Standard Racer

Extended Racer

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 9, Issue 8
January 13, 2010

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Working With Needle Axles

- Humor

- Product Showcase

- Car Showcase

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Help - We Need Your Car Photos and Memories
We are in need of cars for the Car Showcase, and we are out of pinewood derby memories. Please send your photos and memories and we'll get them published. 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:

Inventory Clearance
We have added three decals and NyOil II to our Inventory Clearance Sale.

There you will also find all of the older style BSA wheels, car kits, car plan booklets, and the "Down and Derby" DVD.

Maximum Velocity Car Kits
If you are planning a race and are not required to use a specific kit type, our MV Basic Car Kit is just what you need. These attractively priced kits are equipped with:

  • Quality Block - Unlike the blocks provided by some organizations, our blocks are soft, northwestern pine blocks, cut precisely to 7 inches long, 1-3/4 inches wide, and 1-1/4 inches tall. These dimensions, as well as the axle slots accurately duplicate the dimensions of standard pinewood derby blocks from BSA and PineCar.

  • Simple Axle Preparation - Don't worry about filing off flaws, or losing hub caps. Our Speed Axles have no burrs or crimp marks, and install without hub caps. With or without polishing, they are ready to go. We supply five, so you have a spare.

  • Quality Wheels - Forget cheap, out of round wheels. We supply top- quality, PineCar-brand wheels to give great performance.
  • So, if your organization does not mandate a particular kit type, consider our Maximum Velocity Car Kits.

    Feature Article

    Working With Needle Axles

    Since late 2006, Outlaw style wheels equipped with needle axles (actually pins) have been available from DerbyWorx (RSN Wheels). When properly implemented, these needle components have a distinct advantage over regular Outlaw wheels (RS Wheels). Due to the smaller bore diameter, the amount of bore to axle contact per revolution is reduced by approximately 56 percent. This equates to approximately 44 less inches of linear contact on a typical 32 foot track.

    Of course this type of wheel is not allowed in most races. But in races that allow any wheel type, the RSN Wheels can provide some serious performance. However, RSN wheels are trickier to implement than RS wheels. In this article, I'll share my experience with RSN wheels and provide an alternate implementation.

    First Experience
    In the spring of 2007, my daughter and I built a car using needle axles for a parent-sibling race. As I was looking at the pins, I saw a flashing under the head (just like on nail axles), which I thought would be very difficult to remove without bending the axle.

    Figure 1 - RSN Wheel and Axle

    So, I decided to replace the pin heads with the beads from some "ball head pins". These are pins that have a small plastic bead as a head. I simply cut off the metal head of each needle axle, pulled the plastic beads off the pins, and then used a touch of epoxy to attach the beads to the needle axles.

    Figure 2 - 2007 Car with Ball Head Pins

    The ball heads worked great. The car was easily the fastest car for the first two heats. However, on the third and fourth heat the car ran much slower and ended up in third place. After the race I checked the car and found that one of the front pin axles had been severely bent (either due to the abrupt stops or mishandling). I bent the axle back, reran the car, and found the performance was once again quite good.

    I did not implement another car with needle axles until 2009, but in the meantime I did accept some custom work to drill cars for needle axles. After a few of these jobs, I quit offering the service. Why? Even with the softest wood, and the most careful technique, it is very difficult to drill such tiny holes with good accuracy. The drill bits are so flexible that they bend when they hit a hard spot in the wood. I even increased the drill bit size and used cobalt bits, but still the reject rate was too high.

    So, my experience with needle axles was not the best: burrs, bent axles, and very difficult drilling. There had to be a better way.

    Second Experience
    In the spring of 2009, my son wanted to run a car in the parent- sibling race, and he wanted a car that was "screaming fast". Since the race did not allow motors or bearings, I knew that we needed to attempt needle axles again. But this time I took a different tactic. The result was the "Green Stealth", which easily took first place and continued to perform run after run.

    Figure 3 - 2009 Car: "Green Stealth"

    How did we do it? Read on to find out.

    Alternate Needle Axle Implementation
    Remembering the three issues with needle axles, I determined to address each one. The burrs under the axle heads were easily addressed with the ball head beads that we used on the first car. The second problem, bent axles, could only be solved by using axles of a much harder material. So, we decided to use #65 drill bits (.035 in diameter, same size as needle axles). The solution for the third problem (difficult drilling) required a bushing that was large enough in diameter to allow for easy drilling, but had a small enough hole to accept the #65 drill bits. I found a perfect material from K&S: 1/16 x .014 aluminum tubing (KS1008), which was cut into 3/4 inch long pieces.1 Figure 4 shows these materials.

    Figure 4 - Required Materials

    The first step is to pull the heads off the pins. This is easily done with two pairs of pliers. Then, use a #65 drill bit to ream out the hole in each bead (this is most easily done with a Pin Vise).

    Next, polish the smooth part of four, #65 drill bits. This is most easily done before the beads are installed. A little metal polish on a rag works well. Then attach the beads to the drill bits with a touch of epoxy (I used one of the headless pins to apply a touch of epoxy in the bead hole). Figure 5 shows the results of these steps.

    Figure 5 - Beads Installed on Drill Bits

    At this point, the drill bits can be cut to length with a pair of diagonal cutters (or similar). I cut them to 7/8 inch. Make sure to wear eye protection as the cut off pieces will go flying!

    Now, lubricate the axles with Krytox 100, install the wheels, and insert the drill bit axles into the aluminum bushings. Leave a small gap (30 thousandths or so) between the bushing and the wheel. Use a pair of diagonal cutters to crimp the bushing to lock the axles in place.2 If you look carefully in Figure 6, you can see the crimp.

    Figure 6 - Axles Installed in Bushings

    Now, turn your attention to the car. The axle holes will need to be drilled with a 1/16 inch drill bit. Since the bit is still a little small, I recommend using a very soft piece of pine. Drill slowly and carefully. If desired you can put a slight down angle (1 degree or so) on the rear holes to keep the wheels off of the car body. We used these techniques on both the "Green Stealth" and its sister car, the "White Stealth" (see Figure 7).3

    Figure 7 - White Stealth

    Once the car is painted and weighted, you can install the wheel assemblies. First, ream out the axle holes with a 1/16 inch drill bit mounted in a Pin Vise.

    The tubing tends to run slightly under 1/16 inch, so the bushings should install with little effort. If they are a little loose, put some epoxy in the axle hole before installing the bushings. But don't glue the front dominant wheel until the alignment is set.

    Since the axles cannot be bent, you will need to use one or more shims of paper to adjust the alignment of the car. On the White Stealth, the front left wheel is raised, and the front right adjusted for rail- riding. Two thicknesses of Post-it Note paper placed at the back of the front right axle set the alignment perfectly.

    How did this car perform? Typically, a car with RSN wheels will beat a similar car with RS wheels by over a car length. On the 32 foot aluminum Freedom Track in our shop, the White Stealth ran under 2.48, beating a similar RS wheel car by about 10 inches.

    If you have the opportunity to run RSN wheels on a car, go for it. But consider using the implementation method described here. I found it to be relatively easy to implement, and it produced top results.

    Referenced Products

    RSN & RS Wheels

    Pin Vise

    #65 Drill Bits - Hardware store, or available from various on-line retailers.

    Ball-Head Pins - Any sewing or notion store, such as "Jo-Ann".

    1Since the tubing tends to crush when it is cut, you will likely only get two pieces from each tube (one from each end). However, the KS1008 package has 3 pieces, so you can easily get six bushings from the package.

    2If you need to remove the wheel for cleaning and lubing, you can pull on the bead. Either the bead will come off, or the axle will come out of the bushing. In either case you can clean, relube, and reinstall the axles.

    3We built two cars in order to have a backup. My son preferred the green ball instead of the white "deflector dish" on this car.


    There was a tradesman, a painter called Jack, who was very interested in making a penny where he could, so he often would thin down paint to make it go a little bit further. As it happened, he got away with this for some time.

    One day, the Baptist Church decided to repaint one of their biggest buildings. Jack put in a bid, and because his price was so low he got the job.

    And so he set to erecting the scaffolds, buying the paint and, yes, I am sorry to say, thinning it down with turpentine.

    Well, Jack was up on the scaffolding, painting away, the job nearly completed when suddenly there was a horrendous clap of thunder, and the sky opened. The rain poured down, washing off the thinned paint from the church, and the lightning bolt knocked Jack off the scaffolding. He found himself on the lawn among the gravestones, surrounded by tell-tale puddles of the thinned and useless paint.

    Jack was no fool. He knew this was a judgment from the Almighty, so he got on his knees and cried:

    "Oh, God! Forgive me! What should I do?"

    And from the thunder, a mighty voice spoke...

    "Repaint! and thin no more!"

    Product Showcase

    Car Showcase

    Red Snake: Steve Truver

    This car was built by my grandson, Nathan and me in 2008. It took first place for speed in his pack, and placed in the top five in the regionals.

    Mater: Jeff Trush

    This car was my son, Nicholas' idea. It actually won first in his den (it was a lot faster than I expected). While it was not quite as aerodynamically competitive in the overall pack derby (over 80 cars) he did end up winning the "Best Overall Car" trophy, and the kids loved watching Mater run down the track -- it was quite funny to watch to say the least.

    I am a big fan of details, and we tried to stay pretty true to Mater from the movies. We used Play-Doh for the top lights, teeth, and headlight. The Play-Doh was swabbed with super glue to firm it up. We also used several Dremel Tool sanding drums and grinder wheels for the air cleaner and the rollers for his tow hook. The structure in the rear is just pieces of cardboard painted and glued together. For the faded paint effect, we dabbed the colors with a paper towel.It was great fun building it together, and we hope you enjoy it.

    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!


    What is your opinion on the new BSA wheels, and do they need just as much work as the old one's did?

    The new wheels are more accurate than the old ones. They can be improved with work, but they are nicer than the old one's in raw condition.

    Do you think there is any benefit to using the Pro-Outer Hub Shaver on the new wheels since it seems that the new BSA wheels have been smoothed a little better in that area?

    The recess on the new wheels can interfere with beveled axle heads. So it is best to remove the recess using the Pro-Outer Hub Shaver. This has already been done on most of our speed wheels.

    I see a lot of cars every year with the center cut out of them. Is there some kind of weight distribution theory behind this or is it just something that looks cool?

    Body holes are normally implemented to remove wood weight to allow a more aggressive balance point. I guess there is also a coolness factor as well.

    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 9 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

    We welcome your contributions! If you would like to contribute an article, a web site review, or a speed tip, please send it to:

    Please read our submission policy.

    Subscription Information

    The Pinewood Derby Times is a free e-newsletter focused on the Pinewood Derby. It is published bi-weekly from October through April.

    Please Forward This Issue to a Friend

    If you haven't already done so, feel free to forward this issue to your pinewood derby friends. Thanks!

    Sign Up

    If this newsletter was forwarded to you, why not subscribe to receive this newsletter. It is absolutely FREE and your e-mail address is safe, as we never release our distribution list.

    Please don't subscribe your friends. Let them decide for themselves. Thanks.

    To subscribe, enter your e-mail address below and press 'Subscribe'. You will be sent a confirmation e-mail. Reply to the e-mail to complete the subscription.

    Type Your E-mail Address

    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.

    Mailing list services are provided by: