Some darts players are known tinkerers – forever tweaking the barrel design, or the length of their shafts or flight patterns.
Others, like Peter Wright have no qualms about swapping to completely different sets even during a tournament.
For others though, the connection between player and dart is akin to snooker players and their cues and cricketers and their bats.
Separation anxiety doesn’t even begin to describe it. 2004 BDO World Champion, Andy “The Viking” Fordham, is one such player.
Now, having used the same set of darts for more than three decades, he is making a change. And it’s a wrench. Andy said: “I started playing darts when I was 19 or 20.
“I was a good footballer then. After games and training we used to play darts in the Angerstein Hotel in East Greenwich.
“The darts team was short one for a match and asked me if I would fill in, which I did. I was rubbish but from then on I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the game. I played all the time.”
Despite that inauspicious start, Andy soon found the technique and form that would go on to win the Winmau World Masters and the BDO World Championship, not to mention countless other tournaments and titles.
Andy said: “I’d been given a set (of darts) for my 21st birthday but snapped the point off one of them. I was due to play in a county match for Kent up in Wolverhampton – I’m going back probably 35 years ago now – and saw a set of darts for sale on a charity stall. I bought them for £3.
“My first game was against a Scottish international player called Steve Parks. I threw a 13-darter in the first leg and have used them ever since.
“I don’t even know who made them. Over the years I’ve tried and tried to get a second set without any luck. They started off weighing 21 grams but over the last 30 odd years they’ve worn down to about 18 grams now.”
So why now then, after years at the top of the game, would Andy want to change the darts that have been an integral part of his success and his career for nearly forty years?
Andy said: “The truth is that my old darts have just about had it.
“They have worn to inconsistent weights and the grip has gone. Chris White, one of my sponsors made me realise that having just one set of darts is crazy given the amount I play all over the country and Europe.”
Being given the task of providing the replacement darts must have been just as daunting. Here is a player for whom his set of darts have transcended beyond being a piece of equipment. Andy turned to Winmau, his main sponsors for 12 years, and set them the challenge.
He said: “I’ve been involved with a few darts manufacturers over the years, but I’d never move from Winmau. They are like family. When I told them I needed a new set of darts they wanted them to be right every bit as much as I did.”
Though completely different, the similarities between the old and new sets are obvious.
The new darts are 90 per cent military-grade tungsten and are finished in a black Onyx coating. Like the old ones, the barrels are bullet-shaped and the main gripping area – picked out in white – comprises a series of six quite thick bands. Unlike his original darts, a second gripping area made from five much finer sharktooth bands, is located at the back of the barrel.
Like other professional players in the Winmau stable, Andy has spent countless hours with the company’s technicians perfecting his new darts.
Andy said: “I didn’t realise just how much of my grip holds the back of the dart until I spent some time with Winmau’s boffins.
“As a result, they have made the barrel a few millimetres longer.
“I have tried other darts in the past, of course I have.
“I tried a set with a much longer, more tapered bullet barrel, but they flicked up in the air when they hit the board.
“I like my darts to strike the board level, so I can work above and below the darts in the board. These new darts fly through the air great.”
Though clearly delighted with the end result, Andy admits that breaking the bond with his old darts is tough.
“It’s all in the head, I know it is,” he says. “If I threw my old darts away, or lost them and had no choice but to play with the new ones my life would be so much easier.”
However, now, having made the commitment to his new equipment, Andy’s game continues to improve.
“I do loads of exhibitions up and down the country and they are a great proving ground. You play lots of games, many of them against good players.”
Currently ranked 30 by the BDO, Andy was unlucky to just miss out on an appearance at the 2017 Lakeside World Championship – a tournament he, not to mention the rest of the darting community, is clearly desperate to participate in again following an absence of ten years.
Andy’s new steel tip Winmau darts are available in 23 and 25 grams, and 18 grams in soft tip. For more details see http:// www.winmau.com/det/2603/ andy_fordham/