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Darts is one of those things that some people call a game, whereas other people call it a sport. Whatever you choose to refer to it as, darts requires a whole lot of skill and precision, particularly at the professional level. However, even the best of darts players out there are only so good as their equipment, which in this case are of course the darts themselves.
If you are having trouble playing well, besides a bit of practice, you may need to sharpen your darts. Let’s talk about what kinds of darts need sharpening, why you need to do so, how to do it, and much more.
What Types of Darts Need Sharpening?
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that not all types of darts need sharpening. That said, most professional quality darts will need sharpening at one point or another. All darts that feature metal tips will need to be sharpened, with some metals requiring you to sharpen them more often than others.
In terms of darts with metal tips, whether they are made out of tungsten, steel, or brass, all need to be sharpened. There are also darts made out of silver, and these need to be sharpened as well, although these are less common.
That metal tip is eventually going to get dull, particularly with prolonged use, and eventually, you will have trouble getting the darts to penetrate the board, a sign that it’s time for a sharpening. In fact, some darts may need to be sharpened before you use them the first time, right out of the package.
On the other hand, if you are using soft tip darts, which feature relatively soft tips made out of plastic, these will not need to be sharpened, as they will not wear down in the same way as metal darts.
When you have metal darts, you use a real dartboard where the dart is forced through the material. However, with plastic darts, you use a plastic dartboard that has many small, molded holes built into it, into which the plastic darts stick.
For a comparison, you could say that throwing a metal dart at a real dartboard is like hammering a nail into a fresh piece of wood, whereas throwing a plastic dart at a plastic board is more like inserting a nail through a pre-drilled hole. Plastic darts don’t actually penetrate anything. They simply stick into pre-drilled holes, and they, therefore, don’t wear down.
Why Is It Important to Sharpen Darts?
Sharpening your darts properly is very important because if your darts are not sharp, they will end up damaging your dartboard. What you need to know here is that dartboards are (usually) made out of sisal fibers, a super tough material.
Just imagine really long and thin strings that are packed together lengthwise. When you throw a perfectly sharp dart, like a razor-sharp arrowhead or spear, that sharp point technically does not penetrate those sisal fibers, but instead, it separates them. The dart, therefore, sits neatly within a densely packed mass of sisal fibers, being held in place due to how densely packed they are, all without actually breaking or penetrating any of the fibers. It’s pure pressure holding the darts in place.
However, if you have a dull dart, the story is very different. If your dart is dull, it is more like throwing a rock or a hammer at your dartboard instead of an arrow or spear. That dull dart compacts the sisal fibers together, usually irreversibly damaging them and changing their shape.
Do this enough times, and you will end up with a dartboard that looks like a stop sign pepper with buckshot. Those distorted fibers never return to their original shape.
Simply put, throwing a blunt dart at a dartboard will break the board, and even if you do sharpen your darts afterward, if the damage has been done, even the sharpest of darts may not stick anymore. The end result is that darts may not be able to penetrate the board anymore, and may just fall out upon contact.
How Often Should You Sharpen Darts?
There is absolutely no set rule for how often darts need to be sharpened. Whether or not your darts require sharpening depends solely on their condition. If you are a very avid player that plays for countless hours each day, you might need to sharpen them on a near-daily basis.
If you only play for a little bit every day, weekly sharpening might suffice. Finally, if you only play occasionally, maybe once a week with your friends, then you may only need to sharpen them once per month, or even less.
You need to inspect the darts to see how sharp they are, and you need to make a judgment call by yourself. That said, if you do something like drill the darts into the wall a few times because your aim is bad, or if you drop them tip first onto a hard floor, then you may need to sharpen them immediately.
Also, as mentioned earlier, some darts may actually need to be sharpened right out of the package before you use them. The reason for this is because some darts come coated in a sort of polish, particularly steel and other hard metal darts, and this can make them slippery, thus making it harder for them to stick in the board.
How to Sharpen Darts with a Stone
Before we get into talking about how to use a stone to sharpen your darts, you will need to get yourself a dart sharpening stone. Here we are talking about a cylindrical dart sharpening stone.
It looks like a small soda can made of stone with a very small hollow in it, one just large enough to fit the tip of a dart. There are also flat stone dart sharpeners, but these require more skill to use, and honestly, they aren’t worth the trouble, at least not for beginners trying this for the first time.
Now that you have your cylindrical stone dart sharpener, let’s quickly talk about how to use it. This is not going to be in the usual step-by-step format, because using one of these dart sharpeners is more or less a one-step process.
All you have to do is to insert the tip of the dart into the sharpener, press down very lightly (you do not want to apply much pressure from the top, or else you will just dull it more), and spin it in a circle. Spin it six or seven times, and then check to see how sharp it is. Check if it is either flat or sharp like a needle, repeat the process until you achieve the desired result.
Remember, the dart should be somewhere between sharp and rounded, not flat, but also not super sharp.
Is It Worth Getting an Automated Darts Sharpener?
If you don’t want to deal with using a sharpening stone, whether a flat one or a cylindrical one, an option you have is to use an automated or electric darts sharpener. This is a device that looks kind of like a large bullet (various models will differ in terms of their exact look), one that features one or more holes that darts can be inserted into.
All you have to do with an automated dart sharpener is to insert the tip of the dart into the designated hole and press the activation button. If you are a beginner and don’t want to risk damaging your darts because you don’t have the proper sharpening technique, then using an automated darts sharpener is a good option.
These are foolproof devices and it’s impossible to not sharpen your darts properly with them, as they do all of the work for you and are specially designed for this task. If you are wondering whether or not these devices are worth it in terms of the cost, our answer would be yes, especially if you plan on playing a lot of darts.
An automated darts sharpener, a cheaper model, can be found for as little as 15 or 20 dollars. Sure, it’s more expensive than a stone darts sharpener, but it’s also much easier to use, plus much faster too. Also, if you have a lot of darts that require constant attention, then an automated sharpener is a worthwhile investment.
Can You Sharpen Darts Without a Sharpener?
If you don’t have access to a darts sharpener, whether a sharpening stone or an automated version, no worries because there are many other ways to sharpen those darts. The following items are all viable options for dart sharpening:
- A curbstone
- A concrete wall
- A brick
- A fish hook sharpener
- An emery cloth
- An emery board
- The unglazed and rough side of a ceramic plate or mug
- A whetstone
- A nail file
- A regular file
- A rock
- Plumber’s cloth
Of course, if you are not using a proper darts sharpener, then this process does become exponentially harder as without the right tools, the technique you use becomes all that much more important. Whether you are using a nail file, an emery board, a whetstone, or a concrete wall, you have to hold the dart against it horizontally.
In other words, you need to hold the dart against the object being used for sharpening in a near parallel position, so that the side of the tip of the dart is touching the material, but so that the tip is clear. You aren’t driving the tip directly into the material being used for sharpening, as you would with a cylindrical stone or automated sharpener.
Just like if you were using a real dart sharpener, spin the dart in a circular fashion, making sure to rub the full 360 degrees (the whole circumference) of the dart against the material. This is not unlike sharpening a knife, where the point is to grind down the material from the sides. The more material you grind off the side of the dart tip, the sharper the front or the actual tip becomes.
Admittedly, this is quite difficult, because it’s easy to remove too much material from the sides without realizing it, and it’s also pretty easy to sharpen the dart unevenly, which can result in a warped or crooked dart tip, and nobody wants that.
Therefore, although it is technically possible to sharpen darts without a real sharpener, it is hard, it’s tedious, and it is really easy to do it wrong. This is something that only experienced people should attempt.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Let’s quickly go over a few tips and tricks to make sharpening your darts as fast, easy, and successful as possible:
- Although your darts should be quite sharp, they should not be hypodermic needle-sharp. If your darts are too sharp, if you hit the metal wiring on the surface of the dartboard, called the spider, it may dent or even snap the wiring, and you will end up with a severely damaged dartboard.
- When using a cylindrical stone dart sharpener, do not apply much pressure from the top. A slight amount of pressure combined with the circular motion is more than enough. Too much pressure results in nothing but a flat and dull dart tip.
- If you are a beginner, either a cylindrical stone dart sharpener or an automated sharpener is recommended. These are the easiest to use and they run the lowest risk of you making the tip even worse than it was before. Anything flat, whether a flat stone dart sharpener, a brick, concrete, a file, or an emery board, is very hard to use.
- Remember to never try and sharpen plastic-tipped darts. They do not need to be sharpened, and if you do attempt it, the only thing you will accomplish is the destruction of the plastic tip.
- Something you may want to look into is scuffing the side of the dart tip, as this will create a bit more friction and hold when the dart hits the board, thus allowing it to take hold much easier.
- To prevent darts from becoming dull in the first place, always store them properly and don’t allow them to directly impact a hard surface.
- If you notice a burr on the tip of your dart, or in other words, a slightly bent tip, this is bad, and it needs to be removed with a dart sharpener.
As you can see, the best way to sharpen darts, particularly for beginners, is either with a cylinder stone sharpener or an automated sharpener.
These require the least effort and skill, so this is what we would recommend.