Playing dart games is much more fun if you have well-made darts, so accurately machined that they will give a consistently uniform performance.
Ever play the game of darts with your lathe? It’s double-barreled fun, for after you have spent an enjoyable two or three hours making some darts, you can have the added pleasure of throwing them at a target.
Steps are illustrated in the machining of a dart body from a 7/16″ aluminum aircraft bolt. If round bar stock is used, the opera tions are the same.
Clamp the stock in a chuck or collet with about 1 3/4″ projecting. Face off the end if necessary. With a center drill in a tailstock chuck, spot a hole in the rod end; then drill it as shown in Fig. 1 to a depth of about 3/8″ with a bit of the diameter required to receive the steel point in a drive fit.
Machine about 1 1/2″ of the rod to a diameter of 3/8″, and round the end for a distance of 3/8″ as shown in Fig. 2 to a contour approximating that of the nose of a bomb or rocket. Knurl lightly as shown in Fig. 3 the next 3/8″ to enable you to get a firm grip on the dart when throwing it.
Reverse the work in the chuck, gripping the knurled section securely but not tightly enough to damage the knurling, and machine the tail portion of the body to the shape shown in the drawing. Although a length of 2″ is indicated for this tail portion, you may find it helpful to extend this a
bit for better stability in flight, or to makeit easier for a big-fisted thrower to grasp the dart. To steady the tail portion while machining it, drill a center hole to engage a tailstock center as shown in Fig. 4. After turning and polishing, substitute a No. 36 twist drill for the center and extend
the hole to a depth of about 3/19″. Thread this hole with a 6-32 tap.
Remove the body from the lathe and cut two crossed slots for a distance of 5/8″ along the tail. You can make the cuts with a thin slitting saw and a lathe or drillpress milling attachment, or by hand with a jeweler’s saw.
From scrap photographic film cut two fins to the shape shown in the drawing. Crease the fins as shown by the broken line, so the wings of each are at right angles to each other. Push the fins into the tail slots in the dart body as shown in Fig.5 and use a 6-32 x 1/8″ setscrew or bolt (aluminum, if available) to lock them in place. This enables you to change fins quickly when replacement is necessary.
The point can be made of any steel rod or wire that is sufficiently stiff, such as a portion of a darning or knitting needle. If the needle or other point proves to be too brittle, you can temper it by heating it carefully to a blue oxide color and letting it cool in air. The point of the dart illustrated was made from 0.072″ hardened steel wire and was sharpened on a grind ing wheel and smoothed on emery cloth.
On your lathe, whether metal- or wood-turning, you can also make wooden darts; simply use maple dowels for the bodies. The fins may be made of film, but instead of retaining screws, you can secure them with a drop of model-airplane cement. And instead of film fins, you can use segments of turkey or chicken feathers, either cementing them to the wood surface or inserting the quills into a tail hole that has been partly filled with adhesive. In either,
case, tail slots are not required for feathers. One photo shows a wooden dart having fins made from photographic sheet film.
Dart bodies can be machined from brass or steel, but are considerably heavier than those made of aluminum or wood. When using the heavier metals, it might be better to reduce the body diameter, say to the size of an ordinary lead pencil.
If the dart seems disinclined to land on the target point-first, check your throwing technique. If this results in no improvement, try fins of larger area, or extending farther back from the body. You can bend photo-film fins near the tips to make the dart rotate in flight.
Now that you know how to make precision darts, read some Books About Becoming a Dart Master!