There are more pictures and indeed more video - but I have to respect the wishes of Red Dragon and not show all of the inner workings of their set up, stock levels etc etc. So the other pictures are not for public consumption I'm afraid.
neil wrote:The Journey to Bear Darts birth place….
Andy Walsh and myself set off on the 200 mile journey to South Wales full of questions about the day and what would happen, and the journey passed very quickly, with chat about how Bear Darts would be made, darts in general and what I wanted from the darts, soon we were in the valleys pulling up at Red Dragon, and I for one was surprised at the sheer size of the place. The place is huge! I didn’t know what I was expecting but the two storey building was impressive from the start.
Arrival Inside Red Dragon has a professional bustling reception area, with displays of products on offer and it‘s obvious how big and serious a dart operation this actually is. At this point a chap wandered through reception, introduced himself and said hello, the Welsh accent threw me, and I missed most of what was said, which was slightly embarrassed considering this was Lee Huxtable – Head of Engineering and worlds dart wizard who is responsible for the creation of so many of the darts that we all know. Everywhere you look there are things really interesting darts items.
All of the dartboards that are produced by the company were up on the wall, all of the dart range was in a display case and there were posters of all the models used by Red Dragon in their catalogue over the years. We were just getting into the stride when Simon Hall came to meet us and took us to the Board and conference room, with a large table and displays of the company’s engineering work.
Over a coffee we learnt all about Red Dragon’s long background in top class engineering. Back in the early days of tungsten dart production, they were creating and selling darts as part of their engineering work when they made the decision to sell direct to the public, sales took off and Red Dragon was born. Fast forward 35 years and all darts are made in the specialist Kenyan production facility that ensures the very highest standards of manufacture are maintained at all times, where at least two of the senior UK production team is in Kenya at any one time. Looking around you get the idea of the sheer size of the place and how dart focused they are. Suffice to say that Red Dragon’s stock levels are mind numbing, and the ability to control it amazing. We were given a tour around the place – Aladdins cave does not describe it!
Custom Fitted Bear Darts Designed by yours truly We met Lee Huxtable in the development centre, which was really exciting as all Red Dragons R&D happens in this room. It’s a proper engineering facility and I couldn’t believe that Lee was going to make my own Bear darts right in front of my eyes. I have to tell you that this man is a genius with a lathe. The standards of accuracy that he works to are truly amazing!
I had been in touch with Lee and Simon before the day so they had some ideas about what I wanted but I was looking forward to seeing what was involved in the process. The workshop itself is extremely well equipped and wherever you looked, you would see something interesting. Loads of possible barrel designs, professional’s tested darts ready to be assembled with points etc everywhere. Now here we get to part of the process that amazed me. I always assumed that dart manufacturers would go to some kind of metal stockholders and order some tungsten blanks etc to make the barrels. Not at Red Dragon – they make their own! Lee showed me a bag full of fine powder – this was the mixture of tungsten, nickel and other agents that is mixed together in the foundry to create the tungsten barrel billets to the exact percentages.
All the tungsten blanks are made 100% by Red Dragon which guarantees amazing material consistency of the highest degree. Lee showed us bags full of blanks of varying thicknesses and tungsten percentages for the creation of different darts, and its hard top get your head around the fact that there are over 200 options before you even start designing. I’ve always wanted to know why the 95% tungsten darts are so much more expensive, and on finding out that it’s harder to make as it requires much higher sintering temperatures and raw materials to offset this, you can easily see why it adds a fair whack to the cost of the darts, but gives you that much thinner a dart. Lee is obviously a talented guy. He told me of a couple of his ideas – one in particular for an oche was pure genius and I hope he gets that one in production – but we were sworn to secrecy so don’t ask!! The design process involves an in-depth discussion about what I wanted my dart to look like, what type of grip I would like and what percentage tungsten I would like. I opted for a level 5 grip with more subtle than usual razor edges in exactly the place that I hold the dart. I wanted perfect balance as I think that is important in a dart. Soon we had a clear idea of what was required and Lee set about programming his CNC lathe to produce the first trial of my dart from a 90% blank. Lee fanatical about accuracy and quality – he produced a few different barrels to get the design just right and to get the weight to my requested 24g. The final product is simply amazing! The Bear Darts are bang on 24g – it turns out that the manufacturing standards used by Red Dragon ensure that all their darts are made to very exacting tolerances, but these ones were exact. By the time Lee had made the first set of darts that he was happy with, Simon, Andy and myself were down in the showroom part of the factory, when I got to test them first. Personally, I believe that if a dart ‘looks right’ then it will probably fly well and these darts looked amazing. My first throw of the darts produced a ton and proved my theory as they fit perfectly in the hand, grip exactly where I need it and they fly flat – courtesy I suspect of that perfect balance. I wanted no further tweaking to the “Bear Darts” – they felt perfect and they flew beautifully!
We continued our tour of the facility and went to the shop.
Again – huge levels of stock were available and all of the range of darts produced by the company were on display on the shop wall. A blast from the past for me as I spotted the 20g Valiants – a dart that I threw for years! We spent a little while in here throwing darts on the shops board and playing with the Bear darts, then we were taken to yet another section of the factory.
Here Lee was again demonstrating his mastery of yet more machinery – this time the Laser etching machine. I few minutes setting up the machine and both the Double16 darts were laser etched as was one of the rather nice aluminium cases that Red Dragon sell.
This was the end of a very entertaining visit to the Red Dragon facility. The only thing left to do was lunch. A short trip to a very pleasant local pub for lunch and also for Simon to thrash us at his ‘Brass dart challenge!’
The trip home was full of talk about darts, machinery, the accuracy that these people work to etc etc – the journey went quickly. I am enormously proud to have Red Dragon produce darts that I have designed. The experience was fantastic and the day was fascinating on many different levels. I know that when I am reviewing darts I make reference to how well they are manufactured, but having seen the process I now know that they are manufactured to the very highest of standards using the finest of materials.
A great day and my thanks to Simon Hall, Lee Huxtable, all those at Red Dragon and of course Andy Walsh who was kind enough to drive us down there for the day.