No matter how good you may be at darts, the time will come when you’re in the middle of a game of cricket with friends and one of them — or maybe you if you’ve had a few too many — will miss the board. Why not build a quick and easy backboard surround that’ll look sharp and save you from spending hours with spackle and paint after each “tournament.” We’ll show you how.
Our design goals are simple: create a backdrop that has a nice “bar room gaming” feel to it, is large enough to protect the wall, and can be recovered easily when it finally starts to look raggedy.
It’s been our experience that most inexperienced dart-slingers miss below the board as opposed to above, and side misses are rare and often end up relatively close to the board. So, we decided on a 3′ wide x 4′ high backboard with the dart board mounted in the upper center. This gives a good 3+ feet of “protection” underneath the board, yet keeps the whole contraption down to a reasonable size.
1/4″ plywood makes a great shield for the wall, and covering it with felt not only gives the finished project a sort of pool-table-like feel, it also hides the small holes made by errant darts. We chose to use 1″ x 3″ pine to frame the backboard, both for looks and to help capture darts that careen off at an angle.
We also decided to use more 1″ x 3″ to create a plus-shaped brace inside the frame and to space the backboard away from the wall. This area underneath the backboard will let us conveniently hang the frame and will also allow us to remove and re-felt the 1/4″ ply backboard at a later date.
Materials List and Shopping
We used the following materials for the build:
- one 4′ x 4′ sheet of 1/4″ plywood
- two 10′ sticks of 1″ x 3″ pine (Note: You could use more expensive wood here if you like. We’re cheap.)
- one 8′ stick of moulding trim
- three yards of green felt
- nine small metal 90-degree brackets with screws
- twelve #10 x 1-1/2″ wood screws
- one can of wood filler putty
- one can of sanding sealer
- two cans of satin black spray paint (Note: You could stain it, but see above.)
You’re going to need to make two stops to pick up these materials: your local big-box retailer or hardware store and a fabric shop.
We’d guess you’re already familiar with the hardware store, but if you’re not into crafts you may still be a fabric store virgin. If so, let us offer you a bit of advice: The best fabric stores are staffed by old ladies. If you don’t have to talk to an old lady to buy the fabric, look elsewhere — you’re probably paying too much. Once you find a good shop, be prepared to take some time to get what you need. Speed is not high on these store’s priority list, so have pationce; It’ll pay off in the end. We managed to find three yards of green felt for just $6.
We started off our build by miter-cutting the 1″ x 3″ wood to length. In our case we used the table saw portion of the Skil X-Shop saw in our long-term test fleet, but you could also make these cuts with a miter saw. To make the cuts we first adjusted the cross-cut pusher to 45 degrees and adjusted the saw’s blade to just exceed the height of the board.
Hint: If you’re making a miter cut with a (non-detent) manually-set mechanism — or if you’re making complex compound miter cuts — it’s safest to start by making a small test cut just an inch or two from the end of one of your stock boards. You can flip the small piece around and see if it fits (i.e. you got the adjustment right or figured your compound miter settings correctly). What you don’t want to do is make one cut right in the middle of the board then find out you’re wrong.
After a successful test cut, we measured, marked, and cut each of the four frame pieces to length, remembering to measure the inside length to exactly 4′ and 3″ respectively. While still in 45-degree mode, we also measured and cut the trim to the appropriate lengths.
Hint: On a framing job like this, it’s very important that the parallel pieces on each side are the exact same length. Be sure to check them against each other before you make the cut. This assures that the corners will remain square and line up correctly.
We then measured and cut the 1″ x 3″ pieces to serve as the plus-shaped brace in the center of the frame: a 4′ piece to run vertically down the center and two 16-1/2″ pieces to create the horizontal component.
While still in “saw” mode, we made the single cut required to lop 1′ off the side of our 4′ x 4′ piece of 1/4″ ply, leaving the 3′ x 4′ piece we need for the backboard.
To give the project a little more professional look, we decided to round off the outside corner of the frame slightly using a router. So, we chucked-up an appropriate router bit and mounted the router into the X-Shop, which can serve as a router table. Using a piece of scrap 1″ x 3″ we set the router’s plunge height and the table’s fence position to achieve the correct cut, then we fed each of the four frame components through — carefully assuring that the correct corner was rounded.
With cutting complete, we cleaned up the (inevitable) mess and laid the frame out on the floor for assembly. We decided to use a combination of glue and a single wood screw to hold each corner together — the screw would hold it together while it dries, and afterward the glue would create a more solid connection.
We used a countersink bit to drill a pilot hole for the screw, which helped prevent the wood from splitting when we drove the screws. The countersink bit drills a small area around the screw, giving you a place to fill with a piece of dowel (if you’re staining) or filler putty if you’re painting (like we are).
If you have corner clamps, they’ll help signficantly in keeping the corners straight. If not, use a square and do your best.
Read on to page 2 where we add the center brace and begin cleaning it up.