Introduction: Dart Light

A dart board needs good lighting and traditional spot lights or ambient room lighting just isn't good enough. So, after searching for what was available and what others have done in the world, I ended up with the best solution being to make my own Dart Light. It turned out so much better than I was even hoping for! This Dart Light surround is as bright as I want it to be, more modern than the traditional cabinet and very cool looking! And in addition to all of the different colors and lighting modes you can choose from, the center white LEDs provide 360 degrees of clear bright light focused on the dart board which eliminates shadows cast by darts that all players hate. This will really make you want to play darts!

I didn't think about writing up this project while I was making it, so I didn't take pictures of each stage. However, the pictures I do have with the instructions I've added should be clear enough to understand exactly what you need to do. The attached videos should give you a very good feel for how the project turned out, but know that it is truly much more impressive in person.

Note: If you are wondering about changing background colors distracting you while you are throwing darts, I can tell you that for me and everyone else that has played on my board so far, it does not distract at all. But, if it does distract you, you can of course pull out your remote control and stick the background light to any solid color and brightness you wish or you can turn it off altogether.

Step 1: Materials and Tools You Will Need

Picture of Materials and Tools You Will Need

Materials

* 1 Sheet of 4' x 8' 3/4" MDF board

* 1 Sheet of 4' x 8' 1/4" wood board(any/cheapest type you can find will be ok)

* 1 16' White LED Strip

* 1 mini LED Controller Dimmer w/Remote

* 1 AC to DC 12V Power Supply Adapter (for white LED strip)

* 16' RGBWW LED strip (kit with controller, remote and power supply)

* Wood Glue

* Wood Filler (for sealing cut edges and gaps between the layers)

* 20 1 1/4" #8 Wood Screws (2 10 packs)

* 2 cans of Spray Paint Primer

* Extra 20awg wire (extra wire is for connecting white LED strip to where your power adapter will be)

* Dart Board Surround Protector (for between the edge of the dart board and the edge of the dart light enclosure)

* Shrink Tubing (for protecting wire extension connections on the 2 LED strips)

* 4 Screws with Wall Anchors

  • These are to mount the Dart Light Surround to your wall. Choose what is appropriate for your installation Dry Wall screws/anchors, Wood Screws for Studs, etc. Size screw should be 2 - 2 1/2". Bigger is better!

* 2 - 3 Cans of Spray Paint (Your choice)

* 2 Cans of Spray Clear Coat

* Adhesive (for securing the LED strips)

Tools

* Drill (any drill will be fine)

* 1 Countersink Drill Bit for #8 wood screws

* Plunge Base Router

* 1/2" Straight Router Bit (This link is to a 5 piece kit that may same cost as buying an individual 1/2" bit)

* 5" Random Orbital Sander with/ different grain sandpaper discs

* Soldering Iron w/Solder (any will work)

* Phillips head screwdriver or Phillips bit for your drill

* 2 or 3 Clamps (to hold the cut rings while you drill and screw them together)

* Tape Measure

* Razor blade hobby knife

Step 2: Plans and Dimensions

Picture of Plans and Dimensions

These are the simple pictures that I created to plan out the sizes and picture how everything should look.

  • The first drawing shows a front view
    • The wood ring is 2" wide all the way around
    • A standard dart board is 18" in diameter
    • The dart board surround used is 5" in diameter all the way around. So to use this, you will be cutting it down to be 3" inches wide all the way around
  • The second drawing shows a slightly expanded side view of the sandwich of pieces
    • The blue bar represents the RGBWW LED strip that is on groove on the outside edge of the last/back ring
    • The white bar represents the White LED strip that is in the groove that is on the inside edge of the front facing ring
    • The big black block in the middle represents the actual dart board
  • The 3rd drawing shows the side view of the sandwich of rings put together
    • This drawing is mainly to illustrate how the white LED strip wires go through a hole you will drill through the bottom of the rings from the back side to the inside White LED groove on the front ring
  • The last drawing is of the circles
    • Each circle is 28" in diameter and this picture is mainly just to show how to arrange them on the sheet of wood to get all 4 circles out of 1 sheet of wood

Step 3: Make a Jig to Cut Circles

Picture of Make a Jig to Cut Circles

There are several ways to cut out the circles. The method I chose is to use a router which should help keep the edges clean and consistent and because it was the easiest way I could find. (You could use a jigsaw, however this would be much more difficult. Jigsaw NOT recommended)

In order to cut the circles in the next step, you will need to make a super simple jig for your router. There are several videos and tutorials available out there, so if the attached picture of my jig isn't clear enough for you, just do a quick Internet search and you'll find plenty of tutorials. (You can also visit your local hardware store to purchase a jig for cutting circles if you wish too, but it's really not necessary for this project.)

To briefly describe it, the jig is simply just a thin strip of scrap wood that you mount to the bottom of your router. (Notice that you need to cut a hole for the router bit to go through and you'll need to also drill a few holes so that screws on the bottom of your router will line up with the jig too so you can attach the jig.) On the other end of the strip of wood, you insert a screw that will be the center point of all circles you cut. To make different size circle cuts, you just have to change the distance between the router bit and the screw by moving the screw to your desired length away from the router bit. (This is why you see multiple holes around the screw in my picture.) The distance between the router bit and the screw is the radius of the circle you are making. So, if you want a 28" circle, you need to have a distance of 14" inches between the router bit and the screw. Once you have your screw measured for the size circle you want to cut, you'll put your router/jig assembly on top of the wood you are cutting and screw the screw into the center point of where you want the circle to be cut. Then after you verify your router won't run out of wood and go beyond any of the edges, you'll turn on the router, push it down into the wood to start cutting and then slowly rotate the router/jig in a circle until your cut is complete.

(Since you will have plenty of leftover wood from the 1/4" 4' x 8' wood you have for the back board, you can cut a strip from that to use to create your jig.)

Step 4: Make the Circles

Picture of Make the Circles

Before you start cutting, the first thing you need to do is draw 4 circles with a 28" diameter onto the MDF sheet. Any way you wish to do this is fine. They don't have to be perfect as these are just a guide to ensure you have them spaced out well and can make all 4 circles with 1 sheet of MDF. I used a piece of string attached to a pencil and a screw to draw the circles.

  1. Set your router/jig to have 14" between the edge of the router bit and the screw.
  2. Attach the router/jig to the MDF sheet with the screw in the jig by screwing it into the center point of the circle on the MDF.
    • You don't have to screw it all the way in. Just a few turns to ensure that it is secure is all that is needed
  3. Push the router/jig around 360 degrees to ensure that it will be a good cut to give a full circle without coming too close or over any edges. Adjust where you screwed into the MDF as necessary.
  4. Turn on your router and adjust the bit (plunge) down into the MDF to start the cut. Slowly rotate the router all the way around until you have completed cutting the circle.
    • It may be best to only cut half way through the MDF the first pass and then make a second pass with the bit cutting all the way through the MDF board to finally cut out and free the circle.
  5. Repeat these steps create 3 more circles.
  6. Set your router/jig to have 13.5" between the edge of the router bit and the screw
  7. Attach the router/jig to the 1/4" wood panel and make the cut to create the back panel

Step 5: Making Rings and LED Grooves

Picture of Making Rings and LED Grooves

For this step, you need to cut out the centers so that you have rings. 2 of the circles are easy and simply get one cut each to take out their middles. For the other 2 circles, you need to cut out the LED grooves first before making the final cut that removes the middles. Reason for this is that if you make that final cut to remove the middle before making the LED groove, there won't be any wood there to attach the router/jig to create the LED groove!

Center Rings

  1. Adjust your router/jig to have 12" between the edge of the router bit and the screw

  2. Attach the router/jig to one of the circles using the same center screw hole on that circle that you used to create it.

  3. Turn on the router and make the cut just like you did in the previous steps when you created the circles.

    Be very careful as you approach the end of the cut. The 2 pieces will become separated and you don't want any extra dings in your new ring when it is freed from the middle piece you are cutting out. Go slow and keep everything secure.

    If you do happen to have dings or dents, not to worry. That's another thing that the wood filler can be used for.

  4. Repeat these steps 1 - 3 for 1 more circle.

Front Face Ring

  1. Adjust your router/jig to have 12.25" between the edge of the router bit and the screw

  2. Attach the router/jig to one of the circles using the same center screw hole on the circle that you used to create it.

  3. Turn on the router and make the cut just like you did in previous steps, except for this cut, you do NOT cut all the way through.  Only push (plunge) the router into the wood about 1/4" to 1/3" deep (The width of your LED strip).

  4. Now adjust your router/jig to have 12" between the edge of the router bit and the screw.

  5. Attach the router/jig to that same center hole and make the cut all the way through which will remove the center and leave you with a ring.

  6. Note:  The White LED groove will be on the inside edge of the ring.  Once you put all of the rings together, the solid second ring will complete the groove.

Back Ring

  1. Adjust your router/jig to have 13.75" between the edge of the router bit and the screw

  2. Attach the router/jig to one of the circles using the same center screw hole on the circle that you used to create it. Turn on the router and make the cut just like you did in previous steps, except for this cut, you do NOT cut all the way through.  Only push (plunge) the router into the wood about 1/4" to 1/3" deep (The width of your LED strip)

  3. Now adjust your router/jig to have 12" between the edge of the router bit and the screw.

  4. Attach the router/jig to that same center hole and make the cut all the way through which will remove the center and leave you with a ring.

  5. Note: The outside edge of this ring will have the RGBWW LED groove.

Step 6: Putting the Rings Together

Picture of Putting the Rings Together

Now that you have 4 rings and the back panel ready, it's time to put them all together.

  1. Start with the front ring (the one that will contain the white LED strip and face you when you are throwing darts. Lay this ring face down so that the groove for the white LED is on top.
  2. Make a pencil mark somewhere on the outside side edge so that you can remember where you have put your screws. (This will make more sense in a minute)
  3. Place one of the solid rings that does not have LED grooves on top of that one and align the edges to match as best you can and then clamp them together tightly.
  4. Use the drill and countersink to pre-drill 4 holes at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. (12 o'clock is where you made that pencil mark on the outside edge) Careful not to drill too deep and penetrate the front face of the front ring!
  5. Separate the 2 pieces and apply a bead of wood glue all the way around on the front ring.
  6. Place the solid ring back on top and re-align the pre-drilled holes you made.
  7. Screw the 2 pieces together using a screwdriver and your screws.
  8. Repeat these steps to add the next solid ring. But this time, check that reference mark you made in step 2 and make pre-drilled holes at 1, 4, 7 and 10 o'clock so that you do not run into those 1st 4 screws that you put the 1st 2 layers together with.
  9. Now repeat these steps one more time to add the final ring that has the background LED groove. This time, make pre-drilled holes at 2, 5, 8 and 11 o'clock so that you do not run into those last 4 screws you did.
  10. NOTE: Do not add the back panel yet because you need the ring open in order to sand the inside.

Step 7: Sanding and Making It Smooth

Picture of Sanding and Making It Smooth

Time to make it smooth!

Don't worry about sanding inside the LED grooves. That's difficult and they really won't be visible in the end anyway.

  1. Use the wood filler and liberally apply to the entire outside and inside edges of the ring.
    • This is needed to seal the cut edge so that your primer and paint don't soak into the wood so you will have a smooth finished edge when it is all done. It is also necessary to use the wood filler to seal any gaps between the different layers so that when you are finished it will appear as one solid piece.
  2. Also apply wood filler to any other dents, dings or imperfections you may have.
  3. After the wood filler has completely dried, use your random orbital sander with the lowest grain (coarse) sandpaper you have and go over the entire project until the outside and inside edges of the ring are all even and smooth.
    • If your project turns out like mine, my edges were far from perfect and I had to do a lot of sanding to get all of the edges even and smooth. So, don't worry if your cuts were a little off. Just keep sanding and sooner or later you'll get them all even and smooth.
  4. Switch to a medium grain sandpaper now and go over the project again inside and out and all over.
  5. Finally, switch your sandpaper to the highest grain (fine) sandpaper that you have and go over the entire project again until it is as smooth as possible.

Step 8: Primer, Paint and Clear Coat

Picture of Primer, Paint and Clear Coat

Time to be creative....if you want. I chose to use plain black, but of course you can use any paint, designs, patterns, etc. for your project. (Maybe next time I'll try to dual purpose the Dart Light and figure out how to embed some numbers that in the face making it server as a cool clock too!)

  1. Always spray primer/paint around 8" to 10" away from your project to avoid runs and achieve good even coats.
  2. Apply a full even coat of primer to the entire project inside and out and allow to dry.
  3. Apply a another coat of primer inside and out and allow to dry.
  4. Now apply a full even coat of paint to the entire project.
  5. After the first coat of paint dries completely, apply a second coat of paint just like you did the first coat.
  6. If needed, add another coat of paint after coat 2 is dry.
  7. Don't forget your back panel! Give it a good coat of paint also, especially the outside edge that is actually the only visible part that you will have once everything is assembled. Don't worry about primer on this one. Just one good coat of paint is more than enough.

Step 9: Add the Back Panel

Picture of Add the Back Panel

After your paint is completely dry, you can attach your back panel now.

  1. Using the same method you used when attaching the rings together, pre-drill 4 holes at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30 o'clock.
  2. Add a bead of glue all the way around the back of the rings and then screw the back panel on.

Step 10: Cut the Foam Surround

Picture of Cut the Foam Surround

For me, this was the probably the hardest part of the project. This dart board foam surround is a little too big, so you have to cut it down to size.

I don't have a perfect approach to recommend here. For me, I eyeballed it and simply used an razor blade knife to carefully cut the un-needed outer edge excess off so that the foam would fit snugly inside the dart light project.

Notes:

  • Turn this dart surround foam over for plain black. (I would have liked to keep the logo in the front, but after cutting off the excess, the logo was no longer in tact.)
  • This dart board surround holds the board so tightly that I ended up not actually using the dart board mounting bracket. Just be sure that you cut yours just slightly bigger than the dart light project ring and all will be tight when you fit it inside the ring. (In a perfect world you should use the dart board mounting bracket. In my case I didn't have to and it saved me some time and some holes.)

Step 11: Test Install the Foam and Dart Board

Picture of Test Install the Foam and Dart Board

Squeeze in your foam dart board surround now and then add your dart board to check how everything is fitting. Adjust and trim the foam as necessary.

It's starting to get exciting now!

Step 12: Add the LED Lights

Picture of Add the LED Lights

Let there be light!

LED strips can be cut at every 3 LEDs as shown in the attached picture. Also, although the LED strips have a sticky back to them, they really aren't sticky enough to your project.

  1. Choose where you will call the bottom of the ring. (This will be the starting and finishing point for both of the LED strips when you wrap the LED strips around.)
  2. RGBWW Background LED strip
    • Start with the background LED groove and add a little of the rubber-like clear adhesive all the way around.
    • Now, start with the end of the RGBWW LED strip that has the wires connected to it and align the first LED at that spot you choose to be the bottom of the ring and wrap it all the way around your project while removing the sticky backing from the strip a little at a time as you go.
      • When you get back to where you started, you'll have extra LED strip length that you need to cut. Use a pair of scissors and cut as shown in the attached picture so that the last LED ends up right next to the first LED in the strip.
    • White LED strip
      • You're going to do this the same way you did the background LED strip, however the only difference is that before we apply the adhesive and install the white LED strip, we need to extend the LED strip wires and drill a hole to feed the wires through.
        • Using your soldering iron, shrink tubing and the black/red extra wire, add whatever length of wire that you will need to connect your LED strip to where ever your power will be located. (If you are not familiar with soldering and shrink tubing, do an Internet search for details.)
        • The white LED strip only has 2 wires, so choose a drill bit big enough to accommodate the 2 wires and drill a hole from the back of the Dart Light at the bottom where the background LED strip starts/ends so that the hole goes through the rings and ends up making an opening where the white LED groove is. This will provide the path to feed the wires through the rings to the back. (See attached diagram) Careful not to drill to deep and penetrate the front face of your project!
        • Feed the wires on the white LED strip from the hole inside the groove and pull them through the back of the ring until the 1st LED is right next to the hole you're feeding the wires through.
        • Apply the rubber-like clear adhesive all the way around the groove and then wrap the white LED strip all the way around until you get back to your starting point removing the sticky backing a little at a time as you go along.
        • Cut the white LED strip as indicated in the attached picture.

    Step 13: Mount Your New Dart Light and Play!

    Picture of Mount Your New Dart Light and Play!

    Use a friend to help you with this step!

    In case you don't already know, for proper play, it really matters at what height you mount a dart board. The center of the bullseye must be exactly 5' 8" from the ground and the line you throw from is 7' 9.25" away from the face of the dart board.

    1. If you still have the foam surround and dart board inserted into the Dart Light, remove them for now.
    2. Pre-drill 4 holes in your back panel as shown in the picture to accommodate the screws you will use to attach the project to your wall
    3. Hold your Dart Light against the wall so that the center of the Dart Light will be exactly 5' 8" from the ground. (There is a hole in the center of the back panel from when you cut this out with the router. This hole is what needs to be 5' 8" from the ground.)
    4. Using a pencil/pen/nail/etc., mark the wall through the 4 holes you drilled into the back panel and then put your Dart Light down for now.
    5. Install the wall anchors that you will be using into each of the 4 spots that you marked on the wall.
    6. Now have your friend hold the Dart Light up against the wall again and align the 4 holes with the wall anchors.
    7. Install the 4 screws for the wall anchors.
    8. Insert the foam surround and dart board.
    9. Plug your LED strips into power and turn them on start playing!

    Step 14: Essential Extras!

    Picture of Essential Extras!

    * To compliment this project, I highly recommend that you get a Laser Dart Throw Line like the one shown in one of the pictures. (I've been using mine for several months now and haven't had to change the batteries on this thing yet!)

    Laser Dart Throw Line

    * Maybe you wonder about keeping score now that the traditional chalkboards inside the traditional cabinet doors are gone. No worries! You can use a tablet or smart phone. That's what I've done and it works great! There are several apps to choose from and for me, this is the one that I believe is one of the best ones out there.

    Darts Scores App

    * If you don't already have a Dart Board, I recommend this one because it's design minimizes bounce outs and the white numbers ring really stands out better than the traditional steel colored ring. (Even if you do already have a dart board, if it's not this one, I recommend getting this one!)

    Winmau Blade 4 Dart Board

    Step 15: Final Notes

    • Turn on your Dart Light for parties! With the LED strip remote controls, you can make the Dart Light dance and add coolness to your party!
    • You are probably wondering "What about stray darts that hit my new precious Dart Light?". Well, I thought about this one and had planned to cut out a piece of Lexan to mount to the front face of the Dart Light. Then I re-thought about it and decided that I'm a pretty good dart player and am never that far off from hitting the actual dart board. So, I finally decided against it. Now, others that play aren't necessarily as accurate as I am and thus I now have a few tiny little holes. They don't really stand out, but if they ever do start to bug me, I can always take it down by removing 4 screws, put on some wood filler, sand and paint it over again and I'll be back to brand new! Maybe I'll even change colors while I'm at it if/when I ever do this.
    • If you are also wondering about where my wires are, I tapped into power inside my wall and hid them inside there. Lucky for me that power happened to conveniently be located right where my Dart Light is installed. But for your installation, you can always go to your local hardware store and get a kit to hide your wires and make everything look nice and clean. Wire Management Kit

    Comments

    schwitzer made it! (author)2017-09-01

    First of all many thanks for this Instructable. It inspired me to build my own dart light.

    I pretty much followed your instructions with only minor modifications. What I really liked was the fact that for the very first time I used my router in a project only to find out that I had already all tools available needed to easily cut circles! This was a great experience but obviously my circles were not perfect but that doesn't really matter, I just learned a lot using the router!

    Unfortunately I was very disappointed when I mounted the dart light and switched on the lights for the very first time. The dart board was NOT lighted at all by the LED's because the distance from the wall was by far too small. So the light came really from the side but didn't hit the board. :-(

    Would be interesting why this worked for you because I used your measurements for the project.....

    Anyway, I now had to modify the whole thing (or throw it away) which I did by adding pieces of metal that increase the distance of the ring from the wall (see pictures). This now screwed up the whole design because unfortunately this is what I didn't want from the beginning (there is a commercial solution which is similar to this, only that there is a ring of metal instead of wood and that there is only one white LED ring), however the lighting of the board itself is now perfect. I could have save a lot of time by just cut one ring, add both white LEDs and backlight and add the metal distance pieces.

    Although not perfect I really like the result. AND there is some room for improvement, maybe next time! :-)

    JeffreyBailey (author)schwitzer2017-09-26

    Hello,

    Looks good, thank you for the feedback! On mine, I have a 1/4" sold back that I don't notice in your pictures. Maybe that little extra helped get my inner led strip beyond the dart board face so that the board gets the light. Another idea is that maybe your 4 rings are made from a different size wood than I used? Can't tell exactly from your pictures, but mine were each 3/4" thick. So altogether the thickness when all are put together is 3 1/4" for mine. Perhaps the groove for the inner lights needed to be closer to face of the front ring? Rather than using the metal pieces, maybe for your project if you just cut one additional ring to add to the back of the stack, that will be a nice clean solution and allow the leds to hit the board face. Anyhow, I appreciate that your feedback and that you made the project! PS: Another person suggested here something along the lines of making the front face a little bigger or the inner led groove deeper so that bystanders at an angle who look at the board don't get such a glaring bright light in their eye. If I ever make another I will definitely do this because I have noticed the same thing on mine and his result from doing this fixed it mostly. Consider that if you break into yours to add/remove rings or re-build it. Thanks! Jeff

    RapidRob made it! (author)2016-12-14

    A mod I would strongly suggest - to cut the face ring 1/4 - 3/8" smaller inside diameter than suggested in the instructions.

    The problem with only cutting a 1/4" deep grove for the LEDs is that the oblique view of the board is compromised due to the LEDs around the edge. This doesn't affect the shooter, but it makes it very difficult to spectate from anywhere except near the hockey line.

    The end product you see here has a strip of 1/4" foam insulation running around the inside perimeter of the face. As you can see from image #2, even at 60 degrees from the face of the board it is still quite easy to view. Before adding the foam it was impossible to see what darts were thrown from anywhere other than the hockey line. There it was perfect. Now it is excellent everywhere.

    So - cut the ID of all rings _except the face ring_ to a 12" diameter. Cut the grove for the LEDs as suggested, but then cut the ID of the face ring at an 11 3/4 or 11 5/8" diameter.

    We often play darts with 6 - 10 people in the room, and before this mod it wasn't possible to follow the game as a spectator. Now everyone can, easily, see what is happening.

    Mr. Bailey, thank you for spending the time to post the Instructable!

    JeffreyBailey (author)RapidRob2017-06-01

    Looks great! I like your blue foam better than my black one. I may have to swap mine out. Thanks for the idea for cutting down on the inner LED light glare from angles! If I make another one, I'll definitely add this change.

    charmingwolf (author)2015-12-23

    Great Instructable! If/when you upgrade your rgb's you can lookup how to ardiuno control your current rgb's and make it do all kinds of neat stuff... Perhaps have steady color until the dart hits, then it changes... Just ideas :) Again great Instructable!

    Thank you for the feedback and ideas!! I haven't gotten into using Arduino yet, but it's on my list and your idea would be a great first project!

    DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2015-12-22

    Awesome dart board design. I really like how the back lighting expands the visual image of a target.

    Thank you! For the back lighting, you could also get a sound activated LED controller to make it bounce to music too or recently I discovered LED strips that allow for the strip to display multiple colors at the same time. Might have to upgrade this thing soon!

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