The Right Stuff – Choosing the Best Adhesive

White glue, yellow glue, tacky glue, hot glue, Super Glue, epoxy, Gorilla Glue; the list goes on and on. With the wide variety of adhesives available today, it’s no wonder there is confusion as to what is the best adhesive for pinewood derby cars. So today we will take a look at the most common glue types on the market and indicate how they work with pinewood derby cars.

White Glue – This is a generic term for glues such as Elmer’s Glue-All, School Glue, etc. This type of glue can be used on wood, paper, cloth, etc. White glue is water soluble, so it isn’t intended for use when the end product will be exposed to water.

For pinewood derby cars, white glue works fine for gluing wood to wood (such as adding wood accessories) and for repairing chips or cracks in the wood. It can also be used for holding the axles in place. White glue doesn’t work well on metal, so don’t use it to glue metal accessories or weight to the car.

Yellow Glue (Carpenter’s Glue) – Yellow glue is essentially a
formulation of white glue that has a higher tack (dries quicker, less clamping time), and is more durable in wet conditions. For pinewood derby cars, it has the same uses as white glue, except that it does hold metal to wood better than white glue.

Tacky Glue – This is a variety of yellow or white glue with a high tack, sold for use with crafts. It has the same uses as white or yellow glue. PineCar offers a version of tacky glue named Formula Glue.

Hot Glue – Hot glue comes in sticks which feed into a glue gun. The melted glue can then be used to attach a variety of items. One benefit of hot glue is the very fast dry time (but you have to work fast). A downside is the filaments of glue that are left behind – they can be easily removed, but are an annoyance. Also, a hot glue gun and children don’t readily mix, as you can get a nasty burn from the glue or the tip of the gun.

I don’t recommend hot glue for attaching wood to wood, but it does work well for gluing weight into pockets or holes.

Epoxy – My favorite glue, epoxy, is a two-part glue that will glue most anything. There are a wide variety of epoxy adhesives available, some intended for metal, some for glass/plastic, and others for general use. I like a general use epoxy with a five minute set time

Epoxy can be used for attaching metal accessories to the car and, since it does not shrink when dry, it works well for gluing weight into holes or pockets. It can also be used for gluing wood to wood, but I recommend yellow, white, or tacky glue for that use.

Super Glue – Super Glue is a brand name for cyanoacrylate (CA) adhesive. This glue is very strong, especially when gluing non-porous materials that contain traces of water. It also works well on human skin. Unfortunately, super glue has a low shearing strength and does not work particularly well on wood. So I don’t recommend it for pinewood derby use, except when a quick repair is needed at a race.

Gorilla Glue – Gorilla Glue is a brand name for a polyurethane adhesive. While setting, it expands to fill gaps, and tends to work well when attaching wood to wood. However, for fine hobby work the expansion during setting can cause significant issues, so I don’t recommend this glue for pinewood derby use.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 10

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

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – April 21, 2016

Catfish Car – Jennifer Camden

In January 2009, my son Hunter wanted to create a catfish pinewood derby car. He and my husband took a picture of a catfish that Hunter caught and began working. We were not sure if the car was going to be fast, but we were going more for looks. Turns out that he received 1st place in his Den out of 43 Cub Scouts. He also received a trophy for most creative.

The Arrow – Scott Schnegelberger

Long, long ago (early 2004 to be exact) we did an adult Pinewood Derby race with modified/extended rules (not a full Outlaw race), and I ended up falling in love with your Arrow plans. So I bought the booklet and built the Arrow. Not being too much of a shop geek, it took me a little longer than your average adult male, but the plans are well laid out and easy to follow.

I ended up hand-painting an “Order of the Arrow” design on the car, and it turned out pretty darn good. My car even ended up being dead- on at 5.0 ounces, so I didn’t have to change a thing. A few days later, I won First Place at the derby. Truth be told, it wasn’t even close… I’m sure the NyOil II helped, but I’m more certain it was the actual design of the car and the distribution of the weight that made the difference.

I still have it, proudly displayed on my office desk, most of the time. The kids played with it and the wheels are probably out of alignment, and it has some dings on the corners, but it still looks good. They still find it and play with it when I’m not looking. I guess they know a good thing when they see it.

’56 Ford Pickups – Lyle and Ben Leis


2009 was the last year for my son to compete in the Pinewood Derby since he was a Webelos II. He has done well in the past with a variety of cars, but for his last year, he wanted to build a pickup truck. We bought a ’56 Ford Step side die cast car to copy and scratch built from there. Since we only had two weeks to get it completed, it was an ambitious project.

In the past, I have built several exhibition cars while my son built more conventional cars. Using the profile of the die cast car, we started with a sketch of the top and side view of the truck using the Boy Scout wheelbase and overall dimensional requirements. Since this project required a hollow scratch built body and woodcarving skills, we each built a truck with me working step by step ahead of my son while he followed/copied my work on his truck. The original Pinewood block was cut down to 3/8″ thick and thin pine stock was added to form the bed and truck cab. The panels were carved and sanded to final shape followed by many coats of primer with sanding between. Since the colors are transparent, a silver base coat was used under the transparent top coats. The hollow lead tanks in the rear of the beds are formed from stick on wheel weights and final weight adjustment was made using lead shot. A wood screw between the truck bed and the cab secures the cab to the chassis.

Although the truck didn’t do well in the races due to aerodynamic considerations, for the first time, my son has taken interest in woodcarving, so I consider it a huge success. His truck also won a trophy for the Most Unique design, although the judges were probably not aware of the hollow cab and woodcarving required for the build.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 9

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

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Family Cars 2

Here are a few more of my favorite cars that my family has built over the years.

Tulip – Shannon Davis – 2004

My daughter designed this car on her own, and did most of the work. The car took 3rd place for speed and 3rd place for design.

Cell Phone – Janel Davis – 2005

The Cell Phone is basically a Wing design with a lid. It was very popular and took 1st place for speed and 1st place for design.

Patriotic Stealth – Janel Davis – 2006

The Stealth is another Maximum Velocity design (Car Plans 5). My daughter spent a lot of time on the artwork. It took 1st place in speed and 2nd place in design.

Velocinator – Shannon Davis – 2007

The Velocinator was a prototype of the kit we still sell. It was also the first try using needle axles. It was the fastest car, but the needles bent for the final two heats, which was enough to drop it into 3rd place in the Outlaw race (and 2nd place in design). This was the impetus for the creation of the “Needle Axle Upgrade Kit”.

Two-wheeled Wonder – Janel Davis – 2008

This was a try at running on two wheels. The two “outriggers” ride above the track, and are there just to keep in on the track. It ran quite well, taking 2nd place for speed in the Outlaw race, and 1st place for design. The center weighting kept it from taking 1st place.

Green Stealth – Stephen Davis – 2009


This car was based off the Accelerator design (“Car Plans 6”). We made two of these cars; the second car has a white dish instead of the green sphere. The green sphere car took 1st place in speed in the Outlaw race, and 3rd place in design. In a later race, the second car was loaned to another adult, and it also took 1st place in speed.

Vaccinator – Stephen Davis – 2010

This was the prototype of the Vaccinator (“Car Plans 7”). My son Stephen helped design the car. It took 1st place in speed and design.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 12

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Family Cars

I decided to fill this expanded showcase with some of my favorite cars which my family has built over the years. I hope you like them.

First Car – Timothy Davis – 1995

This is the first car we ever built. It didn’t look like much, but ended up in 3rd place. If you are interested in the story, check out the memory at
Volume 15 Issue 1

Yellow Dragster – Shannon Davis – 1997

We built two cars in 1996, but they both disappeared. Then in 1997 we built two yellow dragsters. At the time there was a Lego driver in both cars, but by the time I took the photos one had disappeared(maybe he stole the two missing cars!). This Yellow Dragster took 2nd Place
in speed.

Battery Car – Timothy Davis – 1998

This car has an alarm. If you tilt the car, it beeps. This was done with a mercury switch (yes, I know this is taboo – but at the time I didn’t know better). We flipped the switch off after two heats; while it was staged the beeping got really annoying. The car took 1st place for speed and 3rd place for design. The Battery Car still intrigues kids that come into our shop.

Maroon Low-Rider – Shannon Davis – 1999

This was the first extended wheelbase car we built. At the time another family was building this type of car, so we were trying to catch them. The car took 3rd place for speed.

Rocket Carrier – Timothy Davis – 2000

My son wanted a “Rocket Car”, and this was the compromise. The rocket is a tiny Estes rocket. The car took 2nd place for speed, just a few milliseconds behind the 1st place car.

Interceptor – Janel Davis – 2001

At this time Maximum Velocity was in its infancy, and I was writing car plan booklets. The Interceptor was one of those designs – it is in “Advanced Car Plans”. I’m sure I did most of the body work, but my daughter did work on the wheels and axles. The Interceptor took 1st place for speed and 3rd place for design.

Speeder – Stephen Davis – 2002

Another Maximum Velocity design (in “Car Plans”), the Speeder is one of my all time favorites. It was inspired by Luke’s speeder in the original Star Wars. It took 2nd place for speed, and 2nd place for design.

Dominator – Stephen Davis – 2003

Bill Launius of DerbyWorx was considering offering balsa wood “noses” so that cars could easily have a high nose (an advantage on some tracks). So we built a car with one. It took 2nd place for speed and 1st place for design.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 12

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(C)2016, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies