have the finished dartboard.
As you can see in the video below, when the buns are pushed together, prior to sanding, you can clearly see where the cracks will form across the board later in its life. With the aluminium ring holding the board together, these cracks are nothing to worry about.
The video also clearly shows why this type of cracking is generally limited to sisal boards and not other types of dartboard. Most other types of board are formed of a single piece of material, for example, a plastic face of an electronic dartboard.
What is a dual core dartboard?
The clever folks over at Winmau have developed a technology which they call ‘dual core’ which largely removes the face cracking on the dartboard. As far as I’m aware they are the only brand on the market at the moment which offer this technology, although I’m sure other brands aren’t far behind.
As you might have guessed from the title, the Winmau boards have a second (dual!) layer to the boards. This layer is in fact another layer of sisal fibers! The details of exactly how this is produced is guarded so the following summary is quite a high-level overview of why it works well.
The main core of the board is produced the same way as most other sisal dartboards. The sisal is wound up into buns, the buns are then compressed together to form the core.
The difference is that a second layer of sisal, not wound as tightly as the main core is overlaid. This doesn’t require individual buns so there aren’t obvious ‘lines’ through the board where cracks can appear in the surface.
The softer outer sisal layer also helps darts land into the board and stick there which helps reduce bounce outs and improve your throwing average with no extra work on your part!
You can check out the Winmau Blade 5 (dual core) below on Amazon.
Winmau Blade 5 -Dual Core
The Winmau dual core board is one of the only boards on the market to feature dual-core technology to prevent cracking. The dual core technology also reduces dart bounce out to improve your average and impress your friends!
Do other board types develop cracks?
Other boards are made in different way and from different materials so behave in a different way to sisal boards.
No other type of board construction will crack in the same way that a bristle board will. That’s simply because they tend to be made from a single material piece rather than lots of smaller sections of fiber clumped together.
Paper boards don’t crack in the same way as sisal bristle boards, they do however tend to scar. When the dart lands in a paper board it leaves a permanent hole in the surface. When you remove the dart this can further widen the hole. Darts should typically be twisted when removed a dartboard to help minimise this but there’s no escaping the damage with a woven paper board.
Cork boards are an unusual one, they used to be fairly common, especially in the lower price of the dartboard market, and in fact still are, but they vary far more from board to board than most other dartboard technologies.
Cork boards, in a similar way to bristle boards, are made from shavings of Cork Oak bark compressed together, the agglomerated boards are however made from a single sheet of this material and bound by resin making them much less likely to crack.
They do suffer from the same issues as paper boards in that the when a dart strikes them, the hole left is permanent. Over time this will destroy your dartboard, the speed of which depends on how frequently you play.
Plastic boards are generally used with soft tip darts and the plastic they are made from is high density. This results in a strong board face which shouldn’t crack. Should you get a crack in the plastic it will usually be the end of your boards life unless you can undertake repair work to make sure any new plastic segments added still work with the electrical contacts behind.
Do the Cracks Impact on my Gameplay?
The good news is that the cracks in a dartboard shouldn’t affect your gameplay. You’re still aiming at the same material with the same darts, it just doesn’t look quite as pretty as before!
So hopefully the next time you see a bristle board with some cracking in the front face you’ll look at it and recognise that it’s made from quality materials and that a lot of manufacturing research and development went into making a board that’s reliable and sturdy, ready to take on your rain of steel tipped arrows!