Shop Talk – The Best Pinewood Derby Rule

Although you can get away with using a cheap plastic ruler for an occasional pinewood derby car, having a nice, accurate rule (not ruler) is a must for any serious craftsman. But like any tool, there is a large variety of rules available on the market. Today, I want to share with you my favorite rule. In my opinion, this rule is a must have for pinewood derby enthusiasts.

The rule I am referring to is the Incra Six Inch Precision Bend Rule. Although this rule wasn’t specifically designed for pinewood derby use, I have to believe that the designer was a pinewood derby parent.

Photo 1
Incra Six Inch Bend Rule

The obvious feature of the Incra Bend Rule is the shape. The rule is specifically designed to fit over the edge of a block or board in order to make precise measurement with ease. The rule is marked in 1/32 inch increments, and at each increment is a hole and a slot that allows insertion of a 5mm pencil (standard mechanical pencil size). These holes and slots eliminate the inaccuracy that comes with trying to make a pencil mark along the side of a regular ruler.

Photo 2
Making a Measurement

This feature in itself makes this a nice tool, but there’s more. On one end of the Incra Bend Rule you will find measurements that are perpendicular to the rule. These are used to mark offsets from the edge of a block. For pinewood derby cars, the obvious use is marking axle locations, weight hole positions, car thickness, etc.

Photo 3
Marking a 1/8 inch Offset for Axle Holes

But this offset measurement feature is not just to make a tiny dot, but it can also be used for drawing horizontal lines. Just insert the pencil at the desired location, and slide the rule along the edge of the block. Sweet!

Photo 4
Drawing a Horizontal Line

Now the “pièce de résistance”. Do you want to locate the center of your block? One half of the Incra Bend Rule is 3/4 inch wide, while the other is 7/8 inch wide. 7/8 inch is a familiar number – it is one-half of the width of a standard block. So to find the center of a block, lay the rule with the wide portion on the top or bottom of the block, and strike a line. Since blocks are not consistent, put the rule on the other side, and draw another line. “Voilà!” The center of the block will be between the two lines (or coincident with the two lines if the block is exactly 1-3/4 inches wide).

Photos 5 & 6
Finding the Center of the Block

I am confident that you will enjoy this rule as much as I do. This rule is available at some specialty wood stores, but to save you the trouble of tracking one down, Maximum Velocity is now offering the Incra 6 inch Precision Bend Rule. You can find it on our web site Here

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 4

Subscribe to this Free Pinewood Derby E-newsletter

C)2015, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – September 18, 2015

Bi-Plane – Doug Kile

Last year I sent in a picture a picture of my John Deere Tractor. This Bi-Plane is what I made for this year. It legal to run with the wings removed.

Model T – Gary Trousdale

My son’s pack has a siblings and parents category, so I decided to enter. As far as what design I would use, I had about 100 ideas flying around in my head. The Model T came about mostly because I knew no one else would do it, and I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen one before.

I downloaded a lot of pictures of old Model T cars and trucks and settled on the touring car design. The body is still the original wood block from the BSA kit, just cut up and re-arranged a bit. The running boards are brass strips from a hobby store, likewise the grill, mounted in foam core. The headlights, taillights and compression tank were from a jewelry and craft store. The brass front bumper had to come off due to weight. The canopy is paper, measured, cut, folded and painted over a wooden frame (again, the metal was too heavy). The seats are foam rubber with lacquered and painted tissue paper seat covers. The gear shift levers, horn, and windshield were fabricated pretty much from wire, Sculpey, sheet styrene and paint.

The car ran pretty slow, despite my grinding and polishing the axles. I don’t think it was a question of air resistance as much as the wheels themselves were out of balance — I put hub spokes made of painted toothpicks on them. Oh well, it looked really cool.

Valentine C-A-R – Galen Jordan

This car was made as a Valentine C-A-R (not card) for my wife since our race was on February 14. we originally did not intend to race it. but, we caved to peer pressure and let my daughter race it in the 11 and under open class without any preparation other than graphite. It took second place. It was a great day of racing for the whole family.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 3

Subscribe to this Free Pinewood Derby E-newsletter

C)2015, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Shop Talk – Measuring for Success

Making a pinewood derby car calls for a number of measurements, and marking several cut lines and drilling marks. Although this seems like a simple part of building the car, making accurate measurements quickly and repeatedly takes some practice, the knowledge of a few tips, and the proper tools.

Today, we’ll focus on measurement tips; tools will be discussed in a future Shop Talk.


A typical measurement for a pinewood derby car is measuring off the bottom of the block for drilling weight holes in the side or back of the car. Let’s say you want to measure 7/16 inch off the bottom to locate a weight hole. Where do you start the measurement from? Typically, one would align the end of the ruler on the bottom of the block, and then make a mark at the 7/16 inch tick mark. This will work, but it is not necessarily accurate for several reasons. First, the end of the ruler (especially on an inexpensive ruler) is not precisely ground. Second, ruler ends are often a bit chewed up. Finally, it can be awkward to align and hold the end of a ruler on the edge of the block.

A more accurate technique is to align one of the inch marks (typically the 1 inch mark) with the edge of the block, then make the pencil mark at 1-7/16 inches. This will work for any measuring or marking task. But if you are measuring, make sure to subtract one inch to get the correct measurement.

Figure 1 – Making a 7/16 inch Measurement

Let’s say that you want a pinewood derby car to be 7/16 inch thick. Sounds easy; just measure 7/16 up the side, draw a line, and cut. But there are a couple of ways to do this, depending on the accuracy needed. If you don’t need any significant amount of accuracy (e.g., a line is needed for a rough cut), then an easy way to draw the line is to measure at one spot on the block, then use your fingers to guide the drawing of the line. Just place the pencil at the marked location, place the tip of your middle finger along the side of the block, lock your fingers in place and draw.

Figure 2 – Finger Method

With a little practice, this will result in a reasonably accurate line. If you need to repeat the line (other side of the block, or a different block), just keep your fingers locked and keep drawing.

For a more accurate line, measure at two points on the block, place the pencil tip at one of the marks, slide a ruler against the pencil lead, align the ruler with the other mark, and then draw. If the ruler is firmly held in place, then this will result in a quite accurate line.

Figure 3 – Two Point Method.

An even more accurate way to draw horizontal lines will be discussed in the next Shop Talk.

Oftentimes a horizontal line is needed down the dead center of the block. This is useful when drilling weight holes on the bottom of the block. Either of the previously mentioned methods can be used, however, since blocks are not always exactly 1-3/4 inches wide, another method can be used to get more accuracy.

Using the Two Point Method, instead of measuring 7/8 inch from one side of the block, place one of the inch marks on the ruler at the approximate center of the block. We’ll use the 3 inch mark on a 6 inch ruler, but it can be any inch mark. Then adjust the ruler so that the 2 and 4 inch marks extend off the block the same distance. Make a pencil mark at the 3 inch mark, which will be the center of the block.

Figure 4 – Locating the Center

Repeat this technique at another spot on the block, and then connect the two marks.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 2

Subscribe to this Free Pinewood Derby E-newsletter

(C)2015, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – September 3, 2015

iPod Jeep – Jeff Jouett

This was my oldest son Jack’s final Pinewood Derby and he wanted something different. The result is the red car. It did play, though not loud enough unless you were right next to it.

Darth Vader – Dan Blythe

Attached is our Darth Vader car my seven year old and I created. I have experimented over the years with paint and making my own decals using pictures off of the Internet, magazines, etc. I give them some special backgrounds and highlights on the computer and then print them on adhesive backed label paper.

The boys pick out the theme, help with the painting, and pick from a variety of decals and where they want them placed on the car. I put it all together with them and teach them some speed tricks along the way.

Music on Wheels – Bruce Edney

My eight year old granddaughter inspired me when she asked me to make a “guitar” pinewood derby car. She sketched a concept and I designed the car based on my old Martin Ukulele that I had on my shelf since high school. The car’s Ukulele is a one-third scale model using Myrtlewood and Purpleheart. The strings are mono-filament fish leader. The frets and tuning knobs are brass rod. I finished off the design with piano music copied from a music book and glued to the car body. She named the car, appropriately, “Music on Wheels”. The car won first place in the “Show” class at WIRL in November 2008.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 2

Subscribe to this Free Pinewood Derby E-newsletter

(C)2015, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies