Alchemy – Building the Perfect Dart.
While working, with a PDC tour player, on improving consistency AIM: bought, obtained, tested, tweaked and fiddled with over 200 sets of darts. Everything from 1970’s copper tungsten through to pre-release darts were put through their paces by A.I.M: and professional throwers.
Watching 100,000’s of darts, thrown by players of all standards and all styles, meant AIM had a stored knowledge, of the pros and cons, of most darts, and set ups, used by elite players. In addition, we also fell back on an old habit and looked at the history books, studied technical data and statistics.
AIM: then asked questions of, and listened to, dart players discussing their, and other’s, we continue to do that to this day.
This lead, almost inevitably, to the idea of using that knowledge, into designing our “Perfect Dart”.
The result is the AIM: designed and hand made dart range : Alchemy!
Alchemy, (90% 22g) proved a great success. The world championship player we designed them for still uses them to this day (over 5 years later). Other players began to ask for their own Alchemy!
Alchemy II, (90% 21.5g): For this edition we removed the rear taper and slightly altered the dimensions to “Bristow Barrell” specs. A collared point and a small amount of wider grip near the stem, were also added.
Helping another elite player, and major finalist, we again honed Alchemy to suit his needs. We reduced the weight and width slightly, returned to a smooth stem blank. This is the ultimate Alchemy and the final result of 5 years of development. (95% 20.5g)
The Alchemy Story
Basic Barrel Shape
Despite much of the hype, around technology and science, the choice of barrel shape starts with a simple question. Slim or Bomb? Straight, tapered or contoured? Each has proven superbly successful in the right hands. Yet for AIM: it was a simple choice.
The bomb style type has most been successful in the hands of John Lowe and Phil Taylor. In many way they are a very similar type of thrower in both technique and style.
Slimmer, straighter barrels have been hugely successful in the hands of a larger number of great players who have had varied styles, grips, stances and speeds of throw.
AIM’s goal was for Alchemy to suit as many styles as possible, thus the slimmer barrel was selected.
Grip maybe the most important part of dart design. If it does not ‘feel’ right it will not be acceptable to the player. There are three main elements :
- Non Slip & Non Stick – A difficult balance between ensuring that the dart does not slip in the delivery but that it is easy to release and cannot catch upon release.
- Repeatability – The grip also form part of process of ensuring that the dart is held in the as near to the same position every throw as is possible.
- Deflection Reduction – Many popular darts, that excel in other areas, either exaggerate deflections or contribute to exaggerated consequences.
In seeking to design a dart that would minimise deflections, and their effects, hundreds of grip types or combinations were looked at. The darts of elite players were compared. The vast majority of elite players have or do use a ring grip. Many variations exist but a simple grip covering most of the barrel is easily the most successful. The two most popular and proven ring grips over the last 30 years have come to be associated with the players that showcased them originally. The “Eric Bristow” with quite wide ring cuts that are low profile and have a signature blank three rings from the stem or the “Bob Anderson” grip with narrower rings with the blank joining the stem.
Bearing in mind the three elements identified above AIM’s testing and research led to the selection of the “Bob Anderson” grip. The success of many different players, with totally different throwing styles, and holding positions, over a 30 year period was the crucial factor.
The uniform grip means the dart feels the same in the hand for each throw, it can be held comfortably at any point on the barrel and in any style. Due to the low profile, of the rings, deflections are minimised. Fewer darts deflect and most of those that do slide down straight down the barrel meaning less obstructing or distracting angles from barrel or flight. The grip has been proven by many players and actually gets better with use. Thus the reliability of the dart is exceptional.
Variation is possible via depth/width of grooves, they can be narrowed to give a sharper ‘new’ feel or shallowed to give a softer or aged feel.
Straight or Tapered Barrel?
AIM: researched heavily before reaching a decision on this area. Firstly players were invited to test darts with very similar designs in terms of grip and length. The main difference between them being whether the barrel was basically straight, tapered in either direction or scalloped. The overwhelming choice was for a front to rear taper.
Looking through the rankings, results and history books the players views seemed to be backed up by performance. A wide variety of players had won titles with a taper from the darts widest point, usually close to the nose, to the point at which the stem and barrel join. Very clear examples are Ted Hankey and John Part. Although their darts have little else in common, five world titles and two superb, much admired stylists, speak volumes.
Alchemy I therefore features a even taper from its widest point (6.2mm) to the blank adjoining the stem (5.8mm).
Nose? Who Knows?
This is another area where a large variety of small differences appear in many dart models. Four main groups of design seem to dominate. A flatish nose, with very short curve. Used in the past by Eric Bristow and currently by players such as Ian White & Gary Anderson. The grip here goes almost to the end of the dart. In recent times a straight dart with a gripless area, and snub or bull nose, has seen success for players such as James Wade and MVG. A specific nose cone area is another option, Bob Anderson and Martin Adams are good examples of this smooth elliptical coned area.
For the Alchemy, AIM designed a reduced nose, which is exceptionally slim at the point, to aid grouping and power scoring. The grip is maintained to the end of the barrel in order to ensure continuity of feel. The Alchemy I has combined many features of players such as Raymond van Barneveld and John Part’s signature dart. Alchemy can claim a combination of many player’s choices.
Dimensions (Scoring Power)
AIM: now had much of the information with which to proceed. The width dimensions of darts that were considered to be ideal for power scoring. Its was soon clear that as slim a dart as possible with the the nose area being less narrowed, the widest point being around 6mm and then tapering to the 5.8mm width of most stems would be perfect. The length would need to be around the area of 50.8cm. A test set was commissioned with as much information as possible given to the maker.
- Length – 50.8mm (for 22,2g edition)
- Width – 6.3mm (widest) – 5,8mm
- Weight – 20.2g & 22.2g
- Rear Blank – 10mm
- 90% Tungsten Nickel Alloy
Every set of AIM: Alchemy is handmade to order. Each set is crafted by one of England’s best independent makers. Many years of experience, of discreetly making bespoke darts for the best players in the world (regardless of what name is on their shirt), are used to ensure your DX1 set are made to the same standards as those used by word champions and darting legends.
Like Top Gear’s Stig, our manufacturer/s must remain unknown. We would not want these skills falling into the wrong hands.
The Alchemy Range is hand made from high grade 90% tungsten nickel alloy, with the barrel being lightly polished, leaving a fully natural tungsten effect.
Obviously tungsten would be the main component of AIM’s first dart. The main questions are what percentage to use, what to combine with tungsten and then whether to coat the original metal.
Since their introduction, of tungsten darts, various marketing has been used to extol the virtues of the percentage of tungsten used. In questioning, and discussing it with, elite level players and manufacturers, AIM: spotted a theme. Many felt that there had been a downturn in quality of materials since the 1980’s & 90’s. Players also noted that 97% tungsten darts felt very hard/dense and did not have the feel of some of the older darts.
It transpired that many professionals still used old sets (even buying them from private sources) of the darts that had helped make their name. Tracing these back revealed that most were from between 1989 and 2000 and were predominantly 85-90% tungsten. Trials with the tests sets proved this very quickly with players of all ages preferring the 90% model.
The second materials decision did not take long either. Despite the many varied coating available none seemed to easily provide the feel of natural tungsten and by the time they felt good the coating had often worn considerably. The result was not only cosmetically poor, but could not be accurately predicted. This again is reflected in what the elite professionals use as their default darts. The vast majority use older, natural tungsten darts with no fuss!