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Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 12, Issue 8
January 9, 2013

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Preparing Nail Axles

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Axle Polishing Kits

- Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Reader Feedback
From Eric Steindorf:
"I enjoyed the article on the propeller car. Years ago I made a "hybrid" technology outlaw car shaped like a mobile home. It was big and kludgy. But it had a secret that rendered it nearly unbeatable - a rubber band to slingshot it out of the gate. I routered a 1/4 inch channel down the belly of the car and drove a nail in the slot near the rear axle. I clipped off the nail head so the nail was essentially a peg. At the race I'd string a stout rubber band (like the ones from a bunch of broccoli or lobster claws) over the nail and out the front of the car and over the starting peg. This pressed the car VERY tightly against the starting post. As the post was lowered the car was fired down the track, leaving the rubber band at the gate. This car was well on its way down the track before "legal" cars had moved a foot. Now, "Bubba's Slingshot Doublewide" was otherwise slow as I did very little to polish the axles. So, the other cars made ground on it in that final part of the track, but the Doublewide always ended up first."

MV Basic & Wedge Car Kits

If you are planning a race and are not required to use a specific kit type, our MV Basic or Wedge Car Kit are 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. Our MV wheels are top-quality wheels. You will not be disappointed with the quality of these wheels.

So, if your organization does not mandate a particular kit type, consider our MV Basic Car Kits or MV Wedge Car Kits.

Inventory Clearance Sale
We are clearing inventory on several items including car kits, car plan booklets, and standard drilled pine blocks. Click Here to find our clearance items. Don't miss out on the great prices.

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

Prepping Nail Axles
By Randy Davis

When looking at the axles in your car kit 1, what do you see ... four nails? four metal rods? If so, I suggest you reconsider and take another look. For what you actually see are precision parts for a high-speed racing machine! Well, at least they will be after some preparation.

Proper axle preparation is a key factor in creating a top-performing pinewood derby car. Without proper preparation, performance will suffer. Fortunately, the axles can be prepared satisfactorily by the car owner with minimal household tools.

Nail-Axle Preparation Steps
If you plan to have a top performing car, then these nail-axle preparation steps must be performed. But be careful; when using a drill always wear eye protection, secure loose clothing and long hair, and remove loose jewelry.

The first step in preparing axles is to ensure that the axles are straight. This is most easily accomplished by inserting each axle in the chuck of a drill with the head facing outwards. Start the drill and observe the shaft of the axle (not the head). If the shaft of the axle moves from side to side, then the axle is crooked. If the axle shaft is bent, then it can be straightened using the Pro-Axle Press after the burrs are removed.2

Figure 1 - Pro-Axle Press

Now look at the head of the axle. Does it appear to be moving in an elliptical path? If so, the head of the axle is not exactly centered on the shaft. If the head is more than just slightly off-center, then I suggest replacing the axle.

Removing the Burr
The next step in preparing axles is removing the burrs on the head of the axle. The required tools are a drill, a clamp or vise, and a fine file (I prefer to use a triangular file). To remove the burr, perform the following steps:
  1. Fasten a drill or rotating tool to a work surface using a Drill Mount, clamp, or vise.

  2. Insert an axle into the drill chuck with the head facing outwards.

  3. Start the drill and set the speed somewhere between 3/4 and full speed.

  4. Slowly apply the file to the inside of the axle head. You may find it helpful to hold the tip of the file on the work surface, and pivot the file up to the axle.

  5. Stop the drill and check the axle. Repeat the previous steps as needed until the burr is completely removed.

  6. Before removing the axle from the drill, use the side of the file to create a slight taper on the nail head. This will minimize the frictional loss between the wheel hub and the axle head.3

Figure 2 - Removing the Burr

Figure 3 - Creating a Taper

The third step in preparing the axles is polishing. I will describe how this is done using Maximum Velocity's axle polishing kit.4

Figure 4 - Axle Polishing Kit
  1. Cut the axle polishing papers into strips about 1/4 inch wide.

  2. Insert an axle into the drill chuck with the head facing outwards.

  3. Start the drill and dip the first sandpaper strip into a cup of water.

  4. Apply the sandpaper to the portion of the axle on which the wheel will spin. Also sand the inside of the axle head.

  5. After polishing for about 10 seconds, dip a second strip in the water and repeat.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the next finest paper. Continue through all five grades of paper.

Figure 5 - Polishing

Diamond Polishing
To get an even higher shine, Maximum Velocity's Diamond Polish(4) can be used.
  1. Fasten a drill or rotating tool to a work surface using a Drill Mount, clamp, or vise.

  2. Insert an axle into the chuck of the tool, and start the drill.

  3. Apply a small dab of polish to a clean, soft rag.

  4. Apply the polish to the axle for about 15 seconds. Make sure to polish the portion of the shaft on which the wheel will spin, and polish the underside of the axle head.

  5. Buff off the residue with a clean part of the rag until no more black residue comes off the axle.

  6. Repeat the above steps for each axle.

  7. Gently clean the axles with Isopropyl Alcohol, rinse with water, and then dry thoroughly.

Figure 6 - Diamond Polish

Axle preparation is an important step, and must not be skipped. So plan ahead and make sure you have time to perform the required steps. Have fun and good luck with your race!

1Nail-type axles are used in BSA, PineCar, and a few other kits. Awana kits and Maximum Velocity kits use pin axles which need polishing, but do not require filing. A few kits use screw axles, for which you would follow the same procedure as for nail-type axles.

2The Pro-Axle Press can be found Here.

3An alternative is to use the Pro-Axle Press to create a slight bevel.

4The Axle Polishing Kit and Diamond Polish can be found Here.


A secret agent was sent to Ireland to pick up some very sensitive information from an agent called Murphy. His instructions were to walk around town using a code phrase until he met his fellow agent. He found himself on a desolate country road and finally ran into a farmer.

"Hello, said the agent, "I'm looking for a man called Murphy."

"Well you're in luck," said the farmer. "As it happens, there's a village right over the hill where a butcher is called Murphy, the baker is named Murphy, and three widows are called Murphy. In fact, my name is Murphy."

"Aha," thought the agent, "here's my man." So he whispered the secret code: "The sun is shining ... the grass is growing ... the cows are ready for milking."

"Oh," said the farmer, "you're looking for Murphy the spy. He's in the village over the other direction."

Product Showcase

    Axle Polishing Kits - $1.00 Off    

The industrial grade cushioned abrasive papers in this kit take the guess work out of polishing BSA axles and other axles that have had flaws removed with file. The kit consists of one each of the following 4 x 3 inch papers, plus instructions. Note that the last two papers are much finer than any commercially available sandpaper, and are finer than pumice. One set of axle polishing papers is enough to polish 8 axles.

Through January 22, 2013, you can get an Axle Polishing Kit for $1.00 off. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Click Here and use coupon code 09JANNL during checkout.

Car Showcase

Cobra - Jim White

My grandson, Aaron Shain, and I built this car that we named "Cobra" for the 2012/2013 racing season. We hope the front and rear fenders produce favorable air flow and high speeds.

Street Rod - Jim White

My grandson and I built this car to compete in the "Street Rod" class of a Pinewood Derby Racing League. The basic car is a stretched wedge shaped car, and the body shell is from a 1 to 25 scale AMT model kit.

Following the rules for the "Street Rod" class, the car is 9 inches long and weighs 6 ounces. There are two sets of front axle mounting holes to allow for shortening the wheel base. In our first race the car ran in the middle of the pack for times, but it sure was an eye catcher.

Corkscrew - Wess Eslinger

The Corkscrew is completely impractical (the only place to put weight is behind the rear wheels) but I thought it would be funny. I had the idea several years ago, but didn't think I could actually make it. But this last summer I got bored on a Saturday morning, and decided to give it a try. It was easier than I thought to get the basic shape, but because I thought I would ruin it, I had used a really awful block of wood that I was going to throw away. So, it took a lot longer than I would have liked to get it looking even respectfully smooth. The gold paint was also tricky to get right. Since I spent a LOT more time on this than I ever anticipated, I hope it will get some laughs at our next race.

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:

For better focus, keep the camera four or five feet away from the car, and then use the camera's zoom to fill the frame with the 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!


How much does paint add to the weight of a car?

A typical paint job is less than 0.1 ounces. However, if you use an unusually large number of coats of primer, paint, and/or clear, then the weight could go higher.

I am interested in building a 2-wheeled derby car like the one described in Volume 10, Issue 4 of this newsletter. Do you have a set of plans for it? If not, could you let me know the basic details (how much weight used, measurements, etc)?

I don't have plans for that car. But here are the basic measurements:

Main Body
Underbody Plate
The amount of weight depends on the weight of everything else you use. I needed just under 4.2 ounces, I used eight, 1/2 ounce tungsten plates, and two, 1/4 inch tungsten cubes.

Make sure to mechanically attach the front wing. I just used glue, and it broke off after the third heat.

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 11 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.

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times

Copyright ©2013, 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.

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