Extended Detonator

Extended Detonator

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 8, Issue 8
January 7, 2009

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Canted Axles Revisited

- Humor

- Product Showcase

- Car Showcase

- Memory - Magic Car

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Discount on Official BSA Speed Wheels

During a production run on our Official BSA Speed Wheels our machinist coned the hub, and removed a tiny amount of plastic from the inside edge of the wheel. This is not our normal specification, so we are offering you these wheels at a discounted price.

If you would like to buy a dozen or more sets of these wheels for use in your den, pack, or other group we can offer them to you at a greater discount. Please give us a call at 623-587-9261 for a quote.

For more information on these wheels, please visit: www.maximum-velocity.com/inventory.htm and www.maximum-velocity.com/speedwheels.htm

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: info@maximum-velocity.com

Feature Article

Canted Axles Revisited

The term "canted" means setting an object at an angle. Thus, "canted axles" are axles which are attached to the car at an angle. Sometimes this is done accidentally, but usually car builders cant axles in an attempt to reduce the amount of contact between the wheel tread and the track.

When discussing canted axles, the following questions must be asked:

  1. Is there an advantage to canted axles? We will attempt to determine this with an experiment.

  2. Which type of canting (up or down) would provide the most benefit? (see Figure 1) Generally, up canting is chosen as the wheel to car body contact is eliminated, and the car body is lowered. However, the guide rail contact is increased with up canting.

  3. What is the optimum canting angle? We will attempt to determine this with an experiment.

Figure 1 - Canting

Previous Experiment
Back in December of 2003 I conducted an experiment measuring the effect of canted axles (see Pinewood Derby Times, Volume 3, Issue 6, "The Big Debates Part 4: Canted Axles", December 10, 2003). The results of that experiment were that, in general, up-canted axles were not beneficial. These results were supported by an experiment from another person, as well as from mathematical models.

Since then, I have had many discussions with various people regarding the results of this experiment versus the anecdotal support for canting. So I decided to rerun the experiment with some key changes. The main changes to the experimental method were:

Original experiment

  1. Four wheels on ground,

  2. Front and back canted equally,

  3. Cant angle adjusted by using multiple axle holes (axles had to be pulled and then reinserted to try a different angle. Unfortunately, this introduced experimental error.
New experiment

  1. Three wheels on the ground,

  2. Front dominant wheel not canted, but shimmed to cause rail-riding,

  3. Cant angle of rear axles synchronously adjusted with a mechanism (eliminates error introduced by pulling axles, and using multiple axle holes).
New Experiment


The main equipment for this experiment is a car with an adjustable rear cant. Figures 2 through 4 show this car.

Figure 2 - Full Car

Note the fork of brass protruding out of the car. The fork is held in place by a screw into an L-bracket mounted on the car. When the screw is loosened, the fork can be moved up or down, adjusting the cant angle.

Figure 3 - Undercarriage

The fork from Figure 1 is connected to two aluminum tubes, which are press fitted into a slot milled into the bottom of the car. As the fork is moved up and down, the aluminum tubes synchronously move up and down. The axles are pressed into the aluminum tubes. (Note that the chip on the upper left is cosmetic; it doesn't affect the mechanism).

Figure 4 - Side support

To force the aluminum tubing to move up and down at an angle, the end of each tube is supported by a washer. The screws hold the washer in place (I wasn't sure if epoxy alone would hold the washer). The washer has a close fit with the tubing, so it does limit the amount of cant that can be applied to approximately 6 degrees down or up.

To set the desired cant angle, a little trigonometry is used. First, the length of one aluminum rod is measured (L). Then the up-down offset of the center part of the rod is measured (O). With this information, the following formula provides the cant angle:

Angle = arcsin(O/L)

This can also be worked in reverse to calculate the desired offset:

O = sin(desired angle) x L

Additional equipment for the experiment includes:

The car was first aligned to rail-ride (see Volume 8, Issue 4), and then a few break-in heats were run. Then the following sequence was followed.

After the heats were run, the high and low times were removed and the remaining heats averaged.

Results The results of the experiment are shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 - Experiment Results

Note the time scale on the left is in milliseconds. The results indicate that there is a very small improvement in performance by up-canting the rear axles. However, note that this is not an absolute conclusion as the statistical variation of the heat times is greater than the 3 milliseconds absolute difference in times. So, there may actually be no real improvement.

We can certainly say that accurately up-canting the rear wheels on a smooth aluminum track is not a disadvantage, and may provide a slight advantage. However, the benefit of canting on a rough track is unknown, but may provide a more noticeable advantage.


Fishing Advice

Two buddies are fishing, but they haven't caught anything all day. Then another fisherman walks by with a huge load of fish. They ask him, "Excuse me, but where did you get all those fish?"

The other fisherman replies, "If you just go up the stream until the water isn't salty, you will find a ton of hungry fish."

They thank him and head up the stream. Fifteen minutes later, one fisherman says to the other, "Fill the bucket up with water and see if the water is salty."

He dips the bucket in the stream and drinks some. "Nope. Still salty." Thirty minutes later, he asks him to check again.

"Nope, still salty." One hour later they check again. "Nope. Still salty."

"This isn't good," one fisherman finally says. "We have been walking for almost two hours and the water is still salty!"

"I know," says the other. "And the bucket is almost empty!"

Car Showcase

iPhone: Hope Wallace

I know most of your cars are made by boys, but this was my car at our Girl Scout Troop’s first Powder Puff Derby. Although I raced at another troop’s Powder Puff derby five years ago, it was a lot more fun having our very own. I worked on the faceplate design, and my Dad taught me how to cut the block, polish the axles, and place the weights. Thanks to your tungsten weights, slim designs like this are possible ... and pretty.

Silver Dollar: Bryan Solby

This car was a prototype and never actually raced. It was an idea we came up with and wanted to see if it was doable. The "S" body is made of 3/4 inch pine, cut on a band saw. The rods are 1/4 inch steel, approximately 7 inches long. The car, wheels, axles, and rods weigh just under 5 ounces. Originally it was painted green -- because dollars are green -- but later was repainted sliver and named the "Silver Dollar."

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!

Pinewood Derby Memory

Magic Car?

Our local church race was interesting this year -- for me anyway. I usually try to build a nice car, but since I started hosting the event I haven't been very careful to make it fast so that someone else can win. This year I was so rushed I didn't even sand my car -- only rough cut. About a half hour before I had to go to the race, I cut the tab off the Awana wheels, sanded around the edges to make sure they were smooth, and placed several drops of NyOil II on each axle (contrary to instructions). I then installed the axles in the original holes, made sure they had some side clearance (but I didn't measure it), and added weights (not too accurately). The car weighed in light at 4.7 ounces.

So, what a surprise it was to see my car running first! Not only was it faster than the stock cars I raced, but it was faster than the times posted by the modified cars. I saw the car fishtail on a couple of races, so I can only imagine what the car could have done with tighter tolerances and more weight. Luck? Hmmm.

NC Awana State Grand Prix Open Coordinator

Share Your Pinewood Derby Memory!
I am sure there are many stories to share. Please jot down your humorous, unusual, sad, or heart-warming pinewood derby tale and send it to:

If your memory is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2008.

Don't worry about literary polish. We will edit as needed. Also, please read our Submission Policy


Riding the Rail would not seem to be a winning strategy if the goal is to reduce friction? How does this work?

If you could get a car to roll down the track without contacting the guide rail, that of course would be best. But in reality, the car will contact the guide rail multiple times. The intent of the Rail Riding is to control which wheel contacts the rail, and how much contact is present.

A few key points:

  • If you use a raised wheel, to get the benefit that wheel must not contact the rail.

  • If your weight is in the back of the car, contact with a front wheel has less affect on performance than contact with a back wheel (more weight on the back means that rear wheel contact has more impact force than a contact with a front wheel).
So, the idea is to make the car contact only the front dominant wheel. Preferably this contact will not be constant, but will be an intermittent contact throughout the run.

Did I read someplace that tungsten putty has about the same density as melted lead?

Tungsten putty (7.9 g/cm3) is denser than lead putty, but less dense than melted or solid lead (11.3 g/cm3). Please note that melting lead is a very risky. I strongly recommend using solid lead, or another metal such as tungsten.

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

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Volume 8

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Volume 7

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Volume 6

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Volume 5

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  5. Volume 5, Issue 5

  6. Volume 5, Issue 6

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  10. Volume 5, Issue 10

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  12. Volume 5, Issue 12

  13. Volume 5, Issue 13

  14. Volume 5, Issue 14

  15. Volume 5, Issue 15
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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times
E-Mail: info@maximum-velocity.com

Copyright ©2008, 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.

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