Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 15, Issue 8
January 13, 2016

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Tools of the Trade

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Drill Mount - 20% off

- Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

- Memory - Competition Among Friends

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

2nd Quality Blocks
As we package up our MV car kits, we find quite a few blocks with chipped edges and other minor flaws such that we don't want to include them in a kit. If you are interested in purchasing some of these 2nd Quality Blocks please contact us at 623-587-9261. The minimum order is 40 blocks, and the price is $1.00 per block plus shipping.

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:
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

Feature Article

Tools of the Trade

Anytime you get involved in a sport or hobby, some specialty equipment is needed to help you achieve your goals. Baseball players need a glove, bat, and ball. Skiers need skis, poles, and warm clothing. R/C airplane enthusiasts need specialty tools, fuel dispensers, radio equipment etc.

The same is true in pinewood derby racing. Fortunately, success can be achieved without spending serious money, and in fact people have successfully built pinewood derby cars for years with few tools. But having the right tools (and knowing how to use them) makes the job simpler and more enjoyable, and the results at the track are generally better.

In this article I will describe the woodworking tools that are most commonly used for building a pinewood derby car. In a future article I will describe the key specialty tools that were designed specifically for pinewood derby car building. As each tool is described, I will note whether the tool is required or optional.

For some of the tools I have included links to the Rockler Woodworking web site. Rockler sells top quality products, so naturally their prices are not cheap (likely you can find the tools locally for a better price).

Saw - At least one saw is required

Coping Saw
Source: Rockler

The most versatile saw for pinewood derby building is the Coping Saw. The Coping Saw is designed for cutting curves in relatively thin material, so it is excellent for cutting the outline of a car body as viewed from the top of the car. The Coping Saw does not work as well for cutting thick material, so it is nice to have a more general purpose saw for cutting the material off of the top of the car.

Here are some general suggestions for sawing.
Drill And Bits - A hand drill and some basic drill bits are required

For weight holes, I strongly recommend the use of "Brad Point" or "Forstner" drill bits. These bits are designed to cut clean holes in wood. Auger bits are nice, but the long threaded tip is not good for the precise needs of derby cars. Spade bits cause excessive chipping, and standard drill bits tend to chip and wander.

Here are some general tips:
  • Clamp the wood block in place. Don't attempt to drill with one hand while holding the block with the other.

  • Drill straight down with the drill no higher than chest level. If needed stand on a step stool to get the needed height.

  • Use steady, even pressure on the drill. Pushing too hard can result in deeper holes than desired.

  • When drilling completely through the block, put a scrap piece of wood underneath the block. This will minimize chipping at the drill bit exit site.

  • To remove the drill bit from a hole, pull upwards and start the drill.

Brad Point Drill Bit
Source: Maximimum Velocity
Chisel - Optional

Wood Chisel
Source: Rockler

Chisels are used when creating a square or rectangular hole or cavity in a car, such as when creating a cavity in the bottom of the car for holding lead, tungsten cubes, etc.

Here are some general tips:
Rasp - Optional

Wood Rasp
Source: Rockler

A rasp is a rough file that is used to shape the wood after it has been rough cut with a saw. Rasps are either half round or flat. I recommend the purchase of a "4-in-1" (a.k.a. "Shoe Rasp"). The 4-in-1 Rasp has four different surfaces on one tool. Two of the surfaces are flat, and two are rounded; two of the surfaces are rough rasps, and two are fine rasps. Thus, this one tool is very versatile.

Here are some general filing tips:
Sandpaper - Required

Sandpaper Assortment
Source: Maximimum Velocity

Sandpaper is used to smooth the surface of the wood before painting. Sandpaper is rated in "grit" with the number identifying the roughness of the paper. Smaller numbers indicate rougher paper. Sandpaper also comes in different styles, as it can be used on metal and wood. However, most styles will work on wood.

Sanding tips:
Glue - At a minimum, have some white glue

White Glue and Epoxy
Source: Maximimum Velocity

Glue comes in several different types. Always use the proper glue for the job.
Clamp - One clamp is required

Source: Rockler

Woodworkers say that you can never have too many clamps, and building a pinewood derby car is very difficult without one or two. The main use is for holding the car in place while drilling and sawing. The other use is for clamping a hand drill in place while preparing the wheels and axles.1

I like to use F-Clamps. This is combination between a Bar Clamp and a C-Clamp. It has the reach and screw-tightening of a C-Clamp, but has the benefit of quicker and wider adjustability similar to a Bar Clamp.

Having the right tools greatly simplifies the task of building a pinewood derby car. When we first started building cars, we had a few tools. As the years went by, and our experience grew, so did our supply of tools.

So, for beginners, I recommend purchasing/borrowing all of the tools listed above as "required", and possibly a few of the optional tools. Then next year, get a few additional tools. Before long, you will not only be an expert pinewood derby builder, but you will also have the "Tools of the Trade".

1For a nice alternative, check out the Product Showcase.


A high-school geometry teacher started a lesson on triangles by reading a theorem. "If an angle is an exterior angle of a triangle, then its measure is greater than the measure of either of its corresponding remote interior angles."

He noticed that one student wasn't taking notes and asked him why.

"Well," the student replied sincerely, "I was waiting for you to start speaking English."

Product Showcase

  Drill Mount  
20% off

As mentioned in today's article, a clamp is often used to immobilize a drill for polishing wheels and axles. However, a more elegant solution is the Drill Mount. The Drill Mount is a convenient way to clamp your drill to a work surface. Features include: - Adjustable size to fit virtually any hand drill. - Dual mounting Positions provide flexibility to meet your work environment. - Swivel base allows the drill to lock in at any angle.

Through January 26, 2016 you can get 20% off a Drill Mount. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Add part 5178 to your shopping cart, then use coupon code JAN13NL during checkout.

Important Notes:
(1) The coupon code must be entered in UPPERCASE.
(2) Apply the coupon code after all items are in the cart. If the shopping cart content is changed after the coupon is entered, the coupon code may need to be re-applied before pressing the "Proceed to Checkout" button.

Car Showcase

The Few, The Proud... - Matt Penza

The Marine car took Grand Champion in the derby. My daughter came up with the concept after seeing my uniform.

The Flame - Stacy Bodder

My son, Joel Bodder was in his first pinewood derby race tonight; he came in first for speed. It was an exciting race. In one of the races, Joel's car hit a piece of dirt in the track and jumped up and landed sideways, but won the race crossing the finish line sliding sideways!

Carbonite Cruiser - Justin Roberts

In honor of the release of the Star Wars movie, here is the Carbonite Cruiser we built back in 2011! Of course, it was a winner!

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. 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. Also, use a solid (preferably white) background for the photo.

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

Competition Among Friends

My son Trey is a Tiger Cub so the pinewood derby is new to him. It is also a lot more competitive than when I was a scout. Along with helping Trey build his first car, I was roped into helping two of my friends with three cars for their sons (Chris, his brother Will, and Tyler). I really worked at making this a learning experience for the boys. They polished wheels and axles, and cut out the car shapes with help from the dads. The boys also sanded as if the world championship was at stake.

All the boys talked about was how they all were going to go to the district championship (the older boys explained the district race to Trey, so he decided he would be going also). For the older boys this was going to be their big year because they were tired of losing to the same three district qualifiers each year. Fortunately, Tyler raced in a different pack. He in fact won his pack race and went to districts.

My problem started when the other three (including my son) all won their den races and were ready to duke it out in the final for the three district qualifier spots. The first three rounds they all advanced easily. But in the fourth round Trey had to race against Chris. Chris won the first heat by a few thousandths of a second. Then Trey won the second race by a few thousandths (both moms wanted to quit right there so that everyone would still play together). Well, Chris won the third heat and advanced. Trey raced his way back through the loser's bracket only to face Chris again for 3rd place. The three races were identical to the first, with Chris picking up the last spot for districts and Trey placing 4th overall.

To make matters even worse, Will took 1st place and Tyler took 2nd place so all three of the other boys went to the district championship. Trey was a very good sport in the whole situation, but he reminds me often: "Dad. Chris, Will, and Tyler have to build their cars by themselves next year. Okay?"

Bill Launius
Millstadt, IL

Share Your Pinewood Derby Memory!
If you have a pinewood derby story that is funny, unusual, sad, heart- warming, etc., please E-mail it to me.

Don't worry about literary polish. We will edit as needed. If your memory is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2016.

Also, please read our Submission Policy


I don't have any questions from readers at this time, so here is some Q&A on weighting from our website.

Why do I need to add weight to my pinewood derby car?

If there were no friction or air resistance, then added weight would not be needed. But since friction (and to a lesser extent, air resistance) exists, weight is needed to help your car overcome friction. This is especially important on modern tracks which have an initial slope followed by a long flat section. On this type of track, the pinewood derby car reaches its maximum speed at the bottom of the hill, and then begins to slow down. Without added weight, the car will slow down much more quickly.

What is the best weight for pinewood derby cars?

For cars with less than one-half of the original block remaining, lead or tungsten weight is generally required. For minimalist cars (very little wood), tungsten is generally needed to attain proper weight. For cars with one-half or more of the block remaining, then steel or zinc will work fine.

What is tungsten?

Tungsten is a metal with one of the highest densities. It is 1.7 times heavier than lead. Only gold, platinum, and a few other rare and expensive metals have a similar density. Tungsten is non-toxic and environmentally friendly so it is gaining increased use in weighting applications where lead is not appropriate. For example lead has been banned in many streams, so tungsten is often substituted for lead weight on fishing flies.

Can I drill, melt, or reshape tungsten?

Not easily. Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals in pure form: 3422 Deg C, 6192 Deg F. To cut or drill tungsten generally requires diamond cutting tools. So, I recommend using the appropriate shape of tungsten, and creating pockets or holes in the pinewood derby car to accept the tungsten weight.

Is lead safe?

Lead can be toxic if taken internally. However, if handled and used in a safe manner, the health risk is quite low. Click here for lead safety information:

Why do you not offer a greater variety of PineCar weights?

Most PineCar weights are made of zinc, which is a metal with a very low density. This low density makes proper weighting difficult to impossible on cars made of less than one-half of the wood block.

What is the best location for added weight?

Added weight should be placed such that the final balance point of the car is between 7/8 and 1 in front of the rear axle (can be closer if rail-riding). To achieve this balance point, a good "rule of thumb" is to place of one-third of the added weight behind the rear axle, one-third on top of or just in front of the rear axle, and the final third about one inch in front of the rear axle.

Is it better to put the weight high or low on the car?

Low weight is slightly better, as it gives the car greater stability.

What do I use if I don't have time to buy weights?

If you are in a jam, use pennies, or steel screws and washers.

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

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Newsletter Contributions

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Please read our submission policy.

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times

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