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Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 13, Issue 7
December 26, 2013

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Shop Talk: How to Tune a Band Saw

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Paint Stand - 10% Off

- Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

- Q&A

Editor's Notes
Introducing Titanium Grooved Axles

Titanium Grooved Axles by DerbyWorx are the ultimate in axle technology. They are equipped with a two-step shaft for a good fit with axle slots or holes, and an excellent fit with the wheel. The titanium material provides superior strength, light weight, and a smooth, hard surface for low friction. Click Here for more information on this superior axles.

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 our Propeller Car Kit II, the Assimilator Kit (with a tungsten canopy), and paint markers. We don't have many left, so don't delay. Click Here to find our clearance items.

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:

Main Pinewood Derby Site -
Mobile Pinewood Derby Site -

Feature Article

Shop Talk: How to Tune a Band Saw
By Randy Davis

Back in my early days of pinewood derby racing I attended a workshop and offered to help some folks cut out their cars. The saw that was to be used was a bench top band saw. Unfortunately, the blade was really too small for cutting blocks. But even worse, the blade was not properly tensioned and the guides were not set right. So the blade moved all over the place, making it very difficult to use and making it quite unsafe. I am still amazed that the blade didn't jump off the wheels.

Since then I have learned quite a bit about adjusting band saws (some from the "school of hard knocks"). Band saws are great for cutting out cars, albeit a saw that must be used with great care. But if the saw is not adjusted correctly, then it can really be a dangerous tool.

So, let's look at the basic steps of adjusting a blade.

Blade Selection
For most pinewood work, I recommend a Skip Tooth, 3/8 or 1/2 inch blade, with 4 teeth per inch. However, the steps below apply to any blade. For more discussion on band saws and blades, please see: Choose the Right Band Saw for Pinewood Derby Cars in Volume 12, Issue 2.

Blade Tracking And Tension
After selecting the blade, it must be mounted on the wheels, and then adjusted so that it runs in the center of the wheels (tracking) and has the correct tension. Each time a blade is changed on the band saw, this procedure must be followed.

Tracking and tension should be adjusted together. So, you must incrementally increase the tension of the blade while adjusting the tracking.

Figure 1 - Tension Knob

First, unplug the band saw, then slide the blade into place. Next, apply a small amount of tension, and then rotate the upper wheel by hand. As needed, adjust the tracking knob to move the blade to the center of the wheel (normally a clockwise rotation moves the blade outward, counterclockwise moves the blade inward). Keep rotating the wheel, adding tension, and adjusting the tracking knob until the blade is under full tension and tracking in the middle of the wheel.

Most band saws have tension marks to show the proper tension for each blade width. Make sure to set the tension properly. Both over and under tensioning can result in blade breakage, and under tensioning makes cutting difficult and dangerous.

Figure 2 - Tension Knob and Marks

After achieving the proper tension, test the tracking under power. Close the wheel covers and plug in the saw. Turn on the saw for a few seconds and then turn it off again. Open the top door and check the position of the blade. Make an adjustment if needed.

Thrust Bearings
The thrust bearings are the (normally two bearings, one is above and the other below the table) wheels that sit behind the blade. These bearings keep the blade from moving backwards when cutting. On some saws, the blade contacts the outer diameter of the bearing. On others, the blade contacts the face of the bearing.

Figure 3 - Thrust Bearings

While idling, the blade should sit just in front of the bearings. Contact with the bearing only occurs when the blade is cutting.

To adjust the thrust bearings, set the guide assembly about 1/4 inch above the saw table. Adjust the top and bottom thrust bearings so that they are just behind the blade. A business card makes a good gap gauge. Check your work by turning the saw on and off and watching the thrust bearings. They should not rotate.

Figure 4 - Thrust Bearing Gap

Side Guides
The side guides keep the blade from moving left or right while cutting. More expensive saws use guide wheels as side guides, while less expensive saws use guide blocks.1

Figure 5 - Guide Wheels and Blocks

To adjust the guides, first move the guides until the front edge is just behind the blade's gullet (curved indent in the blade). This is very important. If the teeth of the blade contact the guides, the blade will become dull very quickly.

Figure 6 - Side Guide Front/Back Position

Next, adjust the distance between the guide and blade. As with the thrust bearing, when idling the blade should not touch the side guides. Set the gap between the side guides and the blade to the thickness of a piece of paper. Make sure to set the gap on both of the upper guides and both of the lower guides. Again, check your work by turning the saw on and off and watching the thrust bearings. They should not rotate. With guide blocks, no contact noise should be heard.

Figure 7 - Side Guide Gap

Now that the band saw is properly adjusted, you are ready to cut out some cars. Remember to keep safety at the forefront by wearing safety glasses, not wearing loose clothing or jewelry, tying up long hair, and keeping your fingers away from the blade.

If you would like more information on this topic, there is a great article on the American Woodworker site posted at:

1Guide blocks wear out, so they must be adjusted regularly. They will eventually wear out and need to be replaced.


Tool Definitions

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your drink across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light . Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh nuts!'

SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle; it transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet metal into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent to the object you are trying to hit.

UTILITY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.

From the DerbyWorx Forum at:

Product Showcase

  Paint Stand  
10% off
Finally, a paint stand for pinewood derby cars that is easy to use, and works on virtually any car! This paint stand by Derby Guys not only holds your car securely, but also:
Through January 7, 2014, you can get a Paint Stand for 10% off. To take advantage of this limited time offer: Click Here, and use coupon code PAINTSTAND during checkout.

Car Showcase

We are out of cars for the Showcase section of this newsletter. So, please send in your photos. Include your full name, the name of the car, and a paragraph describing the car.

Photos should be 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 car shown at:

A solid, contrasting background color is best. Usually, best focus is obtained by stepping back several feet from the car and zooming in.

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


Is there a friction reducing decal to place on a pinewood derby car to reduce friction at the wheel to body contact point?

There is a "graphite pad" that is sold, but I do not carry it for two reasons:
  1. Most rules state that bushings are not allowed. This product could easily be considered a bushing.

  2. The pads have some "give". So they could increase friction.

Instead, I recommend a good hard clear coat on the car body where the wheel will touch. Some people use clear nail polish for this purpose. Then coat the wheel hub with graphite. You will then have graphite rubbing on a hard, slick surface.

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.

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 13 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.

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