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Dartsmithing Tips Archive

slug and ryan's guides now have their own threads in Ds and Bs

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#1 Langley

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Posted 28 June 2005 - 10:42 PM

This is the archive for the former Dartsmithing Tips thread that got somewhat out of control before finally being closed after roughly seven years of collecting loosely connected poorly organized information. The main content in this thread has been moved to it's own separate threads which are linked below.
Slug's Original Dart Guide
The Unholy Three's Guide to Dartmaking




After reading several dart making tutorials and subsequently trying my hand at writing one, I've learned there is no absolutely correct way to make darts. I've also learned that everyone has a different method, and nearly everyone has some little trick they employ that could potentially improve someone else's dart assembly line.

The purpose of this thread is to post that little trick. What do you do differently from everyone else that makes your darts better?

As the thread grows, I'll compile all the best suggestions and sort them into topics so that people can pick and choose different methods and improve their dart making process. I'll either submit it as an article and keep it updated or set up something interactive on my site when I finish figuring out interfacing with MySQL with PHP.

Here are the rules:
Be fair. List both the pro's and cons of your tip if there are any. For example: the dryer method perfectly straightens your darts, but it inconsistently puffs them out so you get darts with varying diameters depending on your foam.

Don't derail the damn thread. Try to keep discussion to a minimum if you don't have a contribution.

Don't make completely retarded suggestions. Example: anything involving ear plugs, marsh mallows, thumb tacks, or exacto knife blades. I don't care which way the pointy part of the tack goes, that's still messed up.

Finding the Right Weights

I generally use size 7 split shot fishing weights. They come in packages of 30, and can be had for less than a dollar a pack if you find a sports authority that sells them. You just have to be carefull that the protrusion doesn't point out from the dart.
Langley
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Finding the Right Foam

links to online stores that sell FBR would be good here



Straightening your Foam

There's always the tried and true method of leaving your foam out so it's straight and held in place by the groove of an aluminum ladder, some lumber, or whatever you've got lying around. It won't perfectly straighten your foam so it never curls up again, but it won't mess up the diameter of your foam or wear it out like other heat-based, friction-based, or tension-based methods.
Langley
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I cut my foam into 7' sections and hang them from the rafters in my garage with weights on the end. Not heavy weights, just enough to hold them straight and stretch them a bit. If the weather is warm, a few days is sufficient.
CXWQ
--------------------------------------------------

A miniature dryer setup from a cardboard box and hair dryer at high heat is sufficient for all my straightening needs. Yeah, it expands on first heating, probably due to the heated air, but as it cools in its straightened form, it seems to shrink back to its original size.
Zero Talent
--------------------------------------------------

I make my darts 1.5" long, so I cutt 6' lots of foam that would make 48 total darts unstreched. I then wrap a 1/2" of duct tape around each end. I then tuse a push pin and tack one end to the very end of a 6'6" peace of wood. Then I stretch the other to the very opposite end. I can fit up to 10 of these one the peave of wood so I can straiten large amounts at once. Depending on time constraints I leave these sit for about 3 weeks. If I need them sooner Ill use a hair dryer. After the 3 weeks I unstack both sides and let them sit for a day. Then I go back and cutt my 1.5" darts and should end up with exactly 50 darts per lot.

Pros:
- Almost 100% consistant darts.
- Increase or decrease in stretch can allow for the same foam to fit different barrel materials ( Thinner for CPVC, thicker for PVC )

Cons:
- Wait time of 3 weeks if left natural.
- Trial and error needed to find out your exact stretching length.
- Needs to be adjusted if you get different brands of foam.
NinjZ
--------------------------------------------------

Straighten it by putting it in 1/2" PVC for a couple weeks, buy 3 or 4 10 foot tubes and fill them with foam and in a week or 2 you will have a bunch of foam ready to be made into some good darts.
[note from Langley- this method is used with 1/2" foam, which is actually much smaller than the inside of 1/2" PVC. If you're making megas with 5/8" foam, it's impossible to get more than a couple feet of foam into 1/2"PVC before it jams up.]
1313
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Cutting your Darts

In order to get a nice straight cut, you will want to cut your stefans through a PVC template. You will start by cutting a length of PVC approximately 1/2" longer than you want your stefan to be, using your saw and miter box. We make our stefans approximately 2" long, and therefore make our templates 2 1/2" long. After this, de-burr the PVC using a rasp, Dremel, sandpaper, or even your fingernail.

Next, determine how long you want your stefans to be (once again, this is a matter of taste, but our stefans are usually around 2" - 2 1/4" in length) and make a mark that distance away from one end of your PVC using pencil, pen, or the blood of a virgin. Using the miter box and hacksaw, cut PARTIALLY through the PVC at this mark, cutting through until the saw has almost severed the entire inside of the PVC. You can test this by holding the PVC up to a light with the hacksaw inside of it. Optimally, you should only see a small point of light through the saw-PVC gap. Once again, de-burr the inside of the PVC. We've found that the best way to do this is to wrap a piece of sandpaper around a screwdriver and rub it around the inside. (See our upcoming article "How to Please a Woman: The LGLF Way" for more insight as to this procedure.)

Now, take your straightened FBR and insert it into the template (it is best to twist the template, not the FBR, in order to minimize tangling of the foam). Nip a small amount of foam from the template, so that your first stefan is uniform on both ends. Make sure the foam is inserted in the proper side of the template (that is, the side opposite the length you have previously marked off with your virgin), and the lead end of it is flush with the other end. You need only swipe your hacksaw lightly to cut your stefans; after a little while, you'll get the hang of the proper amount of pressure to use. Over time, your template will begin to wear down with use, no matter how careful you are with your cutting. When this happens, simply start again with a new template (this means it's a good idea to make more than one template at the very beginning). Use your first template to mark off the lengths for your other templates to ensure uniformity.
Langley & The Fred
--------------------------------------------------

I use a hobby knife to cut my micro stefans so my template should last forever.
CXWQ
--------------------------------------------------[COLOR=blue]


Drilling your Darts

There are many different ways to drill holes into your stefans. Some like to twist a drinking straw into one end of the stefan and then remove the loose inside piece with pliers; some prefer to use a soldering iron. The LGLF uses a drill press to make our holes, and our way is better, bitch. We've found that the proper drill bit to use for our mega Stefans is 7/32" (although for practicality's sake, 1/4" will work just as well). To hold the stefans while drilling, you're going to want a small length of PVC that has a coupling attached to it. The coupling provides for stability.

Now we calibrate our drill press. Assuming that the stefans you have cut are approximately 2" in length, you will want the hole in your stefan to be about 1 1/2", leaving 1/2" undrilled. To calibrate the drill press, you will want to lower the drill bit as far down as it will go and hold it there, while adjusting the base. Keeping in mind that you will be putting the undrilled stefans into the dart-holder so that they are flush with the top, move the base so that only about 3/8" to 1/2" of stefan will not be drilled. Also keep in mind that later on you will be making a hole in the tip of the dart for the weight, and if you make the initial hole too deep, they will meet in the middle of the dart. This is unacceptable. Note: Some drills have a nifty doodad wich allows you to fine tune how far down the drill can be lowered. If you have one, this is the ideal time to use it.

Proceed to drill all your un-drilled stefans by twisting the dart into the dart holder so that the top of the dart is flush with the top of the holder, and lower the drill untill it can drill no further. Pull any loose strings of foam out of the hole, and put the drilled dart in a container to be glued later on. Be sure to drill as close to the center of the dart as possible; this is crucial to make sure that your darts have maximum uniformity.
Langley & The Fred
--------------------------------------------------

Use a brad-point drill bit. It's a special drill bit used to cut holes for dowels, so you don't get a "U" shaped hole, but rather a perfectly squared-off one. It cuts into the FBR totally cleanly and evenly. I found my normal wood/metal bits would very rarely grab the FBR and spin it around (though funny as hell, it was a waste), and quite often would tear chunks out of the inside could cause balance problems in flight.
Stefan
--------------------------------------------------


Gluing your Darts

Before you begin to glue your darts, cut several short lengths of PVC so they are a little longer than your dart length using the hack saw and miter box. Ten or twelve should be enough. Now you can begin to glue your darts.

First, you want to prepare your dart for gluing. Do this by twisting the dart into one of your PVC holders and poking a small hole into the tip of the dart. We do this using our smaller glue gun. Make sure the hole is deep enough that the weight does not protrude from the hole; if you don't believe this is important, get hit with one of the darts you made this way. It will HURT. After you have done this three or four times, make sure you swap the melted foam off the tip of the glue gun.

Now you may cover the weight with a small glob of glue. The optimal size of the glob will varry depending on the foam, glue gun, and glue. Keep in mind that the glob will flatten out and spread over the dart. Ideally, you want the weight and the tip of the dart almost completely covered with glue. However, if you insert the dart into PVC, you don't want any glue to touch the inside of the PVC, so be sure not to put so much glue on the dart that it drips over the sides. If a bubble forms in the glue, poke it with the tip of the glue gun to pop it.

Let the dart sit in it's holder and dry and move on to the next dart. By the time you run out of holders, the first dart you glued should be dry, and you can start this process over again.
Langley & The Fred
--------------------------------------------------

Although I stole it from REN, I use a bowl of ice water when glueing darts. I dip the darts as soon as I am done glueing into the water for 1 full second. I then set them to try.
Pros:
Decreases drying time.
Decreases mess if dart tips.
Makes better domes.
Cons (according to ompa):
May allow the weight to move so that it's offcenter, unbalancing the dart.
Davis
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I prefer to use an Ice cube to flatten the top of my darts right after glueing. It has the same advantages davis mentioned, but having flat-tipped darts also seems to prevent the weight from popping out of the dart.
Langley
--------------------------------------------------

Hit the dart tip with an ice cube after putting the glue on rather than dipping it in ice water. That way you keep the dart vertical and you can flatten and shape the dome more precisely. I've been doing this - and talking about it on the forums - for 4+ years.
CXWQ
--------------------------------------------------


Misc.

Making your darts easier to find by painting the back ends of them:
For a holder I drilled appropriately sized holes in a thick block of wood and covered it in masking tape to keep the darts from falling out easily (the holes were a hair too big) and to prevent gunky build up on the block. You can use that blue foam insulation that comes in sheets too. It's easer to cut the holes in (you could use a brass tube that's a size too small to punch out the holes) but you need to make a new one every few batches because the paint dissolves it pretty quick.

For the first coat I use white Rustoleum Specialty Grip & Guard, which is this textured stuff I had lying around that you use on tool handles to give them that plastic sandpapery grip. I just happened to be out of white primer, but I think the grip&guard is mostly what makes the back kind of crusty and firm. It also probably builds up on the back and fills in the open cells better than plain white primer.

After 10 to 15 minutes I give it a coat of red-orange Rustoleum Specialty Fluorescent. This stuff works best in thin coats on a white primer and on my dark gray foam it looks dull without the primer, so go heavy on the white coat and light on the fluorescent stuff for the brightest effect.

After about 30 minutes you can poke the painted side of the dart to pop it out, but you could just as easily use a block that's thin enough to leave part of the dart sticking out as long as the holes fit the darts snugly enough to keep them from falling out.
Langley
--------------------------------------------------
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#2 Davis

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Posted 28 June 2005 - 10:43 PM

Although I stole it from REN, I use a bowl of ice water when glueing darts.

I dip the darts as soon as I am done glueing into the water for 1 full second. I then set them to try.

Pros:
Decreases drying time.
Decreases mess if dart tips.
Makes better domes.

Cons:
None that I know of.
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#3 Uncle Hammer

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Posted 28 June 2005 - 11:08 PM

I use a cpvc stand with about 5 2" sections glued together. Then make 5 darts and set them in the freezer for about 30 seconds.
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#4 NerfMonkey

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Posted 28 June 2005 - 11:15 PM

My tricks:

1. When I burn the hole in the top of the foam to drop in the slingshot ammo, I always spin the glue gun around the dart for one or two seconds. This gets rid of the string of glue that comes off of the dart and decreases your chances of pulling the glue gun away from a dart that you set down to dry and yanking the dart onto your bare knee and burning the hell out of yourself. This has happened to me and it is NOT GOOD.

Pros:
Gets rid of that little string of glue.
Reduces the chances of ruining darts by tipping them over.

Cons:
Increases dart making time, but not enough to notice.
If you spin the gun too close to the foam, you can burn it and screw up the dart.

2. After making a dart, if I have a crater in the end of it, I bite off the foam around the crater to make it flatter.

Pros:
Increases the quality of the dart tip.
I like chewing foam.

Cons:
You can accidentally eat the foam when you bite it off.
Increases dart maknig time.
If the dart is not completely dry, you can get glue on your teeth, which tastes bad and burns your mouth.

3. I use a vise to put my darts into while drying. This way I can set the vise to the perfect tightness so that the darts aren't smashed permanently, but will not fall out if I bump them. It can also hold a lot of darts.

Pros:
Keeps darts upright.
Holds a lot of darts.
Won't hurt the foam (plus if it did, you could cut off the end of the dart).

Cons:
None.

That's all I've got, but there are probably more I didn't think of.

Edited by NerfMonkey, 28 June 2005 - 11:29 PM.

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#5 ompa

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 10:24 AM

For straightening darts:

I just throw mine in a grocery bag of sorts, and use a hairdryer for around 10-20 seconds.

Pros: you can watch your darts (versus a dryer where you really can't)

Cons: You're limited to how many darts you can put in by the size of the grocery bag.

For buying darts:

If you do have an ACE hardware near you, check out the FBR they sell at the service counter. In my experiance, they carry some really nice, dense, FBR. Unfortunately, it's slightly thinner than what most people's FBR seems to be.

~ompa

Edited by ompa, 29 June 2005 - 10:27 AM.

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#6 NinjZ

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 11:41 AM

The way I straiten my darts is:

I make my darts 1.5" long, so I cutt 6' lots of foam that would make 48 total darts unstreched. I then wrap a 1/2" of duct tape around each end. I then tuse a push pin and tack one end to the very end of a 6'6" peace of wood. Then I stretch the other to the very opposite end. I can fit up to 10 of these one the peave of wood so I can straiten large amounts at once. Depending on time constraints I leave these sit for about 3 weeks. If I need them sooner Ill use a hair dryer. After the 3 weeks I unstack both sides and let them sit for a day. Then I go back and cutt my 1.5" darts and should end up with exactly 50 darts per lot.

Pros:
- Almost 100% consistant darts.
- Increase or decrease in stretch can allow for the same foam to fit different barrel materials ( Thinner for CPVC, thicker for PVC )

Cons:
- Wait time of 3 weeks if left natural.
- Trial and error needed to find out your exact stretching length.
- Needs to be adjusted if you get different brands of foam.

Edited by NinjZ, 29 June 2005 - 11:43 AM.

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#7 quasar

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 12:03 PM

My suggestion is a general safety tip.

When you inevitably get some hot glue on yourself, DO NOT simply rip off the glue from your skin and instead, soak in cold water and leave the glue to prevent ripping off multiple layers of skin! OUCH!
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#8 Lukeinator

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 01:10 PM

Mabye this is just for me, but instead of making my darts 2-2.5 inches long, I make mine only an inch long. I've noticed greatly improved accuracy and range in all my guns (a Nite Finder, SM1500 and a Blast Bazooka).
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#9 Davis

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 02:10 PM

Mabye this is just for me, but instead of making my darts 2-2.5 inches long, I make mine only an inch long.  I've noticed greatly improved accuracy and range in all my guns (a Nite Finder, SM1500 and a Blast Bazooka).

That is just the quality of your darts. If you aren't as great at making Stefans, your shorter ones will turn out better.

Edited by Davis, 29 June 2005 - 02:10 PM.

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#10 Talio

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 02:27 PM

Davis, it's more that he's probably using shorter barrels. Dart making quality really isn't effected by the length. In fact, that crappiest I've ever seen have been shorter.

Quasar - I think you might slightly be flirting with the punta-esque here. Hot glue peels right off no problem. I'd like to know what you're using that bonds so tightly to take a few layers of skin off. I think I may be smelling a little bullshit.

My tricks? Uh, make darts well. Really, it just takes practice. I make sexy darts, ask the Horsemen.

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#11 MattPaintballer

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 04:31 PM

Cons:
None that I know of.

Cons:
Moves the weight around inside the glue dome, throwing off the balance. Both Suave and I have noticed this.

I really don't have any dartmaking tips, and if I did you should do the opposite of what I say because my darts suck.
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#12 cxwq

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 04:45 PM

Hit the dart tip with an ice cube after putting the glue on rather than dipping it in ice water. That way you keep the dart vertical and you can flatten and shape the dome more precisely. I've been doing this - and talking about it on the forums - for 4+ years.

Cons: Your mom.
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#13 1313

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 05:52 PM

What I do:
1. Go buy your foam backer rod and weights. You will want to find a place (ace, menards, home depot, etc.) that sells some fbr and you will want to buy the most sturdy and firm fbr they carry. Then go to wally world and buy some 1/4" steel shot sling shot ammo.

2. Straighten it by putting it in 1/2" PVC for a couple weeks, buy 3 or 4 10 foot tubes and fill them with foam and in a week or 2 you will have a bunch of foam ready to be made into some good darts.

3. Cut the foam into pieces from 1" to 2 1/2", it totally up to you. I use 1 1/2" darts and so far they work great.

4. Take you hot glue gun (the smaller it is the better) and making sure you are in the center of the dart burn a hole that and widest is exactly the size of your weight so when a weight is putt in the hole it should fitt perfect, even with the top of foam and no space for the weight to move around. A good way to make sure you do this is to (when the gun isnt hot) mark a place to melt the foam to around the hot glue gun tip with somthing, be creative.

5. Then fill the hole in the foam you made to the brim with hot glue, then push it down all the way into the hole with a fresh-outta-the-freezer ice cube. Then put on just enough glue to cover the entire steel shot. Then "form" the hot glue with your ice cube and set it aside. Rinse & Repeat.

Edited by 1313, 30 June 2005 - 11:34 AM.

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#14 The Anarchy Department

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 06:08 PM

Following up on the "Don't get hot glue on yourself." suggestion....

To prevent getting glue stuck in the first place (causing the big, stringy mess that results), continually put your gluesmithing fingers in your mouth. I use this for when I need to work with glue in rocketry.

~TAD
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#15 Nerforbust

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 05:28 AM

ripping off multiple layers of skin!

That has happened to me, and it does do that, it hurts like hell but wait till it cools.


Use a low temp glue gun.

Pros:
Less cooling time.
Cant burn your self as bad.

Cons:
May take a little longer to melt foam.
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#16 Langley

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 10:45 AM

Following up on the "Don't get hot glue on yourself." suggestion....

To prevent getting glue stuck in the first place (causing the big, stringy mess that results), continually put your gluesmithing fingers in your mouth. I use this for when I need to work with glue in rocketry.

~TAD

If you do that when making darts, and you use fishing weights, you may want to read on the weights package where it says, "CAUTION: this product containts lead, a chemical known to cause cancer in the state of California". Of course, you may not live in California, in which case you're safe. Because obviously from the warning you can conclude that lead knows better than to start shit with someone from NJ.

Does anyone have any suggestions or comments about the part I wrote about painting darts that's under the MISC section? Does anyone else do this?

Edited by Langley, 30 June 2005 - 10:55 AM.

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#17 ompa

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 10:58 AM

I paint my darts as well, except I use neon pink homefront decorator color pink (acrylic enamel). And a paintbrush. Not nearly as efficient, but I don't feel like making a large matrix-type thing to hold all my darts while I spraypaint the back. I don't seem to find a significant improvement from non-painted darts performance-wise, but they're a shitload easier to find in my lawn. The paint stays on fairly well, I haven't had any of my darts really lose the back-end of the paint.

~ompa

Edited by ompa, 30 June 2005 - 11:00 AM.

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#18 quasar

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 11:13 AM

Quasar - I think you might slightly be flirting with the punta-esque here. Hot glue peels right off no problem. I'd like to know what you're using that bonds so tightly to take a few layers of skin off. I think I may be smelling a little bullshit.

Talio, what's punta-esque mean? I don't mean to get on anyone's bad side.

Maybe I could explain, I accidentally dipped the back of my pinky on the top of one of a previously made dart before I cooled it with an ice cube. It stuck to me so naturally I ripped it off but it had left some glue on my skin that was burning. So I put it under cold water in the sink and ripped off the glue. Big mistake, as I tore off a large chunk of skin with it. I have been putting neosporin and band-aids on it for a couple days now. Just wanted to warn others not to be the dumbass I was.
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#19 ompa

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Posted 30 June 2005 - 11:47 AM

You can burn yourself with a high-temp glue gun and non-callused hands.

Crap. Sorry, off topic...

~ompa

Edited by ompa, 30 June 2005 - 01:00 PM.

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#20 Ballman

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 01:17 AM

I use Shotgun pellet, you can buy it for $10 (Aus$.) for 15Kg. Its a 10-1 ratio, Ie. 10 1mm shotgun pellets=1 splitshot weight. I melt the Stefan, place a small dab of glue inside it then drop the pellet in. Cover it with a dome of glue.
Pros: mass production of darts becomes quite easy.
Cons: Once dropped on carpet, the pellet becomes very hard to find, but stil can be vacumed (sp?).
Noobs might think this means cutting open a shotgun cartridge, and getting their hand blown off.
______________
I use a bucket, hair-drier and a towel for making my darts straight (not as good as ompas idea).
Pros: None really.
Cons: Ditto.
______________
For cutting I usually use scissors.
Pros: Quick and easy.
Cons: If not done correctly, darts bay end up uneven.
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#21 Richomundo

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 11:56 PM

When I make my darts, I use a box of cheap, extremely short machine screws (bolts) from home depot. Don't use pointy screws, because if stepped on it will damage the dart (or your foot). As long as you push them all the way into the FBR (thread first), so that the head doesn't stick out, the screw/bolt part on it keeps it stuck and stabalized within the FBR. I'm not sure how this compares to using split shot pricewise, but the extra shaft keeps the weight from displacing.

Pros
If made right, then they turn out well (however this is probably a pro for all techniques)
The "pointy" part keeps the bolt in straight
The vast majority of different metals they are made out of allows for different weights.
Cheap


Cons
If you insert the bolt in wrong or at an angle, the misplaced weight will make the dart spin oddly or curve.

I don't think I should have to explain this to anybody.
Posted Image

Edited by Richomundo, 02 July 2005 - 11:57 PM.

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#22 NerfLad78

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 08:19 PM

Yeah my friend made darts with bolts until he got fishing weights.

Basically all I do to make darts is cut the foam with scissors or some other sharp thing, then melt a very small hole in the front of the dart and place the fishing weight inside of it. Cover this with your hot glue and dip the dart into the ice water. For some reason, my darts' weights aren't thrown off balance. Anywho, hold the dart under the water for at least 10 seconds, then pull it out and very lightly touch the dome to see if it is completely dry. When you're finshed, melt a hole in the back of the dart to funnel the air towards the center of the it, thus supplying more power to the core of the foam. This stabilizes the dart and makes it fly farther. Now the dart is finished.

Could someone pin this topic for future reference of all these wonderful dartsmithing tips?

Thank you.
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#23 LiterSize

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 10:03 AM

1st post here... woo!


If I'm going to be using FBR to make arrows for my Bow and Arrow, what's a good length to cut them? 11" as Hasbro did? Or should I cut them even shorter?
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#24 cxwq

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 10:24 AM

1st post here... woo!


If I'm going to be using FBR to make arrows for my Bow and Arrow, what's a good length to cut them? 11" as Hasbro did? Or should I cut them even shorter?

Welcome, and interesting question.

There was a thread not long ago about this very topic. Search around, I'm sure there is more info farther back.
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#25 Falcon

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:16 PM

For perfect domes, shape them with your finger. Sounds painful? If you use low-temp glue for your darts (I do; don't have to worry about it getting too hot and melting the foam) then lick your finger before you tap the tip and smooth it out. If you use hi-temp hot glue, dip your finger in that bowl of water you guys've been talking about. Rinse and repeat for all of your darts. Perfect domes, every time.
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