Column #287 Hey Dummy! We’re Talkin’ about a Darts Light!

March 1, 2007
Column 287
Hey Dummy! We’re Talkin’ about a Darts Light!

I realize this may be a bit incircumspect but, what the hell – this is frickin’ Dartoid’s World, so I’m gonna just put it out there.

Had Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan been Jewish and Austin, Texas’ inventor Scott Harrison been alive 500 years ago, under the circumstances, a circumcised (OUCH!) Magellan might have circumnavigated the globe with a Circumluminator on board, enabling the crew to throw some 501 before they were attacked and killed by a horde of whacked-out Filipinos with spears.

Okay, that’s stupid. I guess I just have a circumlocution problem.

What I am trying to express here, albeit in a terribly longwinded and roundabout way (that, for you dummies, is the definition of “circumlocution”) is: well… READ THE DAMN TITLE!

YES, we’re talkin’ about a dartboard light but we’re not talking about just any light. We’re talkin’ about a spectacular invention that is certain to someday be as widely used as Julie Mayfield was back at Flint, Central High School in 1969.

It’s called the Circumluminator because, unlike traditional dartboard lights that don’t work worth crap, this light surrounds the board like a giant Krispy Kreme doughnut and illuminates the board perfectly sans even the hint of a shadow or glare. It’s a marvelous thing.

Others have written about it, all in the most approving of terms. England’s Doctor of Darts, Patrick Chaplin, called it the “bee’s knees” (whatever the hell that means). Former world champion, Bob Anderson, pronounced it “sweeter than my golf swing.” Tim Cronian of Crows Darts down in Alabama said it was “as fine a crawdad pie.” Erik McVey of SEWA Darts (who introduced me to the light) was the most complimentary of all, “Ain’t it a beautiful thing?” he exclaimed as we entered his darts room, where two of the lights frame boards on the wall. “I’m tellin’ you Dartoid, the light is almost as wonderful as all the kind and loving people who visit my darts forum every day.”

Seriously, if you want to know more about what these guys think, go to: http://www.patrickchaplin.com/Circumluminator.htm
for Chaplin’s, http://www.bobanderson180.co.uk/links.htm
for Anderson’s, http://www.crowsdarts.com/reviews/circumluminator.html
for Cronian’s, and http://www.sewa-darts.com/
for McVey’s (but you’ll have to register to read the last one).

Or you can just blow them all off and keep reading.

Actually, the Circumluminator isn’t entirely new. Its inventor, the aforementioned Scott Harrison of Austin, a retired VISA executive, patented the light in 2003. As Harrison explains it, “I retired a bit early in 2000 with IRA assets that should have provided substantial lifetime income without any need to spend capital. The economic collapse following the presidential election that year, exacerbated by the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 cost me about 60% of my assets and forced me to spend capital to live.”

Harrison wrestled for a time with what to do – go back to work or do something on his own. At about the same time, he fell in with a group of darts players who hung out at an Austin tavern called the Waterloo Brewing Company, owned by Billy Forrester. Said Harrison, “I think Samuel Johnson had people like Billy in mind when he wrote ‘There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.’” (Since closing the Waterloo a few years ago, Forrester has created another popular Austin tavern, a meeting place for beer, talk, darts, pool and games called “Billy’s On Burnet” at 2105 Hancock – at the intersection of Burnet.)

So when he should have been working or at least looking for work Harrison got hooked on darts instead and started dipping into his savings. Darts has that effect on people. It makes them smart. Harrison hung out at the Waterloo and, when it closed, headed with his new found friends to become one of the regulars at the oche at Michael Parker’s Opal Divines Freehouse (700 West Sixth Street).

Then one night, kind of like Martin Luther King, Harrison had a dream. Really, he did.

One of the things he had noticed as he got more and more involved in the game was that lighting was often an issue. The lights wiggled, cast shadows and glare. Sometimes they burned out in the middle of a game or, worse, just plain fell off.

One night in early 2003, Harrison popped awake in the middle of the night. “I woke up with the idea that I could make a light for dartboards that eliminates shadows. Within a month, I had tested the idea well enough that I was pretty sure I could do it. By mid summer I had a prototype that worked pretty well but was expensive to make and ugly.”

By fall there was no turning back. Harrison was set to address his economic future by forming his own company to develop and market the Circumluminator. In November 2003, he founded Nuvolux Incorporated and began to introduce his invention – “a lamp designed for symmetrical, shadow-free, glare-free lighting of a dartboard by encircling the board with light” – to a global market.

Truth be known, I’m not much into darts products. A dart is a dart in my opinion. After passing through the beginner’s excitement phase years ago, I had a set custom made by Montreal’s Jeff Pickup and have thrown the same set ever since. I’ll never trade them for something newfangled. In nearly 300 columns relating to the sport, never before have I written about a product. The thing is, never before have I seen anything that impressed me – immediately – as much as the Circumluminator.

I first saw it about a month ago surrounding a couple of boards at Erik McVey’s house in Pasco, Washington. The next night I played on a Circumluminator-lit board at John “Jester” Prescott’s home, also in Pasco. From that weekend on I couldn’t get the thing out of my mind. Not only does it accomplish what it claims by eliminating lighting issues as factors in the sport, it is a work of art.

So I contacted Harrison, began an e-mail “conversation,” and eventually arranged to visit with him at his “factory” (currently his garage) in Austin during the weekend of the Capital City Darts Association’s (CCDA) annual Capital City Classic. I threw in tournament too but things didn’t go too well. My first partner, local shot Keith Denson, and I lost in the top sixteen round of the blind draw on Friday night. My second partner, Houston’s Jeff “Halfcat” Kratz, and I went down in flames after drawing Daryl Montgomery and Rick Stevenson in the first round of 501 on Saturday. I was set to throw with Houston’s Donny Joe on Sunday but thought it to Joe’s advantage that I beat a fast path out of town.

What I learned from Harrison is more impressive than the light itself. He constructs the Circumluminators himself, by hand. While some of the components are manufactured in Fucheng, China (the name of the city is spelled correctly there; I’m not trying to sneak in a bad, bad word), the nitty-gritty assembly process is a labor of love – and necessary finance-wise. Until Nuvolux is profitable (it may be by the time you read these words), from early morning until late at night Harrison, with his dog Henrietta at his side, is a one-man operation. To bring on staff at this juncture would drive up the cost of an already expensive product and likely depress sales.

The Circumluminator currently sells for around $200, not that it’s not worth every penny. Even at this price Harrison is selling the Circumluminator at the rate of about one every third day. And he’s selling them all over the world. This is particularly revealing because it costs as much again to ship the light to many countries as it does to buy it.

There’s light at the end of this light cost issue however!

Nuvolux is not some fly-by-night operation. There’s a business plan and the patent is solid. Says Harrison, “Until 2023, anyone who makes a dartboard light that encircles the board, regardless of size or type of lamp, will be treading on the toes of my patent. The inspiration for this came from Apple’s successful defense of its claim to the ‘look and feel of the Macintosh system’ at about the time my patent application was filed.” A patent from the European Patent Office is pending. Once the company moves into the black the plan is for production and distribution to be China-based. This will likely cut the price by more than half.

As I’ve said, the light it a thing of beauty. To see one on a wall in someone’s house is an eye-popper. To see a row of them casing soft light on dartboards along the wall of a bar is impressive. But to see more than thirty of them surrounding every board at a tournament, as was the case at the Capital City Classic, and to hear nothing but compliments, is a sight to behold – and a hell of a positive indicator as to the future of the Circumluminator. Without a doubt Harrison’s invention has unique and broad worldwide appeal – to the individual darter for home use to the tavern owners to darts leagues and tournament directors.

The other thing that Harrison has going for him is a flair for marketing. The Circumluminator seems to sell itself – its mere presence as well as its functionality is so overwhelming that when someone sees one they just have to have it.

Naturally, part of Harrison’s plan is to get the lights to places where new people can try them out. For example, if you make it to Stacy Bromberg’s annual Score for Charity fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation (July 3 at CD’s Lounge in Las Vegas) there will be a Circumluminator there. I plan to teach Erik McVey a darting lesson in a challenge match after which John Part claims he’s going to stick me to the bulls-eye with one of his girlie-boy signature darts. You must get to this fundraiser to see all this, help Make-a-Wish, and check out the Circumluminator.

I’d tell you all about how the Circumluminator is made – about the durability of the special plastic, the perfect intensity of the light it casts on the board, how you can have it personalized with your name or a logo or anything you want, how easily it installs – but all this, technically, is proprietary information. Only Harrison (and a handful of seven-year-old Chinese kids at the Fucheng factory) know the details.

My advice: Don’t pass this product by. It’s a one-of-a-kind frickin’ beautiful thing that your wife will probably let you hang on the bedroom wall.

Go to the Nuvolux website at http://www.nuvolux.com today and place your order.

You won’t be disappointed.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.
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