Point 'em Up
by Frederick Everson
Bounce outs are an inevitable part of the steel tip dart game. Whether you play on a best quality board at home, or in a league where most of the boards are long past their prime, you are still going to drive the occasional dart hard on the wire and it wonít stick. Luck will usually have it that the dart strikes something hard, and if the point is sharp, the end result will be an annoying burr. This little hook on the end of your point should be removed immediately for a couple of reasons. First, a burred point can damage a dartboard by removing fibers every time you pull the dart. Secondly it can increase the occurrence of bounce outs Ė an exacerbating problem that will continue to grow unless it is take care of. Removing burrs is easily done with one of those little key ring hones, or even a small file.
After years of abuse, however, the taper of the point will become ever more shallow and abrupt. When this happens, bounce outs will start to occur with maddening frequency, and when no amount of hand stoning and filing seems to help, itís time to try something else. If the point is long enough, you can regrind the taper with a rotary tool like an electric drill or a Dremel. Length of the point should be such that the barrel of the dart never touches the face of the board. If the barrel rests less than a quarter inch from the board on a normal throw, it also becomes hard to see which side of the wire the dart is on from the point of view on the line. If the points are too short, they can be replaced. Some dealers offer this service, and there is also a commercially available tool that does the job in minutes.
To lengthen the taper of the dullest dart point is easily accomplished with a power tool using a stone with a flat surface. Hold the point at a slight angle to the stone and roll the shoulder of the taper across the flat part of the stone lightly. Donít be in a hurry to hog off metal. You donít want to overheat the point, as this will cause it to lose temper and hardness. I have a magnifying glass on a flexible wand that clamps to a tabletop that is perfect for checking the progress of your sharpening. But the job can probably be done well enough with the naked eye if you are under 40. The first time I used the Dremel, I could hardly believe what a nice result I got. Darts that would not stick in most of the older boards around the league suddenly held firm, even in worn out centers.
When I finally had to replace the points, a friend with a tool, extracted the old points and installed shiny new nickel-plated ones. To my dismay the new points would not stick in some of the older dartboards. The problem was that the sides of the point were too slick. After rolling the points for a few strokes on a piece of fine sandpaper, my darts stuck firmly in the very same worn out board.
Sharp points should not be overdone, however. If the point is too fine, it is apt to catch on the wire instead of glancing off. Burrs are an annoying distraction that should be taken care of immediately, for your own piece of mind and to maintain the condition of the dartboard.