Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 12

– Editor’s Notes

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Q&A

Editor’s Notes

Last Issue of the Season
This is the last issue of the Pinewood Derby Times for the 2015-2016 season. The new issues (Volume 16) will begin in October 2016. You will automatically continue to receive the newsletter in the fall, as our mailing list will remain intact. If your e-mail address should change before then, from the NEW e-mail account simply send a blank e- mail to: with your OLD e-mail address in the ‘Subject:’ line.

We have many of the articles planned for next season, but we are always looking for your input. So if you have an idea for an article, please send it to me at

I would like to thank all of our readers and contributors. Your input is greatly appreciated and certainly contributes to the success of the newsletter. I wish you all a blessed summer. See you in October.

Expanded Car Showcase
Instead of including a Feature Article, this edition contains an expanded Car Showcase featuring some of our favorite cars.


Some tourists in the Chicago Museum of Natural History are marveling at the dinosaur bones. One of them asks the guard, “Can you tell me how old the dinosaur bones are?”

The guard replies, “They are 3 million, four years, and six months old.”

“That’s an awfully exact number,” says the tourist. “How do you know their age so precisely?”

The guard answers, “Well, the dinosaur bones were three million years old when I started working here, and that was four and a half years ago.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

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 in 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.

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 sold for many years. 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.

Pinewood Derby Memory

The Secret to Winning?

My step-son is in Royal Rangers, and we built a car for their derby race. Instead of axle slots cut in the wood block, Royal Ranger cars are equipped with two 3/8 inch dowel rods that are placed in slots on the bottom of the car. The wheels are then attached to the ends of the dowels with screw axles.

The night before the race I was making final wheel adjustments. I was having some problems getting the wheels aligned so I lost a lot of the graphite that had been put on the axles. On race day I added some graphite before check-in and was spinning the wheels to get it worked in. I slapped the wheel too hard, knocking the car out of my hands and onto the ground!!

Our worst fear … I cracked the front dowel. Luckily the crack was by the wheel that we purposely lifted off the ground. We had to realign the car, and we got it as close as possible. We were expecting that this was going to kill us on the track.

But surprisingly, the car performed great, winning the age division race and then taking second place in the finals.

We consider ourselves very fortunate that the car performed well. After the race our Pastor joked that dropping the car was the secret. Maybe we’ll have to drop next year’s car as well!?

Patrick Mulligan
Sylvania, Ohio


Which wheels are faster: the 4005-MV Speed Wheels or the 4060- Official BSA Pro Ultra Lite Speed Wheels?

The two wheels are very similar and both have the same weight. But if you have a choice I would go with the 4005 wheel. Out of the mold, the MV wheels are more accurate than the BSA wheels, and the 4005 wheel is a bit stronger. Just make sure that the MV wheels are legal for your race.

I had purchased Tungsten cylinders (Item # 5030) from you previously. I am interested in the Tungsten Powder now (Item #5064) and would like a better understanding of the volume contained in the 3 ounces, relative to how much space it would require on my pinewood derby car.

For instance, each 1/2 ounce Tungsten cylinder that I purchased earlier can fit into a 3/8 x 7/16 inch hole I drill into my car. Will 1/2 ounce of Tungsten powder be accommodated in that same hole?

Tungsten powder would take considerably more space than the tungsten cylinders. To make cylinders, tungsten powder is compressed into a cylinder shape mold (high pressure), and then is heated in a kiln. The tungsten powder melts and shrinks. So the resulting part is smaller than the mold.

So, raw powder takes much more space as it is not compressed or melted. Generally, tungsten powder is used for filling cavities that you can’t get anything else into. Also, some people mix it with epoxy and then use the result to glue in tungsten cubes. This makes the epoxy heavier. Another use is to make castings (domes, drivers, etc).

If you are interested in how tungsten parts are made from powder, check out the feature article in Volume 13, Issue 12

How can I soften tungsten putty and make it a little more sticky?

You can try warming it up. Don’t microwave it, but if you can find a warm (100-150 degree) place, it will soften up a little. Maybe on top of a computer or radiator. I think you can also put it in a Ziploc and put that in hot water.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 11

– Feature Article – Finally Located: My Vintage Pinewood Derby Cars

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Q&A

Feature Article

Finally Located – My Vintage Pinewood Derby Cars
By Andy Holzer

(Today, we have a combined Article and Memory from Andy Holzer)

I was a Cub Scout back in the early 70’s. At that time, Cub Scouts was a 3 year program. You started out as a Wolf in 3rd grade, became a Bear in 4th grade and a Webelo in 5th grade. So, I made three pinewood derby cars.

Ever since my son Noah received his first pinewood Derby car to build in December of 2005 I had been looking for my old pinewood derby cars to share with him. Sometime back in 1992 I had packed them away when we were moving to our new house, and they were never to be seen again.

Every year I spent a couple of nights looking through some old boxes in the basement for the cars. Probably at that point, I had been through all of the boxes multiple times looking for the cars. So last week I was again looking through the same boxes (for the same cars), and I had an idea; maybe the cars were in the attic over the garage.

When I finally got a chance to look up in the garage attic, I found an old printer box that seemed kind of out of place. I was thinking, “this might be the box,” but I had thought that before about some other boxes.

But this time there was success. There they were, thrown in with some other junk. So I brought the box down and took some pictures of the cars.

Wolf Car

This was my first pinewood derby car. Apparently my dad and I didn’t worry about the 5 ounce weight limit as it only weighs 3.43 ounces. But of course the cars were measured on a spring type postal scale that wasn’t very accurate.

The car looked as if it could have been sanded better before the paint was applied; and the rear body is not very symmetrical. But it was my first pinewood car, and to me it is great! It was decorated with plastic model decals that my dad had and has a thumb tack as a steering wheel.

Bear Car

The Bear car is finished better (could maybe have used some better detail sanding on the edges).

The Bear car has additional weights on the bottom of the car to bring up the weight (maybe a little too much – it weighs 5.35 ounces). This was the year when we moved into our new house and I moved to a new Cub Scout pack. I remember we needed to paint the bottom of the car black so the finish line sensors would pick up the car crossing the finish line (the new pack had one of those “electronical” sensors to determine the winner). On the car, the thumb tack accessories continue.

Webelo Car

The Webelo car is a lot smoother. I think I remember painting this car in a cardboard box with model spray paint. This car is way “advanced” as it actually has a wooden Fisher Price driver in it (back when they were made of wood). But it is also way underweight (3.63 ounces). And yes, the steering wheel cannot be seen so the thumb tack accessory is headlights.

None of these cars ever had a chance at winning a trophy, but that is all right. Just looking at them today makes me very happy.

It is good to finally have my original pinewood derby cars back. Noah can’t wait to put them with all of the other family pinewood derby cars.

I just want to thank my dad for helping me to build these cars (and all of the memories that go along with them). I guess that is indeed what this pinewood derby stuff is for. I guess winning is something, but it is definitely not everything.

Now a P.S. to the story …

On March 15, 2014, I left early in the morning to help run the Pack 306 Pinewood Derby. This derby was for a new pack at a new location. We were at breakfast before the derby and I used my phone to see where the church was located. It was at this moment when I realized what this church was – back in 1972 it was an elementary school named Crystal Heights Elementary. At the time I was a fourth grade student at the school and a Bear in Cub Scouts. The Bear car and the Webelo car were both raced in the same building and in the same room as the pinewood derby that was held that day.

Here is a picture of the track set up in the multi-purpose room; notice how the track fills the room.

Here is a picture of my Bear and Webelos pinewood derby car on the track.

It was great to be in the same building; I even stopped by my old fourth grade classroom. What a great day!


A boy was having a lot of difficulty in French class.

To encourage him, his teacher said, “You’ll know you’re really beginning to get it when you start dreaming in French.”

The boy ran into class all excited one day, saying, “Teacher, teacher! I had a dream last night and everyone was talking in French!”

“Great!” said the teacher. “What were they saying?”

“I don’t know,” the boy replied. “I couldn’t understand them.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Godzilla – Eric Rascoe

We built this car for my five year old to race in our “Me Too” class. It’s the new Godzilla and painted by my son. He wanted tiny army men, but we could not find any so we found a toy train from a doll house accessory kit. Godzilla did not place in the race. However he did get a lot of attention. My boys are more interested in making cool cars than winning trophies. They just want the car.

Caleb’s Car – Casey Lear

My son found this design online and helped cut it out for the 2015 races. He never named this car so I call it Caleb’s Car. I think the design can be found online for free and is called Mad Max, however we made some upgrades. After drawing out the design on a typical pinewood block he drilled new extended axle holes 5/8 inch from each end of the car. Additionally, the right front axle was raised. He then drilled weight holes so that the center of gravity was exactly one inch in front of the rear axles. He used tungsten to reach 5 ounces. After hand sanding the car, a wood sealer was used multiple times and sanded in-between applications. I wish I had a photo to show you the car at this stage. The wood was transformed into a work of art. The car actually appeared and felt like a smooth wood toy from the 80’s. I was sorry to see it painted. He then put eight coats of Black Dupli-Color automotive paint, making sure to wet sand between application. Dry- transfer decals were used for the flames, then four coats of Dupli- Color Clear Coat were applied. Finally, Turtle Wax was applied and buffed to a shine. The car took first place in the Tiger Cub speed group, and fourth in the pack for speed.


You have a large number of options. Can you recommend your fastest set of legal axles for a Cub Scout Pinewood derby? We want to win!

  1. If the pack rules are very picky, and you want to follow the letter of the law, then use part 4097.
  2. If the pack rules are not so picky, but you want the axles to look exactly like BSA nails, then use part 4094, 4056, or 4035 (same axles, just unpolished, polished, or polished and bent for rail-riding, respectively).
  3. If the pack rules are not so picky, you are not rail-riding, and you want grooved axles, then go with 4099 (same axle as 4094, just grooved).
  4. If the pack rules are loose, go with 4051 or 4052 (non-grooved and grooved, respectively). These are the best axles. The head looks like a BSA nail.

I purchased the Max-V-Lube from you last year and the directions say not to add more graphite after I complete the first seven steps. Why? This doesn’t make sense to me as I watch all other pinewood racers dump graphite into the axles right before race time. I’m completing the car a week or so before we race and I want to add more graphite right before the race. Can you give me your opinion as my son and I are new to the pinewood racing event.

Anytime you add graphite, you must work the graphite into the wheel/axle by spinning. This converts some of the loose graphite into a coating on the wheel bore, and sheds the excess graphite.

If you add graphite and don’t spin it in thoroughly before racing, the first few runs are generally slower as the graphite is worked in and the excess is being shed. When there is too much graphite, the wheel cannot spin at top speed (basically clogged up).

So best performance is achieved by thoroughly lubing the wheels and axles, and making sure the graphite has been spun in well before racing.

I have a question I hope you can help me with. When we work on our car bodies, I’m never sure what to do with the area around the axle slots where the wheel hub can rub. It’s such a tiny area, but when that little wheel rides up against it the surface needs to be just right. What is the proper way to prepare this area?

I have had good luck with lacquer paint, as it dries very hard and slick. Then with graphite on the hub, the friction is minimal.

However, many people leave that area bare and rub graphite into the wood and into the hub.

Either method works. But if you are using brush paints, or enamel paints, I would go with the bare wood method. With lacquer spray paint and clear coating, I would go with the paint method.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 10

– Feature Article – Transforming that Block into the Ultimate Derby Car

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – The Thirty-Minute Car

– Q&A

Feature Article

Transforming that Block into the Ultimate Derby Car
By Randy Davis

After waiting for a whole year, the time has finally arrived to transform a pine block into the ultimate pinewood derby car. I know it is tempting to draw a few lines and start cutting. But before that, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Where will the weight go? Depending on how much wood you remove, you will likely need to add between 2.5 to 3.5 ounces of weight. Too often car builders don’t consider the need to add weight until after the car is shaped and painted. The time to deal with the weight is now, before cutting the block. So, figure out what kind of weight you will be using and where it will go.

    Speaking of where the weight will go …

  2. Does the design allow the weight to be placed near the rear axle? For best performance most people recommend locating the center of gravity of the car at 3/4 to 1 inch in front of the rear axle. To accomplish this, you will need to place 1/3 to 1/2 of the weight behind the rear axle.

Now that you know where the weight will go, draw the side profile of the car on both sides of the block, and draw the top profile on the bottom of the block. Then draw the location of the pockets/holes for the weight.

Prepare Axle Slots/Drill Axle Holes
If you are using axle slots, prepare them by pre-inserting a spare nail in each slot position, then twist and pull it out with a pair of pliers. This is more accurately accomplished with a Pro-Axle Guide, or better yet, a Pro-Body Tool will accurately pilot drill the slots.

If you will be using axle holes, drill them now with a Pro-Body Tool or Pro-Body Jig.

Rough Cutting
The weight pockets/holes are much easier to create while the block is rectangular. So, begin the shaping process by creating the weight pockets/holes. Then begin shaping the block by removing the wood from the top of the car (using the drawing on the sides of the car), then remove the wood from the sides of the car (using the drawing on the bottom of the car).

Shape the car using a rasp, file, coarse (60-grit) sandpaper, etc. If you have a steady hand, a Dremel tool is handy. If there are any gouges (boo-boos), fill them with wood putty.

When the car is shaped as desired, sand the car with medium (120 and 220 grit) sandpaper, followed by fine (400 grit) sandpaper. If you want a nice finish, make sure that the car is very smooth. There should not be any visible marks on the car (with the possible exception of fine sandpaper marks on the bottom of the car, or on the back of the car where the wood end-grain is visible).

Preparing To Paint
The car is now ready to paint. A Paint Stand is a great tool, but if you don’t have one I recommend inserting a long cabinet screw into the bottom of the car (screw it into a weight pocket if present) as a painting handle. The screw only needs to go deep enough to be firmly in place. Be careful not to run the screw completely through the car! Next, insert round toothpicks in the axle slots/holes. Now locate a place in a dust-free, shaded area where you can hang the car while it dries. In this location hang a short wire between two nails or screws such that the car can be suspended from the wire without touching a wall or other object.

If you will be using spray paint, put on eye and breathing protection. Then place a plastic bag over the hand that will hold the car and secure the bag with a rubber band around the wrist.

Paint the car following the recommendations on the paint can. For spray painting, I recommend starting with five coats of Rust-Oleum brand Filler Primer.1 After the primer dries, sand the car smooth with 800 grit wet paper. Then apply two coats of Dupli-Color-brand Perfect Match paint.1

If you intend to brush paint, then use an acrylic paint (water or alcohol cleanup). In general, I recommend using either lacquer or acrylic paints (Perfect Match is a lacquer). Avoid enamel paints as the cure time is quite long.

Between coats hang the car up to dry. Use a binder clip or clothespin to attach the screw to the wire. Make sure to follow the dry and re- coat instructions for the paint you are using. If you are careful and avoid runs, you should only need to sand after applying the primer.

The car is now ready for numbers, decals, or other decorations. I prefer to use dry-transfer decals and/or pin-striping. Another option is Paint Stencils.

Clear Coat
To get a better shine and protect the paint and decals, apply several coats of clear. Make sure to use a clear coat of the same brand and formulation as the paint (lacquer with lacquer, acrylic with acrylic, etc).2

Whew! That was a lot of work, but the car body is complete and it looks great. But if you want the car to be fast, your work has only begun …

1Rust-Oleum Filler/primer and Duplicolor paint are available at auto parts stores.

2If you used Dupli-Color Perfect Match paint, use Dupli-Color Perfect Match Protective Clear Coat.


A courier was travelling across country on a horse. He was in a hurry and rode the horse too hard, so it foundered. Needing to continue on his journey, he went up to a nearby farm and asked the farmer if he could buy a horse.

“The only horse I have is this one,” the farmer said.

“Fine, I’ll take it,” the courier replied and jumped on the horse’s back.

The rather religious farmer told the courier how to control the horse. “Say ‘Praise the Lord’ to get the horse to go and ‘Amen’ to get it to stop.”

So with a quick “Praise the Lord,” the courier was on his way. He made good time, and his mind wandered as the countryside flew by. Looking up after a while, the courier realized that a cliff was coming up, but the horse was showing no indication of slowing down. He began to panic as the cliff loomed closer, and he found he could not remember the command to stop the horse. In a real fright, the courier prayed earnestly for a reminder, and finished his prayer with “Amen.”

The horse came to a screeching halt at the edge of the cliff. Looking down over the edge, the relieved courier exclaimed loudly, “Praise the Lord!”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Pretty in Pink – Rob Wagner

My daughter Lucie (9) picked this design out after seeing something similar online. She sketched out the template we used to cut it. The car took 2nd place in a combined Cadets and GEMS (like girl scouts) race. The kits we use have dowel rod axle struts that the screw axles mount into. We used the 5148-Pro-Body Tool on new dowel rods. It made all the difference. The car went straight and true the first try.

Scooby-Doo – Tony Grim

This car is one of your propeller car kits with a Scooby-Doo “Mystery Machine” model over the top. It raced the top leaders’ cars and won by three car lengths. The kids at our race loved it.

Pinewood Derby Memory

The Thirty-Minute Car

Two years ago we held a pinewood derby workshop as we do every year on the eve of our race. A boy named Chris came in with his car kit untouched. So we helped him cut out the design he wanted. He then took about ten or fifteen swipes across his newly formed car with sandpaper, and added some stickers. We helped add weight, install the wheels and axles, and lube the car. In all, he spent about 30 minutes on the car (in contrast, my two sons and I had about 15 hours in our cars).

The next day at the derby we all watched in complete astonishment as Chris’ car raced down the track. It was very fast and was beating almost every car it raced! When the dust finally settled, he came in fourth place and was sent on to the district derby.

For that one young boy it was all he needed to feel like he was the greatest pinewood derby racer. Seeing the look on his face when he was handed the 4th place trophy, and his ear-to-ear smile was more than enough for me to want to help as many boys as possible in the years to come.

John Henderson
Garrett, Indiana


Which of your axles meet the BSA national Pinewood Derby guidelines and come deburred and polished?

Our 4097 axles are official BSA nails that have been deburred and partially polished.

Our 4094, 4056, 4035 and 4036 axles (all the same, just different treatment) are a clone of the BSA nail but without the flaws. They are a superior axle and we have never had any problem with legality. But admittedly, they are not the official nail.

Some other sites recommend graphite lube with “moly.” What do you think? Is graphite with moly a superior product?

I do not recommend graphite containing molybdenum for pinewood derby use. Molybdenum is a hard metal that is used as a lubricant in some industrial processes which require a lubricant with no electrical conductivity, high pressure, and high heat. None of these conditions apply to pinewood derby racing. In our testing the addition of molybdenum to graphite did nothing for performance, but did scratch the axles that you just spent so much time polishing.

I bought your Axle Polishing Kit. I tried to follow your directions but it’s hard to break habits. For example, the instructions said to polish for “at least 10 seconds”. Well, I did at least 110 seconds per grit. My thinking was there’s no way 10 seconds could do the same job as hours did with my oldest son’s car. That car won, but time is tighter this year. Did I waste time by working the axles more than 10 seconds per grit? Can I get away with just 10 seconds and get same results?

Congratulations on your son’s success!

I don’t recommend sanding very long with the coarser grits, as the diameter of the axle gets reduced, which just makes the wheel/axle fit sloppier. So if you polish for 10 seconds, it is sufficient. On the fine grits you can go longer if desired.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 9

– Feature Article – Shifted Wheelbase with Outlaw Wheels

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – The Spongy Car

– Q&A

Feature Article

Shifted Wheelbase with Outlaw Wheels
By Randy Davis

Last season I published an article entitled, Shifting the Wheelbase. In that article, the effect of shifting the standard wheelbase back by 1/4 inch was tested. The shift was accomplished as follows (quote from the original article):

“The body of the test car was shortened by 1/4 inch, and then a thin slot was cut crosswise on both the front and back of the car. A piece of polystyrene was cut such that when installed into one of the slots, the car measures seven inches long. By moving the polystyrene between the front and back of the car, the wheelbase is shifted by 1/4 inch without changing any other factor on the car.”

Figure 1 – Test Car
(Note the polystyrene piece at the back of the car in the first photo, and the front of the car in the second photo)

The result of the experiment was a 3ms improvement. Although any improvement is certainly welcome, my expectation was for a larger improvement. So at the end of that article, I suggested that switching to outlaw-type wheels would reduce some frictional losses and possibly amplify the benefit of the shifted wheelbase.

New Experiment Setup
The new experiment was set up identical to the first experiment except for the following:

  1. Outlaw wheels and nickel speed axles were used instead of Pro-Stock Wheels and zinc-plated speed axles.
  2. Additional tungsten putty was added into a hole in the bottom of the car to account for the reduction in wheel weight.

As before, five heats were run with the polystyrene piece at the back of the car (standard wheelbase), then ten heats were run with the polystyrene piece at the front of the car (shifted wheelbase). Finally, five heats were run with the polystyrene piece at the back to even out the heats to ten in each position.

Surprisingly (at least to me), the results of the second experiment were nearly identical to the first experiment.

  • Standard Wheelbase Average – 2.477 sec; Std. Deviation – .0011
  • Shifted Wheelbase Average – 2.474 sec; Std. Deviation – .0019

Thus, I have to conclude that shifting the wheelbase back by 1/4 inch, with all other factors equal, provides a 3 ms (approximately) improvement on a 32 foot aluminum Freedom Track.


A mother and her young son returned from the grocery store and began putting away the groceries. The boy opened the box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table.

“What are you doing?” his mother asked.

“You can’t eat them if the seal is broken” the boy explained, “I’m looking for the seal.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Today’s showcase cars are from Andy Holzer, master pinewood derby car builder.

1939 Chevy Sedan Delivery

In 2015 we held a car club Pinewood Derby. The car club is called the Sedan Deliveries. One of the design awards was an award for the best sedan delivery model. So I decided to make one for the race. The club logo includes a 1939 Chevy sedan delivery.

This is a large car; the glue up of this car was two blocks glued on top of each other. It was a lot of work getting a fat fendered car looking like it should. The headlights were made out of dowels stuck into the chuck of my drill press and sanded into shape. During the sanding process, the headlights were fitted and glued to the body.

While the sedan delivery was being clear coated, the clear coat reacted with the paint and we had some trouble. The clear was allowed to dry and was wet sanded to get the paint flat again, then it was re-cleared.

The sedan delivery won the “Best Sedan Delivery” trophy. It also was 3rd place for speed in the Stock Pinewood Derby class and 3rd place for speed in the Real Street class.

1939 Chevy Sedan

Once I had the plan for the Sedan Delivery completed, I figured it wouldn’t take much time to make a 1939 Chevy Sedan. My neighbor, and fellow Sedan Deliveries member, has a ’39 Chevy street rod, so I figured that it wouldn’t take much to modify the plan to a sedan. The modification to a sedan was actually quite easy; I hoped the build would be that easy. I started the same as the delivery – two blocks glued together, cut out the wheel wells, and glued the sides on.

About this time I realized that making two fat fendered, shapely cars was a lot of work. On the sedan I reshaped the hood twice and in the process I made the nose too rounded. Then I needed to build the front and rear lights for the sedan. After priming I realized the roof was too square and the hood sides were still not right – more reshaping.

The ’39 Chevy came in 4th in speed in the Real Street class.

Eleanor, from the 2000 movie “Gone in 60 Seconds”

A friend of mine has a real Eleanor, a modified 1967 Shelby GT-500. If I remember the story right, his car was number 17 of 18 cars made for the movie. His was one that they did not complete because it was not needed to finish the movie. When he purchased the car it was a painted body; it did not have a motor, driveline or suspension in it. When he got it he had a fabrication shop install a 5.0 Coyote motor from a wrecked 2013 Mustang. I built this car for my friend.

Eleanor only raced in the Real Street class, it took 1st place for speed and won the “Most Resembling a Car” trophy. Fast and pretty, that is how I like them – pinewood derby cars, that is.

1971 Javelin / AMX

I also decided to build a 1971 Penske Racing, Mark Donohue Javelin/AMX. This is the same car that won the 1971 SCCA Trans-Am championship, with seven wins out of ten events.

In the summer of 2014 when we were in Kenosha for an AMC homecoming, we saw some guys unloading their replica of the #6 Donohue car. Noah just happened to be wearing his T-shirt of the #6 Javelin. The owner asked him if he wanted to take his shoes off and sit in the car. The owner even let him start the car.

Last year I built a Javelin and three other cars for the 2015 Cub Scout recruitment campaign (the Javelin is the red car with the white T stripe).

The Javelin/AMX did not race as well as the original. In the Real Street class it came in 9th for speed out of 15 entrants.

1970 Rebel Machine

My 16 year old son, who has been a Boy Scout for 5 years, still enjoys making Pinewood Derby cars every year. In 2015 he decided to build the American Motors 70 Rebel Machine. It seems odd that a boy – who was not alive when American Motors Corporation was still in business – would decide to build a car from a 27 year defunct company.

We have a 1966 Marlin and in the summer of 2014 Noah went along with me and my dad to the Kenosha homecoming. Kenosha, Wisconsin is the place where AMCs were built from their inception back in 1954 up until the end in 1988. At this show there were all kinds of AMC, Nash, and Hudson cars. Noah thought the Rebel Machine and the SC Rambler were very cool in red, white and blue livery.

The Rebel Machine took 8th place in the stock class (out of 15 cars) and 5th place in the Real Street class (8 cars). We may have to play with it some more before we race this one again.

Pinewood Derby Memory

The Spongy Car

We had our pinewood derby a few weeks ago. My kids and I built three cars, two for the open class (Michelle, 10 years and Johnny, 4 years) and one for my 6 year-old son (Alex) who is in scouts. It was the night before the weigh-in and everything was going great. We rated the wheels and placed the best set on Alex’s car, and the worst on Johnny’s. We then polished, aligned, lubricated, etc. The cars were looking great.

Then disaster struck. The only way that I can describe it is that the wheel slots on Alex’s car melted apart. When Alex had painted his car, he put on so much primer and paint that the car had a spongy feel (it still is that way!). The wheels fell off and the axle slots were ruined. This was about 5 hours before the official weigh-in and we did not have time to build another car. So, using epoxy, we glued the wheels on as straight as we could. We then went to the weigh-in and were set for the race.

On race day, I was the judge that monitored the cars and kept them from being modified before the race (I also was the one who carried them to the starting line). When putting out the cars, I noticed that the wheels on Alex’s car were very much mis-aligned. It must have been bounced around after check-in. But since all of the cars were registered, there was nothing we could do. Alex was very disappointed to find out that his car placed almost dead-last. The wheels were so out of alignment that while the car was fast for the first few feet, it did not have the staying power to finish the race. It would run in first place for the first few feet and then lose out in the end. The one bright spot in the otherwise sad day for Alex was that he won the prize for the sportiest looking car.

Then came the open division. Michelle’s car finished 9th or 10th, and took first in the unique design category. Johnny’s car (which had the worst wheels and the least attention to alignment), finished 5th. His car did not lose a race until the final two races.

It just goes to show that you can never really predict what will happen when you race in the pinewood derby.

Brian Stanek
Indianapolis, IN


My boys have been using the wedge design and other tools from your site for over six years and we’ve had great success, winning or being in the finals each year. I’m wondering if, instead of the lead, the wedge (basic wedge) can use tungsten? Installing and shaping the lead has always been the most challenging part for us.

If you are using an extended wheelbase version of the wedge, then tungsten would be best.

If you are using a standard wheelbase version of the wedge, then you can use tungsten, but you just have to be careful to not overload the back. You would want to have a target balance point, then slip the weights in without glue, temporarily mount the wheels and axles, and check the balance point. Adjust the weights until the desired balance point is achieved, and glue them in place. Make sure to leave the car a little light, and add the final weight at the weigh-in.

I would like to try racing in a league race. I will have to send in my car a couple of weeks early because we are driving to Florida. Should I try to use oil – I have not tried it before?

I don’t recommend lubing with Krytox 100 more than one week before the race. It may be okay, but it would safer to use graphite with that amount of lead time.

I am going to be using your propeller car kit for an upcoming outlaw race. What is the ideal weight for a propeller car on a standard length aluminum track?

Generally you want the car to be as light as possible. Since it is under power, it will continue to accelerate for the entire run, and the lighter the car, the greater the acceleration. Of course, at some point it could be too light and fly off the track. But with the parts in the kit, that doesn’t happen (at least, not that I am aware of).

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 8

– Feature Article – Tools of the Trade

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – Competition Among Friends

– Q&A

Feature Article

Tools of the Trade

Anytime you get involved in a sport or hobby, some specialty equipment is needed to help you achieve your goals. Baseball players need a glove, bat, and ball. Skiers need skis, poles, and warm clothing. R/C airplane enthusiasts need specialty tools, fuel dispensers, radio equipment etc.

The same is true in pinewood derby racing. Fortunately, success can be achieved without spending serious money, and in fact people have successfully built pinewood derby cars for years with few tools. But having the right tools (and knowing how to use them) makes the job simpler and more enjoyable, and the results at the track are generally better.

In this article I will describe the woodworking tools that are most commonly used for building a pinewood derby car. In a future article I will describe the key specialty tools that were designed specifically for pinewood derby car building. As each tool is described, I will note whether the tool is required or optional.

For some of the tools I have included links to the Rockler Woodworking web site. Rockler sells top quality products, so naturally their prices are not cheap (likely you can find the tools locally for a better price).

Saw – At least one saw is required

Coping Saw
Source: Rockler

The most versatile saw for pinewood derby building is the Coping Saw. The Coping Saw is designed for cutting curves in relatively thin material, so it is excellent for cutting the outline of a car body as viewed from the top of the car. The Coping Saw does not work as well for cutting thick material, so it is nice to have a more general purpose saw for cutting the material off of the top of the car.

Here are some general suggestions for sawing.

  • Start the cut by making short gentle strokes. When the saw is firmly in the wood, take long even strokes.
  • Go slowly, and watch carefully to make sure the cut is staying in line. If the cut is wandering, either back up and start again in the right direction, or start the cut from the opposite side.
  • When cutting completely through a block of wood, place a scrap piece of wood tightly against the side of the block from which the saw blade will exit. This minimizes the amount of chipping at the saw exit point.

Drill And Bits – A hand drill and some basic drill bits are required

For weight holes, I strongly recommend the use of “Brad Point” or “Forstner” drill bits. These bits are designed to cut clean holes in wood. Auger bits are nice, but the long threaded tip is not good for the precise needs of derby cars. Spade bits cause excessive chipping, and standard drill bits tend to chip and wander.

Here are some general tips:

  • Clamp the wood block in place. Don’t attempt to drill with one hand while holding the block with the other.
  • Drill straight down with the drill no higher than chest level. If needed stand on a step stool to get the needed height.
  • Use steady, even pressure on the drill. Pushing too hard can result in deeper holes than desired.
  • When drilling completely through the block, put a scrap piece of wood underneath the block. This will minimize chipping at the drill bit exit site.
  • To remove the drill bit from a hole, pull upwards and start the drill.

Chisel – Optional

Wood Chisel
Source: Rockler

Chisels are used when creating a square or rectangular hole or cavity in a car, such as when creating a cavity in the bottom of the car for holding lead, tungsten cubes, etc.

Here are some general tips:

  • If at all possible, remove most of the wood with a drill.
  • Use a hammer and chisel to make the first chisel cuts around the edge of the hole being chiseled. Tap the chisel gently, and remove a small amount of wood at a time. Taking too big of a bite can cause the wood block to split.
  • Use the chisel by itself to pry and cut out any wood in the center of the hole.
  • When removing a thin shaving, a hammer is not needed. Just push the chisel with steady pressure.
  • Keep the chisel sharp to avoid splitting the wood, and most importantly,
  • Keep all body parts away from the cutting edge!

Rasp – Optional

Wood Rasp
Source: Rockler

A rasp is a rough file that is used to shape the wood after it has been rough cut with a saw. Rasps are either half round or flat. I recommend the purchase of a “4-in-1” (a.k.a. “Shoe Rasp”). The 4-in-1 Rasp has four different surfaces on one tool. Two of the surfaces are flat, and two are rounded; two of the surfaces are rough rasps, and two are fine rasps. Thus, this one tool is very versatile.

Here are some general filing tips:

  • Files only cut on the push stroke, so use most of your energy pushing, not pulling.
  • To keep the file working properly remove the sawdust from the file teeth occasionally. A “File Card” or a wire brush can be used for this job.
  • Use flat files to shape flat surfaces and outward-curved surfaces. Use rounded files to shape inward-curved surfaces.
  • A small triangular file is useful for shaping the lines of complex car bodies. This tool, or a small rectangular file, are required for removing the burrs on nail-type axles.

Sandpaper – Required

Sandpaper Assortment
Source: Maximimum Velocity

Sandpaper is used to smooth the surface of the wood before painting. Sandpaper is rated in “grit” with the number identifying the roughness of the paper. Smaller numbers indicate rougher paper. Sandpaper also comes in different styles, as it can be used on metal and wood. However, most styles will work on wood.

Sanding tips:

  • Start with rough paper, and then progress to finer paper. A good progression is 60, 120, 220, and 400.
  • For sanding smooth, flat surfaces, use a Sanding Block. This is a tool made to hold a 1/4 sheet of sandpaper. Typically it has a padded surface, which is best for smoothing wood. (Available at: Maximimum Velocity)
  • Sand back and forth in the direction of the wood grain. On the end of the car, sand in a circular motion.
  • To sand inside a body hole or a small surface, use a piece of sandpaper taped to a small flat object (Popsicle stick, small ruler, etc.).
  • To sand inward curved surfaces, use a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel rod (or piece of broomstick).
  • Between coats of paint, lightly sand the car with 600 grit paper. This sandpaper is also excellent for polishing the wheel tread (use it wet).

Glue – At a minimum, have some white glue

White Glue and Epoxy
Source: Maximimum Velocity

Glue comes in several different types. Always use the proper glue for the job.

  • Use “Wood Glue” (yellow glue) or white glue when gluing wood to wood, for repairing chips and cracks, and for gluing the axles in place.
  • Use epoxy when gluing non-wood parts to wood. For example, use epoxy for gluing weights to the car. This is especially important if weight is suspended under the car. Epoxy is also used for gluing plastic or metal decorative parts to the wood body.
  • Only use super glue for an emergency repair during a race.
  • Avoid any expanding glue such as “Gorilla Glue”.

Clamp – One clamp is required

Source: Rockler

Woodworkers say that you can never have too many clamps, and building a pinewood derby car is very difficult without one or two. The main use is for holding the car in place while drilling and sawing. The other use is for clamping a hand drill in place while preparing the wheels and axles.

I like to use F-Clamps. This is combination between a Bar Clamp and a C-Clamp. It has the reach and screw-tightening of a C-Clamp, but has the benefit of quicker and wider adjustability similar to a Bar Clamp.

Having the right tools greatly simplifies the task of building a pinewood derby car. When we first started building cars, we had a few tools. As the years went by, and our experience grew, so did our supply of tools.

So, for beginners, I recommend purchasing/borrowing all of the tools listed above as “required”, and possibly a few of the optional tools. Then next year, get a few additional tools. Before long, you will not only be an expert pinewood derby builder, but you will also have the “Tools of the Trade”.


A high-school geometry teacher started a lesson on triangles by reading a theorem. “If an angle is an exterior angle of a triangle, then its measure is greater than the measure of either of its corresponding remote interior angles.”

He noticed that one student wasn’t taking notes and asked him why.

“Well,” the student replied sincerely, “I was waiting for you to start speaking English.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

The Few, The Proud… – Matt Penza

The Marine car took Grand Champion in the derby. My daughter came up with the concept after seeing my uniform.

The Flame – Stacy Bodder

My son, Joel Bodder was in his first pinewood derby race tonight; he came in first for speed. It was an exciting race. In one of the races, Joel’s car hit a piece of dirt in the track and jumped up and landed sideways, but won the race crossing the finish line sliding sideways!

Carbonite Cruiser – Justin Roberts

In honor of the release of the Star Wars movie, here is the Carbonite Cruiser we built back in 2011! Of course, it was a winner!

Pinewood Derby Memory

Competition Among Friends

My son Trey is a Tiger Cub so the pinewood derby is new to him. It is also a lot more competitive than when I was a scout. Along with helping Trey build his first car, I was roped into helping two of my friends with three cars for their sons (Chris, his brother Will, and Tyler). I really worked at making this a learning experience for the boys. They polished wheels and axles, and cut out the car shapes with help from the dads. The boys also sanded as if the world championship was at stake.

All the boys talked about was how they all were going to go to the district championship (the older boys explained the district race to Trey, so he decided he would be going also). For the older boys this was going to be their big year because they were tired of losing to the same three district qualifiers each year. Fortunately, Tyler raced in a different pack. He in fact won his pack race and went to districts.

My problem started when the other three (including my son) all won their den races and were ready to duke it out in the final for the three district qualifier spots. The first three rounds they all advanced easily. But in the fourth round Trey had to race against Chris. Chris won the first heat by a few thousandths of a second. Then Trey won the second race by a few thousandths (both moms wanted to quit right there so that everyone would still play together). Well, Chris won the third heat and advanced. Trey raced his way back through the loser’s bracket only to face Chris again for 3rd place. The three races were identical to the first, with Chris picking up the last spot for districts and Trey placing 4th overall.

To make matters even worse, Will took 1st place and Tyler took 2nd place so all three of the other boys went to the district championship. Trey was a very good sport in the whole situation, but he reminds me often: “Dad. Chris, Will, and Tyler have to build their cars by themselves next year. Okay?”

Bill Launius
Millstadt, IL


I don’t have any questions from readers at this time, so here is some Q&A on weighting from our website.

Why do I need to add weight to my pinewood derby car?

If there were no friction or air resistance, then added weight would not be needed. But since friction (and to a lesser extent, air resistance) exists, weight is needed to help your car overcome friction. This is especially important on modern tracks which have an initial slope followed by a long flat section. On this type of track, the pinewood derby car reaches its maximum speed at the bottom of the hill, and then begins to slow down. Without added weight, the car will slow down much more quickly.

What is the best weight for pinewood derby cars?

For cars with less than one-half of the original block remaining, lead or tungsten weight is generally required. For minimalist cars (very little wood), tungsten is generally needed to attain proper weight. For cars with one-half or more of the block remaining, then steel or zinc will work fine.

What is tungsten?

Tungsten is a metal with one of the highest densities. It is 1.7 times heavier than lead. Only gold, platinum, and a few other rare and expensive metals have a similar density. Tungsten is non-toxic and environmentally friendly so it is gaining increased use in weighting applications where lead is not appropriate. For example lead has been banned in many streams, so tungsten is often substituted for lead weight on fishing flies.

Can I drill, melt, or reshape tungsten?

Not easily. Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals in pure form: 3422 Deg C, 6192 Deg F. To cut or drill tungsten generally requires diamond cutting tools. So, I recommend using the appropriate shape of tungsten, and creating pockets or holes in the pinewood derby car to accept the tungsten weight.

Is lead safe?

Lead can be toxic if taken internally. However, if handled and used in a safe manner, the health risk is quite low.  Here is our safety information:

Lead can be toxic if taken internally. It is sold to adults as ballast weight for pinewood derby cars. It is not sold for use by children.

To minimize risk when using lead:

  • Keep lead away from your mouth,
  • Wash hands after handling lead,
  • Avoid use around water, food, or food preparation areas,
  • Properly dispose of any lead fragments,
  • To minimize lead fragments, cut lead with cutting pliers; do not use a saw to cut lead,
  • Avoid sanding lead with sandpaper,
  • Do not melt lead as the fumes are toxic and the lead can pop and splatter, causing eye and skin injuries.

Why do you not offer a greater variety of PineCar weights?

Most PineCar weights are made of zinc, which is a metal with a very low density. This low density makes proper weighting difficult to impossible on cars made of less than one-half of the wood block.

What is the best location for added weight?

Added weight should be placed such that the final balance point of the car is between 3/4 and 1 in front of the rear axle (can be closer if rail-riding). To achieve this balance point, a good “rule of thumb” is to place of one-third of the added weight behind the rear axle, one-third on top of or just in front of the rear axle, and the final third about one inch in front of the rear axle.

Is it better to put the weight high or low on the car?

Low weight is slightly better, as it gives the car greater stability.

What do I use if I don’t have time to buy weights?

If you are in a jam, use pennies, or steel screws and washers.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 7

– Feature Article – ‘Twas the Night Before Pinewood

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – Look at that S-Car Go!

– Q&A

Feature Article

‘Twas the Night Before Pinewood

‘Twas the night before Pinewood,
His car still needed lead,
He had done his very best,
When his mom yelled “Get to bed!”

He climbed under his blanket,
His car wasn’t ready to race,
The pinewood derby was tomorrow,
There was a frown on his face.

Just as his eyes closed,
He heard something spin,
It was Scout Saint Nick,
Coming to help him win!

As he peeked from under the covers,
Scout Saint Nick started to drill,
To help his car speed,
On its way down the hill.

He splashed on some paint,
And stuck on some wheels,
He put the car on its stand,
And clicked his boot heels.

This woke the young scout,
He had a smile on his face,
A happy Pinewood to all,
And to all a good race!

Used by permission.
Copyright 1995 Jay Jenkins


A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, “This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.”

The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, “Which do you want, son?”

The boy takes the quarters and leaves. “What did I tell you?” said the barber. “That kid never learns!”

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store. “Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?”

The boy licked his cone and replied, “Because the day I take the dollar, the game is over!”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Today’s cars were submitted by Stacy Bodder.

Hay Wagon – Rachel

Where we live, there is a hay wagon that gives rides. My daughter really wanted to build one. This is not the best design for speed; it caught way too much air to take the speed award, but it was still fun to build.

Orange Speedster – Rachel

This car was completely built by my daughter, using my design. She added fenders made out of the left over pine, and out came a car that won in the regional races.

Lotus Evora – Lydia

My daughter wanted to make a Lotus Evora, and this was the result. It went so fast that at the end of the track it hit the stop and flew off the track which was raised 3 feet off the ground. The right rear corner was damaged, but it still took first in speed.

Indy Car – Lydia

My daughter wanted to build an Indy car, and her favorite color is purple. The resulting car took first place in speed.

Pinewood Derby Memory

Look at that S-Car Go!

My son is an 8-year old with Asperger’s syndrome, sometimes called high functioning autism. I am a leader in his Cub Scout pack, and together we were building a car for the annual Pinewood Derby. After our middle of the pack finish last year, we decided to do some research on how to build a fast pinewood derby car. Using the Internet and a tape borrowed from our public library, my son and I designed our car. But as we all know, what we want and what we end up with can be drastically different (but sometimes just what we need).

Our car was shaped like a Japanese sandal. We originally were going to build a car shaped like a snail, but I am not a skilled wood worker and that design turned out to be too much work for the time remaining before the race. The car’s name was “S-car” after an old joke about a snail who put an “S” on the side of his car. When people saw him, they would say, “look at that S-car go! (escargot)

We were testing the car the night before the race, trying to get it to roll straight. I was adjusting one of the front wheels when the wood in front of the axle snapped. Just for kicks I tried the car without the wheel. It rolled in a perfect line on three wheels (something that I had tried to accomplish, but could not do!) So, I glued that wheel on at a serious angle to minimize track contact. My son finished the car by putting snail stickers all over it.

Race day came, and being a leader I was in charge of the car table. My son’s car did not look like much compared to the Formula 1 cars, dragsters and roadsters. But once the racing started, things became interesting.

Our car won the first heat in a convincing fashion. All the leaders who knew my son congratulated him on his win. When his car won the next four races in the same fashion (over some of their son’s cars), things started to change. The former Cub Master kept holding the car in his hand, moving it up and down like he was weighing it (he was the official that weighed it in and inspected it!). I asked what the problem was and he said, “I know this is legal, I weighed it in and inspected it, but it feels a lot heavier than the other cars” (The car’s center of gravity was about 1 inch in front of the rear wheels). After each win, someone else would pick the car up, spin the wheels, and look at the weight layout.

In the end, my son’s car swept the derby; not a second place or a race closer than one-quarter car length the whole time. A few father’s came up to me after the race, wanting to know my “secrets”. I told them, “Do your homework – everything I know about pinewood derby design and speed hints, I found on the Internet.” But even with all the hard work, hand work and homework, our win that night was truly sealed by the “lucky” break of our front wheel the evening before the race. The “S” on our car could stand for serendipity – the ability to discover things by accident.

My son still hasn’t stopped talking about his win and how proud he is of his effort. Due to his condition, I do not know what his future will be like – what he will be able to do for a living, if he will marry, have children, how much of the world he will explore and understand outside of his tightly focused mindset – but I, with the help of people like Michael Lastufka, Randy Davis and their websites, was able to help him make a car that gave him a chance to be a winner and to be proud of his accomplishment.

Kenneth N. Friedel
Baltimore, MD


I’ll assume that the 4042-Outlaw/needle set is faster than the 4041-Outlaw/nickel set. What’s your take on the 4048-Bearing axles? Is the bearing axle faster than the outlaw/needle? I would think the bearing axle would have more friction than the needle axle. Has any testing been done to compare the two?

Yes, the 4042-Outlaw/needle set are faster than the 4041-Outlaw/nickel set, but you want to use the 4049-Needle Axle Upgrade kit as the needles in the 4042 package are too flexible.

At 5 ounces, I believe the needles would be faster than the bearings. The bearings would come into play at heavier weights. However, I have not specifically tested this.

We’re entering our first outlaw derby where, according to the scout master, “There are no rules”.

If there really are “no rules”, then I would go with a powered car.

But in any case, the narrow (Outlaw) wheels are much faster than stock width wheels, and the Needle Axle Outlaw Wheels are even faster. But if you do go with the Needle Axle wheels, make sure to get the Needle Axle Upgrade Kit. For weight, stay under 12 ounces – more than that doesn’t usually pay off on standard length tracks, and just makes the car take a lot abuse when it stops.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 6

– Feature Article – Derby Teaches Lessons On Gracious Winning, Noble Losing

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – The Flying Car Investigation

– Q&A

Feature Article

Derby Teaches Lessons On Gracious Winning, Noble Losing
By Susan Mathison

Grant’s face was twisted into a tight little ball of disappointment.

He had just received a second-place trophy for his age group at the Pinewood Derby.

The premise? Carve a miniature wheeled car out of a piece of wood, line it up with the other cars, and see whose car races the fastest.

Grant’s car was a minimalist beauty, painted bright yellow but so layered with graphite that it looked like sleek stainless steel. It zoomed fast, but not the fastest.

He was not pleased with his second-place finish. It took about 10 takes and five minutes of cajoling to capture a photo with his trophy. Even then, his forced smile didn’t quite cover his discouragement.

Seeing his frustration, I recognized one of those teachable moments, an opportunity to help my son learn an important lesson about graciousness, character and sportsmanship.

The truth is that “winning” is a concept that so many of us struggle with, myself included.

We all want to win. In some instances, we need to win.

We want to win the patient, win the client, win the opportunity, win the chance to speak on stage. We want to succeed. Earn a living. Make an impact. Nobody wants to feel like they are living a “second-place life.”

But what does “winning” mean, exactly?

After scouring the Internet for quotes and definitions, the one that rings truest to me is a statement that doesn’t include the word “winning” at all, but defines it nonetheless.

“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.”-Brian Tracy

To me, attaining that precious emotional state, peace of mind, is the definition of winning.

If you can enter into a competition, a conversation, a relationship, a creative project or a business venture and walk away knowing, “I truly gave my personal best, I regret nothing, I feel at peace,” then you have won.

What is more precious than satisfaction, contentment and peace of mind?

No external trophy or ribbon can give you peace of mind-or take it away. It’s an inside job.

That is what I tried to explain to my son amidst chattering kids and miniature cars.

He got to spend fun time with his dad working on the project. He got to make many trips to the Boy Scout store and the hardware store. He got to work with cool tools. He got to hang with his Tiger den and watch the thrilling races. He got to be happy for his friend who won. He got to try his best.

We’re still working on these lessons, and likely will be for a long time.

First, second or last. Triumph or “better luck next time.”

Peace of mind and no regrets means you have won.

Originally published April 12, 2015 at
Used by permission

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created E-mail her at:


A man walks into a restaurant with a full-grown ostrich behind him.

As he sits, the waitress comes over and asks for their orders.

The man says, “I’ll have a hamburger, fries and a coke,” and turns to the ostrich, “What’s yours?”

“I’ll have the same,” says the ostrich.

A short time later the waitress returns with the order. “That will be $6.40 please,” and the man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the exact change for payment.

The next day, the man and the ostrich come again and the man says, “I’ll have a hamburger, fries and a coke,” and the ostrich says, “I’ll have the same.”

Once again the man reaches into his pocket and pays with exact change.

This becomes a routine until late one evening, the two enter again.

“The usual?” asks the waitress. “No, this is Friday night, so I will have a steak, baked potato and salad,” says the man. “Same for me,” says the ostrich.

A short time later the waitress comes with the order and says, “That will be $12.62.”Once again the man pulls exact change out of his pocket and places it on the table.

The waitress can’t hold back her curiosity any longer.

“Excuse me, sir. How do you manage to always come up with the exact change out of your pocket every time?”

“Well,” says the man, “several years ago I was cleaning the attic and I found an old lamp. When I rubbed it a Genie appeared and offered me two wishes. My first wish was that if I ever had to pay for anything, I would just put my hand in my pocket and the right amount of money would always be there.”

“That’s brilliant!”says the waitress. “Most people would wish for a million dollars or something, but you’ll always be as rich as you want for as long as you live!”

“That’s right. Whether it’s a gallon of milk or a Rolls Royce, the exact money is always there,” says the man.

The waitress asks, “One other thing, sir, what’s with the ostrich?”

The man sighs, pauses, and answers, “My second wish was for a tall chick with long legs who agrees with everything I say.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Here are some unique cars from our race held in November.


The TMNT car had to be fully hollowed out underneath to make weight. Not terribly fast but it won a design award.

Football and Minecraft

Both of these were design winners.


This cute car was actually quite fast, and it won a design award. But it had the nasty habit of shedding green stuff on the track. Yuck.

DeLorean, Cake and Snoopy

Some great cars from our parent-sibling race. Snoopy took first in design. (I really liked the DeLorean, but the participants pick the design awards; likely the kids were too young to recognize the DeLorean from “Back to the Future”.)

Olaf and Batmobile

More cars from our parent-sibling race. Olaf took a design award. The other design award went to a Lightning McQueen car. Unfortunately, the photo of that car came out blurry.

Pinewood Derby Memory

The Flying Car Investigation

Last night was the practice and “unofficial” weigh-in for our Pinewood Derby. This being the rookie season for my Tiger Cub we decided to practice positioning our car on the track. The first run was great – all went well and the car was fast. The second run was a cardiac tester!

As background, the starting gate mechanism on our track is controlled by an electromagnet. A long plate of steel holds the starting pins in place. When the switch is thrown, the electromagnet is disabled, causing the steel plate and the starting pins to fall.

Here is the official account of the incident.

THE SETTING: Four or five Tiger Cubs curiously milling around the starting gate (actually the launch pad for this story), two or three parents checking out the competition, one Webelo manning the starting switch, and two cars on the track.

THE LAUNCH EVENT: As the starting switch is thrown, the cars take off for a split second and then are abruptly jolted. One of the cars goes airborne (you know which one don’t you) in quite a spectacular fashion and climbs to an altitude of five feet above the launch pad. The car appears to be in slow-motion as it flies about twelve feet, trying desperately to defy gravity.

THE IMPACT: A padded concrete landing followed by alternating impacts with two folding chairs, and a final bounce to the concrete for good measure.

THE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: No mechanical defect was found in the starting mechanism; no earthquake reported or predicted, leaving only the four or five curious Tigers to interrogate.

THE FINDING: Two Tigers found it fun to grab onto the steel weight at the start. Apparently the cars started but a Tiger reversed the direction of the weight causing a starting pin to launch the car.

THE DAMAGE REPORT: The car was nicked and scuffed a little but still performed well.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: Keep little hands away from the machinery.

Keith Lindsay
Halifax, Pennsylvania


Should I be using Krytox 100 lube instead of the graphite I’ve been using from you for years? Is it faster?

It depends on what wheels and axles you are using. In my opinion Krytox works best when the wheels and axles have a good fit. If the wheels and axles have a sloppy fit, then graphite generally works better.

If you are using BSA wheels and axles (which have a sloppy fit), then graphite generally works best. But if you were to use some oversized axles with the BSA wheels, then Krytox would work well.

However, I have received several e-mails from folks that have used Krytox 100 with BSA wheels and axles, and felt that the Krytox 100 was faster than the graphite.

Certainly, Krytox 100 is easier to use, cleaner, and lasts longer.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 5

– Feature Article – Offset Weight Placement: Part 2

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – Up In Flames!

– Q&A

Feature Article

Offset Weight Placement – Part 2
By Randy Davis

Back in 2011, I did an experiment on side to side weight placement1 which was documented in Volume 10 Issue 8. In that experiment, on a three-wheeled car the left-to-right center of gravity was shifted left, then right, and then evenly balanced on the rear wheels. The effect of alignment was then checked for each weight position. The result was that there was no meaningful effect on the alignment of the car due to the left-right position of the weight.

Further Consideration
After some consideration I decided that the experiment was not complete. First, I did not measure the actual performance of the car on the track. Secondly, the balance point of the car was fairly conservative (less weight on rear wheels).

So, I decided to modify the test car and redo the experiment with track testing. I decided to eliminate the left shift of the weight and focused on Center Weighting and Balanced Weighting.2

Figure 1 – Original Test Car

The original test car held four COG weights, two in each side hole, and a small amount of trim weight just in front of the rear axle.

Figure 2 – New Test Car

The new test car has four COG weights, one in each side hole, and just over one ounce of weight just in front of the rear axle. This results in a more aggressive center of gravity (3/4 inch in front of rear axle), and a greater amount of side-to-side adjustment.

Experiment Setup
The car was equipped with polished BSA Speed Axles and Pro-Stock Speed Wheels, and lubricated with Krytox 100. The front dominant axle was bent and adjusted for railing riding,

When Center Weighting was configured, there was 2.54 ounces on the left-rear wheel and 1.64 ounces on the right-rear wheel. When Balanced Weighting was configured, there was 2.09 ounces on both wheels.

Each configuration was run ten times, and the times were averaged and a standard deviation calculated.

In harmony with the first experiment, the results showed no measurable difference between Center Weighting and Balanced Weighting.

2.553 – Center Weighting Average, .0017 Std Dev

2.554 – Balanced Weighting Average, .0029 Std Dev

So, I think I can just paraphrase the conclusion from the first article. Placing the weight such that it is evenly distributed on the rear wheels is the theoretical correct technique. However, a centered weight placement will not have any effect on the performance of the car.

1For a discussion as to why the left-right weight placement is theoretically of interest, please refer to the original article.

2“Center Weighting” places the weight in the left-to-right center of the car body. “Balanced Weighting” places the weight so that the rear wheels have an equal weight load.


When my three-year-old son opened the birthday gift from his grandmother, he discovered a water pistol. He squealed with delight and headed for the nearest sink. I was not so pleased. I turned to Mom and said, “I’m surprised at you. Don’t you remember how we used to drive you crazy with water guns?”

Mom smiled and then replied…..”I remember.”

Car Showcase

Today’s cars were submitted by Dennis Pemberton

Squished Beetle

My version of a chopped Beetle. I made it at the last minute. It started out with a light blue finish but the spray can was old and I got horrendous “orange peel”. So I sanded it down and sprayed two different shades of primer – like a true Rat Rod!

“Oh, I Wish I Were …”

My wife made this Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. We used a chunk of balsa for the wiener, and the thing still came in at almost 5 ounces.

Bus 64

My entry in the Awana Grand Prix. I had to make the sides out of sheet plastic because even 1/4 inch poplar sides were too heavy. I was not real happy with the motor. The bus was surprisingly stable with so much weight on top.


My daughter’s Batmobile. Although it doesn’t show very well in the picture, the number 7 is actually the first coat of gloss black, sanded down. I then masked the 7, and shot another coat of gloss black on top. The result was a subtle, shadowy seven.

Pinewood Derby Memory

Up In Flames!

We were building four cars for the upcoming derby race. It was the weekend before the race, and the cars were finally painted. For some reason the yellow paint on one of the cars just didn’t seem to be drying.

A dim light bulb suddenly switched on inside my head – I could use the microwave to dry the car! Quickly, I put the car on a paper plate, stuck it in the microwave, and turned it on. I left the room for a few moments, and then all of a sudden I heard a scream coming from the kitchen. I quickly rushed back in and found the car in flames, with the owner (my lady friend’s 13 year old) screaming in horror! I quickly shut off the microwave and removed the car. It was rather warm to the touch, the paint was burnt and slightly bubbled, and the 13 year old was crying, (not to mention the stench which remained in the house for a week). With a lot of sanding, repainting, and consoling, we managed to get the car completed on time.

On race day all of the trouble was justified. The car won 1st place for speed in its division and took 2nd place in the design category.

I don’t think we will quickly forget the “Flaming Car”, and will certainly leave the microwave out of our car building process in the future.

Duane Hittle
Capac, Michigan


On most all of your technical reports five inches of steer is used most of the time. This makes the car a “rail pusher” more then a rail- rider. Could a timed test be done using 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 inches of steer?

Generally, you need a decent amount of drift to make sure the dominant wheel stays on the rail. If it comes off the rail, then the car can become unstable, losing the advantage of rail-riding.

Tracks vary in their quality and setup, so 5 inches over 8 feet is recommended to overcome most track issues. It is possible that on a very smooth and level track the drift could be less. But even on my smooth aluminum track, which is leveled, five inches (and sometimes more) of drift is needed to make sure a car with an aggressive COG stays on the rail. But the amount of drift required is track dependent.

I want to enter a fund raiser event in the outlaw class which allows powered cars. I have a Fan Powered car from many years ago (the orange one). You have the V3 available but I’m not sure if I will be allowed to charge the car prior to each heat. Not sure what the V2 was but I assume it was faster than the version I have. Did the V2 run on a battery or capacitors? Are the V1 and V2 fan powered kits still available?

The V2 was the first capacitor car, with the same sized fan as the V1. The V3 has a larger fan and altered component mounting. Neither V1 or V2 are available.

One solution, albeit a bit ugly, is to use the V3 and mount a 9V battery on top of the car, plugged into the jack. Then the capacitors will charge while the car is staged. Preferably it needs 30 seconds to charge. Note that the weight of the battery may slow it down a bit.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 4

– Feature Article – Displaying Your Pinewood Derby Car

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – Race Master 101: The School Of Hard Knocks

– Q&A

Feature Article

Displaying Your Pinewood Derby Car
By Randy Davis

The sawdust has settled, the race is over, and now you must decide what to do with the car. Whether or not your car won an award, you put a lot of effort into building it, and you want to display it proudly. But how can you display the car and at the same time provide some level of protection? This article will explore the various display options available to you so that you can pick the method that best fits your situation.

Shelf Method
The most common method for displaying a car is to simply put the car on a shelf in your room. The method is free and allows easy access to the cars. However, the problem with this method became very evident one day when our youngest son was changing his clothes. Instead of placing the dirty clothes in the basket, he decided to throw them upwards towards the spinning ceiling fan. I am sure you can imagine what happened; the clothes hit the fan, flew across the room, and wiped out a few cars. We managed to glue things back together, but realized then that the shelf method of storing cars is not the safest. Not only can cars be knocked off easily, but since cars roll very easily, any bump to the shelf or furniture can cause a car to roll off.

Homemade Pedestal or Plaque
Another common method for storing pinewood derby cars is to build a pedestal to hold the car. The pedestal doesn’t eliminate the “flying object” problem, but does eliminate the “rolling problem”. An advantage to the pedestal (and other non-shelf methods) is that a label can be placed on the pedestal noting the car owner, date of race, any awards, etc. Building a pedestal is fairly easy, but if you would like some inspiration, a simple plan for a pedestal is given at:

An alternative is to build a wall plaque. Typically, the car is attached to the plaque with screws into the bottom of the car, or with a patch of Velcro. A plaque may be a bit more difficult to make than a pedestal since the lettering is generally larger. For inspiration and plans, take a look at:

Note that making a pinewood derby pedestal or plaque can be a great craft project for your pack or club.

Purchase a Pedestal
Maybe you don’t have the time or tools to build a pedestal or plaque to display your car. Not to worry, these items are available for sale. Below I have listed some options available on the Internet. The current retail price and the web site are also provided.

PineCar Pedestal – $6.99

This unit consists of a wood base with a curved metal arm to which one car is attached.

Scout Stuff Pedestal – $10.49

The unfinished stand holds one car, and includes an engravable brass plaque.

Derby Gurus Pedestal – $34.95

The pedestal holds four cars and optionally mounts on a wall. Price shown is for the pre-finished version, but an unfinished version is available for a lower price.

Purchase a Display Case
All of the options listed above have two inherent problems: 1) The car will collect dust, and 2) the car is not fully protected from flying objects (clothes, elbows, baseballs, etc.). A display case solves these two problems. If you have many cars, then you may want to consider building or purchasing a trophy case. But for a few cars, the DerbyDome display case is a nice solution.

DerbyDome – $10.95

The DerbyDome is a sturdy case for displaying a pinewood derby car. The product has a clear, protective dome, and a black base with a no- tools-required mounting system for holding the car in place. A custom plastic label is available from the manufacturer.

You and your child have made an investment of time in a pinewood derby car. Once the race is over, don’t put the car in a box. Instead, display your car proudly and safely.


A mother asked her small son what he would like for his birthday. “I’d like a little brother,” the boy said. “Oh my, that’s such a big wish,” said the mother. “Why do you want a little brother?” “Well,” said the boy, “there’s only so much I can blame on the dog.”

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Here are our two cars for the Outlaw Race this year. The rules were tightened up so they are pretty much stock.

Flower Garden – Elisa Davis

This was the original prototype of the new Annihilator body style. My wife used her Cricut to make flowers out of sticky-back vinyl. The car placed 1st in the Adult race.

Fender Bender – Randy Davis

This car was built to show fenders, and had never been raced. So I fixed it up for this year’s race. The car placed 2nd in the Adult race. (Always a good policy to let your wife win!)

Pinewood Derby Memory

Race Master 101 – The School Of Hard Knocks

As I reflect on the events of our last several Grand Prix races, I can only laugh – it’s my best defense mechanism.

I’ve been involved as an entrant and a dad for several years with Awana Grand Prix racing. It’s always a great time with the kids and I’m able to let my competitive juices flow unrestricted (almost) for a couple hours per year.

Two years ago our new club commander asked if I would “take over” the race portion of our Grand Prix. I jumped at the chance since I hadn’t been exactly thrilled with how the event had been organized in the past. Being the arrogant individual I am, I thought I could do everything better than the previous organizers, and I did not solicit their help – big mistake. I bought some software, played around with it (on the computer only), and showed up thirty minutes before the big event was to begin.

After getting all the cars entered into the computer, I thought I had cleared the biggest hurdle. I did not realize that even though I had entered the kids’ names along with their car number, the software would not tell me which kid was running – only their car number. A very sharp couple of parents helped me out and tried to get a list of car numbers matched with kid names as the heats were being run. Trying to do all of this “on-the-fly” resulted in mis-entered results, slow race progression and general confusion. To put it mildly, there were some irate dads as well as great embarrassment on my part. I had single-handedly destroyed a well-planned Awana Pinewood Derby.

“Oh well”, I comforted myself, “It’s just my first year. Now that I know the software, I’ll be ready next year.” So I created a spreadsheet to work with the software so that I could print out the race WITH NAMES ahead of time. I still had the tedious entry job (because of the software) but I could handle it this time.

Next year I arrived one hour early and noticed that our commander had resurrected an old timer, repaired it and had it all set up. Wow! Was this going to make it easy. No more having four judges trying to pick places and have the dads argue with them.

In spite of my spreadsheet, calling out the races was still cumbersome, but workable. The problem now was getting the right “color” of winner into the computer correctly, since the colors the timer showed were not the same colors as the lanes of the track, and keeping track of which kid was which color, and … you get the idea.

To make matters worse, twenty minutes into the race the timer started giving faulty results. First place was showing as third, losers were posted as winners. Incensed fathers (I never have problems with moms) were ready to strangle me. There was nothing we could do but finish the races and change results to favor the most persuasive dad who said his kid’s car came in first. After everyone left in a huff and we were cleaning up, the commander said to me, “We are going to buy a new system for next year no matter what it costs!”

So this year I purchased a timer with software. I like the concept of racing faster cars against faster and slower against slower. I revel in the fact that accurate results will be entered into the computer without human intervention (try it manually – I guarantee mistakes and longer time between heats). I have high hopes for smiles and the re- purchase of a little of my self esteem.

But so that all of my agony and humiliation does not go to waste, I would like to pass on some advice to new race organizers:

  1. Solicit advice from last years’ event coordinator. They love to share what they have learned. There is no sense in making mistakes they have already made.
  2. Don’t skimp by using inferior equipment. Get the best – I promise you won’t regret it.
  3. Budget plenty of time (40 hours plus) to get ready. Test race a couple of cars. Get familiar with the process. This year I am taking the day of the race off from work.
  4. Plan a “pit rally” the Saturday before the race. We’re hoping to get at least half of the kids weighed in (certified) and names into the computer. We then keep the cars safe until the race.
  5. Have fun! There will always be bumps, but there’s always next year to improve!

Paul Chausse
Manhattan, Montana


I am confused by all of the axles you offer. Can you explain the difference between the 4094, 4097, and 4099 axles?


4097 – Official BSA nails that have been machined to remove the burrs and crimp marks, bevel the head, and start the polishing. The machining slightly reduces the diameter of the axle shaft.

4094 – Replicas of the BSA nails made without burrs or crimp marks and with a pre-beveled head. These axles are superior to the 4097 axles in that the diameter is the original size and the axles are more accurate.

4099 – 4094 axles that have been grooved.

Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 3

– Feature Article – The Valuable Lesson My Father Taught Me

– Humor

– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

– Memory – Heartbreak at the Weigh-In

– Q&A

Feature Article

The Valuable Lesson My Father Taught Me
By C.J. Marshall

A while ago, I attended a Cub Scout Pack meeting, in which the group was holding a Pinewood Derby.

For those of you who were never in the Cub Scouts, a Pinewood Derby is a small wooden model race car.

However, it is not a toy car that you purchase ready-made in the store. Instead, it comes as an unfinished block of pine wood in a vague shape of a car. It also comes with a set of plastic wheels and a few other items necessary for assembly.

The whole idea of a Pinewood Derby is the person involved must carve the wood into the proper shape, sand it, paint it, and properly assemble the rest of the provided materials.

Once completed, the car fits on a wooden rack, along with other Pinewood Derby cars carved and put together by other competitors. The track is an elevated one, with a bumper or a stop that holds the car in place. Once the bumper is removed, the cars, propelled by gravity, race down the track to the end.

The first car to arrive is the winner. Cars are usually raced in heats, and at the end of the competition, the car that wins all the heats is the grand prize winner for the proud Cub Scout who owns it.

It’s nice to know that even in this age of flash-and-thunder video games and technology, some things have remained the same, and kids can still obtain thrills from simple carved pieces of wood on an elevated track.

Let me tell you about my personal experiences creating my own racer.

I was 8 years old when I got my Pinewood Derby. I was so thrilled when I looked at that piece of wood, wondering what kind of car was going to be produced by it.

My father helped me, of course. He did so by tracing the outline of a car on the block of wood, then telling me to carve it down to the line. He also warned me not to get impatient and go too deep, otherwise I’d ruin the car.

Well, I took my Cub Scout knife, went outside in the back yard and began to carve. I don’t think five minutes passed before I went back in the house, told my father how hard it was, then asked him if I was finished.

“You’re not even halfway done,” my father said, after looking at the car. “Go back outside and continue until you are finished.”

This continued several times, with me whittling a bit more, then bringing it back inside and my dad saying I wasn’t finished and to keep going. When I suggested he give me a hand with the carving, he said, “No, it’s your project; you do it.”

Eventually, after dogged persistence, and the fact I wanted that car done, I finally got the car whittled down to the point where my father had indicated. But it wasn’t over at that point, no sir.

Dad handed me some sandpaper, told me to go back outside, and sand it down until it was smooth.

You’re probably ahead of me by now, aren’t you?

Yes, I came back in several times and said, “Am I finished yet?” And each time Dad replied, “No, keep going.”

By this time, I had begun to learn a few things, so I didn’t ask Dad for any help as far as the sanding was concerned.

Sage advice he was free with, but the actual physical labor was my job.

I did have an inspiration and asked Dad about the possibility of using his portable hand sander to do the task.

“If you use my portable hand sander,” Dad said, “you’ll have nothing but a pile of sawdust.”

It seemed to me that Dad was deliberately making it tough. There I was, rubbing the wood over and over, seeming to get nowhere, when that sander could have done the job in seconds. But I finally did get the car sanded down to the point where it was acceptable.

Then came the painting part, which was fun. Dad even made a few suggestions, such as putting a screw at the top of the car to make it look like a radiator cap.

Finally, it was complete. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was very proud of the fact I had put the car together myself. I had also learned a very valuable lesson, although it would be a number of years before I fully realized what it was.

When I raced my Pinewood Derby against the other kids in my Cub Scout Pack, I noticed there were a small number of cars which had been beautifully carved, painted and assembled.

I looked at the cars and at the kids who “owned” them and knew immediately, even in my 8-year-old mind, that they could never have done such an expert job at creating their racers.

I knew that either their parents had done all the work, or an older relative had done the job of creating their racers.

As I grew older, I began to realize the importance of my dad insisting that I do the lion’s share of the work in creating my Pinewood Derby. He showed me that there’s just no substitute for hard work to get what we want. In addition, those that obtain something via hard work take much more pride in their projects and cherish them much more highly than things which are merely handed to you.

Originally published March 1, 2015 at Used by permission

C.J. Marshall is a writer/columnist for The Daily/Sunday Review. He can be reached at:


A strawberry and a cucumber grew up in the same garden patch. They were best buds growing up. As they grew older, they decided it was time to branch out, leave home, and see the world. So they hitched a ride on a nearby vegetable cart and took off.

Their first stop was at a local farmer’s market. Unfortunately, that’s where the trouble started. A big row broke out and they got separated, one of them ending up in a jam and the other in a pickle.

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Here are some powered cars from our readers.

Elsa – Brian Taylor

My daughter and I had a great time making the car with your kit and enjoyed showing it off at the girls’ pinewood derby activity night at the church. She went with an Elsa Frozen theme (not my choice :)). We wired lights to a separate tiny battery and they looked great. Thanks for your help!

Blazing Bus – Dusty Bradford

I built a school bus with a small brushless ducted fan and some RC parts. I made it so that the back door was hinged for the exhaust. The first run was unpowered and completely unnoticed, but it still posted a time of 3.4 seconds. When I turned on the fan, it raced across the finish line with a time of 2.2 seconds! It weighed less than 4.5 ounces.

Pinewood Derby Memory

Heartbreak at the Weigh-In

During the weigh-in at our race, I am often asked to give advice or assist children and their parents with making the final weight adjustment on their cars. I generally avoid doing the actual work, as I don’t want to damage a car, and of course the child/parent team really should do the work. But occasionally it becomes necessary for me to “get my hands dirty”.

I distinctly remember one occasion when a mom brought in her son’s car. The dad had to work and she was not at all comfortable with making a weight adjustment. Unfortunately, the car was about 0.2 ounces overweight, and no provision had been made for easily reducing the weight. The only opportunity appeared to be to drill into a rectangular weight epoxied into a pocket in the bottom of the car.

So, I took the drill in one hand, and used a rag to hold down the car with the other hand. The bit was placed on the weight, the drill started and I quickly realized that the material was not lead, but was likely the lead substitute (basically zinc) sold at hobby stores. If you have never drilled into this stuff, it is very hard. So, I took a firmer grip on the car, pressed a little harder with the drill, and then disaster happened. The drill bit caught in the weight, ripping it from the car, and at the same time tearing the car out of my hand. The car ended up (minus a wheel) on the floor, and I ended up at the mercy of the mother.

I am still amazed that she held her temper in check. Maybe it was the shock of the event, or maybe she had an amazing level of self-control. All I know is that I didn’t receive the verbal lashing that I was expecting.

Another man and I assessed the damage, and then we repaired the car the best we could. At the race I gathered enough courage to face the dad and explain what happened. His wife had already told him, and he had either already vented, or he also had an amazing level of self- control.

What happened to the car? It managed to stay in a few heats, but was then eliminated somewhere in the middle of the pack. For my own sanity, I have always assumed that it wasn’t going to win a trophy anyway.

I am now even more careful if I must work on another family’s car; and I don’t drill into zinc.

Randy Davis
Glendale, Arizona


We are required to use the BSA kit with pre-cut axle slots, one slot being a little closer the end. We’re doing a basic wedge design, and assuming we do what we can to optimize weight, polish axles, etc., does it matter which end is the front?

On most tracks, it does matter. If your track has a slope, then a curved transition, followed by a flat section (typical track configuration), then you want the rear axle to stage as far up the hill as possible. This places the center of gravity of the car as far up the hill as possible, maximizing the potential energy. So you will want to use the slot closest to the end of the block as the rear axle.

Here is a photo of the wedge that we sell. You can see that the closest slot is the rear of the car.
Wedge Kit