Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

South Park Pinewood Derby

We’ve added Pinewood Derby blocks, car kits, wheels, weights, stickers and tools to the store and the season is getting underway across the country. My son was a Cub Scout several years ago and we built and raced Pinewood Derby with pretty mixed results!

Here are a few ideas that I learned from building a Pinewood Derby Car with my son.  These tips might make it easier, more fun and more likely to build a competitive Pinewood Derby car.

There are a number of options when starting to make a Pinecar Racer. Some scout troops give out wooden blocks – its the traditional way but requires major shaping before it starts to look like a car.

 

Basic Block

Given kids’ short attention spans and the waiting associated with a whole pack getting their blocks shaped I’d recommend starting with one of the pre-shaped car kits like Pinecar Racer Wedge Kit. This way kids can get to the parts of the building process that are more hands on like tuning and tweaking for best performance.

The key to Pinecar performance involves the wheels and axles. The rules are pretty strict about replacing wheels and axles so the best course is to make the most out of what is supplied with the car kit. Two areas that you  should focus on are reducing friction caused by the axles and making sure the wheels are aligned properly.

Polished Axles A great start to reducing axle friction is using the Axles & Polishing Kit along with a power drill to remove any burrs on the axle and then polish them to be as smooth as possible. Once the axles are polished they can be lubricated (sparingly) with a graphite based dry lubricant like Hob-E-Lube and the wheels can be mounted.Alignment Tool

If you want your Pinecar Racer to be competitive you have to make sure the wheels are aligned and are all parallel to the track – if they aren’t the wheels will be “scuffing” on the track and your car won’t go as fast as it could. You can do quite a lot by eye but to make sure everything is correct use a Wheel Alignment Tool. This tool is inexpensive (can be shared within a pack as well!) and can verify that axle grooves are aligned, clearance between body and wheels are correct, camber is correct and toe in/out are correct. It also measures ground clearance, overall length and width and width between wheels.

Weights are an important contributor to high performance and range from the simple (Adjustable Stick-On Weights) to the complex (Tungsten C of G Weights that can be adjusted fore and aft to shift the car’s center of gravity). PW Adding WeightPlacement of weights is determined by the style of the car but most cars can use Round Weights that fit neatly into a 3/8″ hole that’s been drilled horizontally along the central axis of the car. If you have a small car and limited places to attach weights take a look at the weights that contain Tungsten. weightComparison

Tungsten has 3 times the density of conventional weights and can be a real problem solver. They come in five different styles including Tungsten Putty which can be added at the last minute if your car is underweight.

Decal PaperWhen it comes time to decorate your car we have the standard decal and dry transfer sets but also have decal paper so you can make your own decals using a laser or ink jet printer. Another option is Bare Metal Foil which is super thin metal foil used by scale modelers to model chrome, aluminum, copper or gold surfaces. Shiny!

 

Be careful and wear appropriate eye and hearing protection if you are using any power tools in the building process. Remember to have fun out there!

Pinewood Design Cartoon

What are your tips for a winning car?

5 thoughts on “Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

    • It is something that you’d need to design yourself. You could start with an image you found on the web but it probably would need to be resized to fit a Pinewood Derby car. We use Pic Monkey for photo editing because its free and pretty easy to use. Once the design is finished I’d print it on plain paper, trim it to image size and make sure it fits the car – cheaper to make mistakes with plain paper than with decal paper! Hope that helps.

      • Thanks! Is there a difference between decal paper and sticker paper? This will be our first experience w pinewood derby cars so I am 100% in the dark!

        • Hi: The decal paper Turner Toys & Hobbies sells are the “water slide” type – once you’ve printed the decals on the paper you soak them with water and slide them onto the Pinewood Derby car. The film is very thin and once applied the decals look painted on. What I think of as sticker paper has an adhesive backing and is quite a bit thicker so the end result won’t look as good.

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