Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – October 30, 2012

Low-Rider – Stephen & Stevie Banks

We used your Low Rider design with the Fire Starter Body Skin and the Custom Design decals. As you can see we made a ‘quick start’ modification To The front of the car by cutting a 1 1/8″ L x 3/4″ W channel and adding a paper clip. The car started rolling before the other cars. Stevie went 10-0 and became the Pack Grand Champion in his first pinewood derby race. Now we’re off to the district finals, and hopefully the regionals after that!!

Snake Car – Elisa Davis

My wife wanted to enter a car in the Outlaw Division this year. So I built this three-wheeled snake. I can’t take credit for the idea, as it was inspired by a photo I found on the web (if you know the name of the original designer, please let me know). The car was the fastest in the race, but was unstable. On the last heat it jumped the track, so it ended up in second place. During testing I had to add a ‘crutch’ (not in the photo) on the back left of the car. The crutch kept the front end from lifting too high when the car went through the transition.

Nelcom – Janel Davis

This is our version of a ‘car phone’. Based on the Wing design, an extra piece of wood was crafted to fit on top. A small Velcro circle is used to hold down the top during the race. The most difficult part of building the car was recessing the hinge so that it didn’t stick out the back, making the car too long. The car took 1st Place in Speed and Design.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 5

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(C)2012, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Pinewood Derby Memory – Generations

As some mothers do, mine being a great example, they save the key items from their kids that they felt held lots of meaning. My mother tends to send strategically timed packages of odds and ends from my childhood to me or my kids. Last fall she sent me a package of Cub Scout items … my uniform, my vest full of patches and pins, and a couple of my old pinewood derby cars. My sons (oldest going into 1st grade at the time) liked the uniform – very excited to be a Cub Scout – but the hit of the package was the derby cars. My mother visited a few months later and brought the other two derby cars I’d made and my trophy for winning the pack race my last year. In talking with the boys about it I recalled that the trophy was the first I’d ever won, and I told my kids about how proud I was of it when I was their age. We also talked about all the time I spent with Granddad working on it (my kids like woodworking with me already). That began the quest for my son to get his own trophy.

Determined to not make my son wait four years to win a trophy, I read a few web sites and checked out all the books on pinewood derby from the library. Joshua and I talked extensively about all the principles and went through several iterations of design until we found something we both thought would be fast. I cut out his car in the wood shop and he did most of the sanding, painting, and finishing (with close supervision). We followed all the steps carefully (there were a few things we chose not to do), and made about a dozen trips to the hobby shop for tools and supplies.

As derby day approached we ended up taking a trip to Disney to visit my father and got additional advice and assistance from him on how to make the car fast (my Dad ran the derby several years when I was a kid). Due to winter storms we almost didn’t make it back home to race, but thankfully the weather at home was so bad they delayed the race several weeks.

As the new race date approached we were nervous that his car might not be competitive enough – our pack is full of Microsoft engineers which means the cars could potentially be really competitive. As we tried to set his expectations kind of low, Joshua said he’d had a dream that he was going to win. Well after looking at the cars of some of the other participants I wasn’t so sure.

After our first few Tiger races (won by a full car length or more) I knew he was competitive, but was worried about the cars of the older kids that looked really fast. After watching the older ranks race it was time for the pack championship. We were up against some really fast cars. As the kids chanted “cheese wedge” for one of the older kids, surprisingly the parents were chanting “Tigers, Tigers”, rooting for our son. In the end Joshua went undefeated and won grand champion in his pack and won his first trophy!

After calls to the grandparents – especially my Dad – and celebratory ice cream, Joshua came home to proudly display his trophy next to mine. Looks like a new family tradition has begun!

Now Joshua and I are both bitten by the derby bug. His goal next year is to win a district trophy. Since Granddad is retiring just before the district race next year we hope we can have all three generations of Williams boys there to cheer him on.

David Williams

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 2

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – October 23, 2012


Black Beauties – Patrick Roos

This is my son Seth’s first car as a Tiger. His three older brothers have each won Grand Champion in our pack, and two of them are past District Grand Champions, so he has a goal of being the first of our family to win the Council championship. He easily won the Pack and District Championship and is headed to the Council in a couple months. The only car that was close to him was…

Athan’s car, which was built by Athanasius, son of a family friend. Dad has to work out of town a lot, so on his evenings at home, they came over to my garage and I helped them build his first car as a Webelo. The car took 2nd place behind Seth in Pack and District.

McLaren – Scott & James Bowie, England

Just wanted to drop a line from England to say that my son James (8) and I built his pinewood McLaren based on your Formula 1 plan and with a nod to Lewis Hamilton’s MP4-26. We managed to secure the fastest car and star car awards at his local cub scout pack’s first pinewood derby. A great time was had by all and I think this will become an annual event. Thanks for a great site with some winning hints and tips.

AAA – Stephen Basham

The Boy Scout Lincoln Heritage Council covers parts of Indiana and Kentucky with 8 Districts. This year (2012) they decided to have 4 District Level Pinewood Derby races to cover the complete Council area. Any Cub Scout in the Lincoln Heritage Council could compete in any one or all four of the district level races.

Stephen Basham won First Place overall at two of the four district level races. Could this be the first time a Cub Scout has won the First Place Overall District Level Trophy two times in the same year? Even though Stephen’s Pinewood Derby car bears the AAA road side assistance program logo, the car did not require any help at the races. (Submitted by Jim White)

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 2

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – October 16, 2012

The Elf – Robert Allen

We made this for my son’s first race in Tiger Cubs. I researched for about two weeks on designs and what we could do to make the car go faster. Then I drew up three different cars, and he picked out which one he liked best and we made it. We used standard fender washers held in by wood putty for the weight. The wheels and axles are standard BSA wheels that come with every kit; only lightly sanded to remove any imperfections and lubed with graphite. Anywhere the wheel might even come in close contact with the body was graphited. The custom artwork – an elf hiding behind a Christmas tree – was done by my son. I did the power tool work, which wasn’t much since I only used a Dremel tool. All the sanding was done by hand and done by my son. Oh yeah we won The All City championship in York, PA. Not bad for his first scouting event.

Ahoy Matey – Quinn & Grant Masek

The black car is The Racer and is the first car my son (Quinn) and I built since joining cub scouts. I followed your plans but really didn’t do a good job on the axle alignment. He got first in the pack but 40th at the Scout-O-Rama.

My younger son (Grant) told me he wanted to build a yellow car to look like the one on the BSA box. I used your speed tips for weight, balance and axle prep. Again, we have room to improve on the axles (we weren’t doing rail riding yet), but he still got first in the siblings division.

Flying Wedge & Jeep – Ethan & Dominic Patterson

This is my son, Ethan’s, first Pinewood Derby Car. It took first place in all races to take first place overall in the Pack.

The apple of everyone’s eye, the candy apple red jeep stole the show in the adult division on just looks alone!

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 1

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Pinewood Derby Memory – Late Start

Our son started his Cub Scouting career late, so he didn’t do his first pinewood derby until he was a Bear. Remembering the one pathetic race I participated in when I was a Cub, I did lots of research into the ‘tricks of the trade’. I learned about matching the wheels, sanding and polishing, axle positioning, weight distribution, etc. I also looked for car designs and templates, printed these, and let my son choose his car.

We spent the next month putting all of these lessons learned into effect. There was much cutting, sanding, polishing, sanding, polishing, and then more sanding. We got down to a week before the big race, and it was time to paint. With our son being a big Harry Potter fan, he wanted a ‘Snitch’ car, so we painted the car a metallic gold. Mom then got in on the act and hand-painted wings on the side, a lightning bolt on the nose, and the ‘HP’ logo on the rear end of the top. A trip to the Post Office revealed I was still light on weight, so I added one flat piece of weight to the end, painted it with the gold, and we were set.

Our son is highly competitive, so we spent the morning of the race talking with him about being a good sport regardless of the results. His best friend was the two-time defending Pack Champion, so we thought we’d have a hard time placing, and wanted our boy to be emotionally prepared. Turns out we were wasting our breath.

The first heat our son was in, he got himself positioned right at the end of the track. As the cars left the starting gate, it was clear we’d done something right. His car had a two car-length lead coming out of the curve, and extended it on the flat. He was absolutely ecstatic as his car won his first ever race. On his second heat, with his friend in an adjacent lane, he ‘took the flag’ by two car-lengths. He faced a real challenge in the third heat, coming off the curve half a car-length behind. However, he shot past all the cars on the flat to win by a full length. End result – Den and Pack Champion, with a big trophy to prove it!!! I’m glad I had the DVD camera to capture all of the excitement.

The District race was held a month later. In the Bear rank preliminaries, our son took third out of 45 participants, qualifying for the District finals. There was a significant break between our rank qualifying and the finals, so I took the car and we went to lunch. It was at this point I probably made a mistake. During the lunch break I added more graphite to the wheels and axles. While I spun them in, I’m still wondering if it was a mistake. In the finals, we never came close. We ended up finishing ninth out of 15 in the finals. Disappointing for our son, but not bad for a first-ever racer.

John Nelson
Sterling, VA

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 4

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – October 5, 2012


Soccer – Mike Parrish

Here is my daughter’s last official Awana entry. She will be too old to race in the Awana competition next year. She did everything on this car except truing the wheels, molding the lead and cutting the block on the band saw. We had a great time building this one. She actually would come up and tell me it was time to go down to the basement and work on it. She got 1st Place for speed and 1st Place for original design. It was a great way to end our competition (onto the open classes). She loves to play soccer, but will miss one game as the state Grand Prix is on the same day.

Cheese Block & Surf Board – Daniel Nagel

Here is a picture of the cars my son and I did a few years back for one of our Royal Ranger derbies. We both decided that we were getting tired of making the same type of cars and went with these different cars. The cheese block was my car and the surf board was my son’s idea. He was a little young at the time so I had to help him implement the idea. Back then we raced at 6 ounces instead of 5 like we do now. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get 6 ounces in that thin little surf board – there’s more lead than wood!

Zack’s Car – Dwight Endersbe

Here is a picture of my grandson’s (Zack) 1st Place winner (den, pack, and district). We raced on a 45 foot aluminum track, with MPH used to determine the winners. We did it in 8.243 MPH. Zack is a first year Webelo, so we have two more cars to make.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 4

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Axle Installation Made Easy

Mounting axles in blocks with slots has always been problematic. Problems include damage to the car body, sore thumbs, non-symmetrical insertion (some axles angled, others not), bent axles, and uneven car-to-wheel gapping. I believe there is an easier way, so today’s article will provide a game plan for both simplifying axle insertion and improving accuracy.


Whether your block is equipped with axle slots or axle holes, preparation is necessary to simplify and ensure proper axle installation. This preparation should occur before any other work is done on the wood block.

— Axle Slots —

In order to firmly hold the axles, axle slots are typically cut narrower than the diameter of the axle. While this tightness is necessary, it increases the difficulty of installing the axles. So, to make the axles go in easier – and to minimize the risk of damaging the block or bending an axle – the slot must be accurately widened just a bit. This can be done in one of two ways:

Axle Method

One way to widen the slot is to use a hammer to tap a spare axle into the slot, pull it out with a pair of pliers, and then repeat for the other three positions. While this will work, it is not particularly accurate and can lead to block damage.

Pro-Body Tool Method

The preferred method to widen the slot is to use a Pro-Body Tool.(1) The Pro-Body Tool is a drilling guide, with which a drill bit is used to accurately widen the slot. It will also compensate for slots that are slightly out of square. To get a better idea as to how the Pro-Body Tool works, visit:

— Axle Holes —

Similar to axle slots, in order to firmly hold the axles in place, axle holes are generally drilled smaller than the diameter of the axle. In addition, pine tends to ‘relax’ after it is drilled, so the final hole will tend to be slightly smaller than the drill bit. To open up the hole, tap a spare axle into the hold, pull it out with a pair of pliers, and repeat for the other three positions.


Before installing the wheels and axles, complete all axle and wheel preparation steps. Then lubricate the wheels/axles while they are off the car. If you are unsure as to these preparation steps, they are covered in back issues of this newsletter, as well as in our booklet, “Speed to the Finish”.(2)


Axles can be inserted by a variety of methods including pressing them in by hand, or pressing them in place with a vise or clamp. Regardless of the method, the gap must then be set between the car body and the wheel hub. The PineCar alignment tool can be used for setting this gap, or you can use a dime.

While these methods work, I would like to introduce you to a new method of axle installation using a tool called the Pro-Axle Guide.(3)

The Pro-Axle Guide is a tool to help insert axles with accuracy. The tool is equipped with a ridge to keep the axle at the correct depth in the slot, and is also equipped with a gauge for setting the proper gap between the car body and the wheel hub (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Pro-Axle Guide Components

The Pro-Axle Guide can be used for inserting axles in either slots or holes. When inserting axles into slots, the tool’s ridge fits in the axle slot. When inserting axles into holes, the flat side of the tool is placed against the bottom of the car. In either case, to use the Pro-Axle Guide follow these steps:

1. Partially insert the axle into the slot/hole, and then place the tool on the bottom of the block with the gauge between the wheel and the car body.

Figure 2 – Preparing to Insert an Axle

2. Next place the axle head on a hard surface, such as a workbench or desk. While firmly squeezing the tool to the block, press down on the axle head. Continue pressing until the wheel hub rests against the gauge.

Figure 3 – Pressing the Axle into Place

3. For non-BSA wheels, the axle will need to be inserted a bit further. This can be done by pressing the axle head with a thumb or the handle of a small screwdriver.

4. Remove the tool and repeat for the other axles.


Now that the wheels/axles are installed, but before they are permanently affixed, test and adjust the alignment of the car. To accomplish this, you may need to remove and reinstall the axles. If so, then repeat the process described in the previous step. If you are unsure as to how to align the car, there will be an article on alignment in a future newsletter, or you can find two documented procedures in our “Speed to the Finish” booklet.


Finally, the axles must be secured in place. The method is different for axles slots versus axle holes.

— Axle Slots —

Axles can be affixed in axle slots with some white (Elmer’s) glue. Other glues can also be used, but I prefer white glue because:

– It is not permanent (like epoxy), so if necessary, the axles can be removed by grasping the axle head with a pair of pliers, slightly rotating the axle (which breaks the glue bond), and then pulling the axles out; and

– It is not runny (like superglue), so it won’t sneak into the wheel bore and lock up the wheel.

To glue the axles, lay the car on soft rag with the bottom facing upwards. Place a dab of white glue in the slot area between the axle tips. Spread the glue over the top of the axles, but keep it away from the wheels. Remove excess glue with a rag, and then don’t move the car until the glue is dry.

— Axle Holes —

If axles are quite tight in the axle holes, then it is not necessary to glue them in place. But if your axles are not tight, or if you choose to glue the axles anyway, here is the procedure:

1. Remove an axle,

2. Put a small drop of white glue on a toothpick,

3. Insert the toothpick into an axle hole and swish it around,

4. Remove the toothpick, wipe off any glue on the side of the car, and

5. Reinstall the axle.

Again, I prefer white glue for the same reasons listed above.


Proper axle installation is extremely important to reach maximum velocity. I hope that you find the information in this article to be helpful, and that you have a successful race this year.

(1) The Pro-Body Tool is available Here

(2) “Speed to the Finish” is available Here

(3) The Pro-Axle Guide can be found Here

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 4

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