Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 10, Issue 7
December 29, 2010

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - New Directions Company Profile

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Axle Extraction Pliers - $2.00 Off

- Car Showcase

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

We Need Your Input
I am often asked if someone rents tracks or stages races in their local area. Unfortunately, I only know about services in our local area. So I would like to create a directory of people/companies that rent tracks, and/or offer a race staging service. So if you know of someone in your area that offers this type of service, or if you offer this type of service, please send me an e-mail with:
  • Name of person or company

  • Services offered

  • Service area (zip code, city, county, state, etc)

  • Contact phone number and/or e-mail address.

I'll use this information to create a directory on our web site, and post the location in a future newsletter.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Reader Feedback
From Don Hales: In response to the Editor's Notes in the December 15th issue of the Pinewood Derby Times, the Sunset Speedsters PineCar Racing Club hosts five races per year using a three-lane track. We are a "Friendship Ministry", and everyone is welcome to race with us.

Our race schedule is the last Saturday night of September, October, January, February, and the first Saturday night of December. All racing activities begin after sunset. We race four divisions: Youth Stock (16 years and under), Adult Stock, Adult Modified, and "DoorSlammr". The registration fee is $2 per car.

The races rotate between Laporte and South Bend, Indiana. You can reach us at (574) 654-7320 or
Help - We Need Your Car Photos
We are almost out of car photos for the Car Showcase. So, if you have a car you would like to "show off" to our readers, please send us a photo along with a description to:

Also, please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.

Photos must be sent by e-mail in JPG format (minimum size of 640x480, maximum size of 1280 x 960). Please shoot photos from the front left of the car, similar to the orientation of this car.

Send only one photo per car, unless an additional photo is needed to adequately show a feature. Thanks.

Can We Help?
If we can help you in any way with your pinewood derby project, or if you have any feedback regarding this newsletter, please contact us at:

Feature Article

New Directions Company Profile
John Shreffler

The 2010 pinewood derby season is in full swing, and I would like to say "Hi" to all the race leaders and parents involved in this excellent youth program, and wish you a very successful derby. Perhaps I might be able to help you with some of my products.

I have been involved in the pinewood derby since 1987, first as a dad helping my son get a car finished for the big day. Later on, beginning in the early 90's, I developed and offered for sale my first in a succession of pinewood derby products. You can read a more detailed story of the early days on our Web Site.

The product of most interest has always been the electronic finish line. Twenty years ago, it was still the normal situation to judge the races using eyeballs. Today, however, it is the normal situation to pick out the finishing order electronically. It is a task for which human eyesight is simply not good enough.

My finish line is called "The Judge". Over the years it has evolved in outward appearance as shown below. Internally, every few years I have incorporated new electronic capabilities, and improved reliability.

Figure 1 - The Evolution Of The Judge

At the rear in Figure 1 is the first version of The Judge, which I now call the "Classic". The Classic was available only in two, three, and four lane versions, and only gave the finishing order. However, it had one thing going for it; it used only high speed gates and flip- flops (as opposed to a digital time base), so it had significantly greater ability to split hairs. Finishing order was resolved to nanoseconds. No ties have ever been reported with the Classic.

By 1996, microprocessors were getting inexpensive and powerful enough to handle not only the finishing order, but the reporting of the elapsed time back to a computer. Coincidentally, at about this time computers were getting so popular that most homes had one. The center Judge in Figure 1 shows the M Series (1996-1998), P Series (1998 briefly), Q Series (1998-2001) and F Series (2002-2004). Each "Series" means a significant change in microprocessor type or firmware improvements. Outwardly, this group of Judges looked the same.

In late 2004, I switched to a smaller, sleeker enclosure, and re- engineered the electronics to fit. The resulting G series, shown at the front in Figure 1 is electronically the same as the F series it replaced.

The current version is the J Series, introduced in 2007 and marked by significant improvements in the firmware and a new higher performance microprocessor.

Starting in 1996, all Judges have been available for tracks from one to eight lanes. A wide range of options are available to customize your finish line for your particular needs. Most Judges sold these days are equipped with the "Computer Option", which means the race result is sent back to your computer where it is automatically incorporated into your derby management program. This greatly relieves the race leaders of most of the work as the derby unfolds. In fact, the only important thing is making sure each car is on the correct lane for every race -- everything else is on auto pilot.

Another popular optional feature is the ability to work in any ambient light, including outdoor operation under full sun.

Figure 2 - Sandra drills the required holes in the Judge enclosure prior to final assembly

In the last few years, we have branched off from the finish line to offer a few ways to dress up the start line. The most exciting accessory has proven to be the Light Tree, which focuses attention on the start of each race. In fact, most groups report that everyone in the room does an enthusiastic backward countdown for each race as the lights drop to green.

Figure 3 - Keri does final connections of a batch of light trees

However, the Light Tree is not just decoration; we have developed a series of solenoid-activated latches that automatically open your starting gate when the light gets to green. It adds a touch of drama to see the cars start with nobody near the top of the track.

Figure 4 - Solenoid start mechanisms are available for many different styles of tracks

In Figure 4, clockwise from the Light Tree are: a standard plywood track latch, a BestTrack aluminum track latch, and a MicroWizard Freedom track latch.

In addition to these pinewood derby products, we also offer a finish line solution designed for the BestTrack Space Derby1 track, which is also adaptable to home built tracks. Space Derby vehicles travel much faster than pinewood derby cars, so the need for electronic judging is even more critical.

In addition to our standard line of pinewood derby products, I get involved in making special timing solutions for other racing formats. I have successfully used the timing circuitry of The Judge in Cubmobile and Soap Box Derby tracks, snowmobile racing, track and field timing, and industrial process controls.

It has been a lot of fun and an honor to be associated with the pinewood derby program over the years; to my 4,700 customers, a big "Thank You" for choosing my products. I could not have done it without you.

Figure 5 - John Shreffler gives some tips on car placement

John Shreffler
Owner, New Directions

New Directions is a major supplier of pinewood derby timers, and other race management electronics and hardware. They are located in Vienna, Virginia; and can be found on the web at:

1The Space Derby is a Cub Scout program which involves building and racing a propeller driven rocket ship. The ships are powered by rubber bands and race on monofilament line.


A clergyman walking down a country lane sees a young farmer struggling to load hay back onto a cart after it had fallen off. "You look hot, my son," said the cleric. "Why don't you rest a moment, and I'll give you a hand."

"No thanks," said the young man. "My father wouldn't like it."

"Don't be silly," the minister said. "Everyone is entitled to a break. Come and have a drink of water."

Again the young man protested that his father would be upset. Losing his patience, the clergyman said, "Your father must be a real tyrant. Tell me where I can find him, and I'll give him a piece of my mind!" "Well," replied the young farmer, "he's under the load of hay."

Product Showcase

Axle Extraction Pliers: $2.00 off
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Axle Pliers
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If you have built even one pinewood derby car, then you know that removing axles without damaging something can be quite a chore. Oftentimes, considerable force is required. If the force is applied to the wheel, then the wheel can be damaged, especially with the expensive, high-performance wheels in common use today. If a standard pair of pliers is used, the axle head can be chewed up. In either case, the car itself may be damaged as well.

Our Axle Extraction Pliers will help you remove axles with minimal risk of damage. The curved and grooved jaws of the Axle Extraction Pliers provide strong but even gripping power on the axle head, minimizing damage to the axle, and giving maximum leverage to the user. Just grasp the axle head and gently remove the axle with a twist-and-pull motion.

Through January 11, 2011, you can get a pair of Axle Extraction Pliers for $2.00 off the regular price. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Click Here.

Car Showcase

We received these four cars from Tim Grimstead and his children. Thanks Tim.

Optimus Prime - Rohan

My 5 year old son, Rohan, won first in design for Cubbies with his Optimus Prime car and took first in overall speed. At the awards ceremony Rohan received a speeding ticket from a Sheriff Deputy and was cuffed.

Fireball - Chloe

My 11 year old daughter, Chloe, took second in overall speed and first in design for her group with her Fireball.

Froggy - Tessa

Tessa, my 9 year old daughter, placed fourth for overall speed and first for design with her Frogger car. The Frogger's front end broke half way through the event but still placed. It was a short track; there was nothing to absorb the impact at the end.

Ziggity - Flora

Flora, my 7 year old daughter, won first in design for her group with her Ziggity car, and ended around fifth for speed. I suspect the placing was do to the inability of the car's front-end to trigger the timing light accurately.

Share your car with our readers!
Do you have a car you would like to 'show off' to our readers? If so, send us a photo of your car along with a brief description of any special features. Also, please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.Please e-mail photos to:

Photos must be sent by e-mail in JPG format (minimum size of 640x480, maximum size of 1280 x 960). Please shoot photos from the front left of the car, similar to the orientation of this car:

Send only one photo per car, unless an additional photo is needed to adequately show a feature. Also, only one car per subscriber per year please. Thanks!


I was wondering if there is a recommended order to wheel preparation -- what tools should be used first and what should be used last?

Assuming that you are using raw BSA wheels, then I recommend the following wheel prep order:
  1. Remove the outer step with the Pro-Outer Hub Shaver/Pro-Hub Tool.

  2. True the tread with the Pro-Wheel Shaver XT/Pro-Hub Tool.

  3. True the inside edge with the Pro-Wheel Shaver XT/Pro-Hub Tool.

  4. Smooth the tread surface (Pro-Wheel Mandrel & 800-1200 grit wet sandpaper) -- just lightly.

  5. Polish the bore (Pro Bore Polish).

  6. Lubricate with Max-V-Lube graphite.

Are there any of the kits that would allow me to have extended axle holes and standard slots? Our pack requires the BSA standard slots but allows for extended axles holes as well.

Many of our kits can be equipped with extended holes and slots. Option 9001 adds slots to a kit or block with extended holes.

This works best on the following kits: Wedge, Wedge SE, Wing, and Sports Car. It can be done on the Accelerator and Predator, but the slots would not be useable, and may be a bit unsightly. I do not recommend this option on the Vaccinator or Detonator.

I have purchased the Pro-Body Tool and the Pro-Axle Guide from you. I suppose I am a little confused as to the order I should use them in, or if it is a "use one or the other".

If you use the Pro-Body tool to pilot the slots, the Pro-Axle Guide is less valuable. It will still work fine, and will simplify installation, but with care you can install axles straight without it.

If you don't use the Pro-Body Tool to pilot the slots, then the Pro- Axle Guide is really valuable. If you are trying to help a group of kids get their axles mounted, the Pro-Axle Guide is the only way to go.

Do You Have Questions that Need Answers?
Do you have a pinewood derby-related question? If so, send your question to: We answer all questions by e-mail, but not every question will appear in the Q&A section of the newsletter.

Back Issues

Are you a new subscriber, or have you missed some of the previous newsletters? Don't miss out! All of the issues for Volume 5 through Volume 10 are posted on our web site and can be found using our Newsletter Index.

Issues from Volumes 1 to 4 are available in four formatted documents, ready for immediate download. To find out more, Click Here.

Newsletter Contributions

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Please read our submission policy.

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times

Copyright ©2010, Randy Davis. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or place this newsletter on your web site without explicit permission. However, if you like this newsletter we grant permission, and encourage you to e-mail it to a friend.

The author disclaims any personal loss or liability caused by utilization of any information presented in this newsletter.

The Pinewood Derby Times is not specific to, and is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, YMCA, Awana, or any other organization.

®Maximum Velocity! is a registered trademark of Maximum Velocity! Pinewood Derby Products.
Pinewood Derby, and Space Derby are registered trademarks of Boys Scouts of America. All other names are trademarks of their respective owners.

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