Pinewood Derby Times, Volume 16, Issue 10 – February 8, 2017

Volume 16, Issue 10
February 8, 2017

In this Edition
– Editor’s Notes
– Feature Article – Rail-Rider Alignment Walk-through
– Humor

– Product Showcase – Paint Stand – $2.00 off
– Pinewood Derby Memory – Unbelievable
– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase
– Q&A

Editor’s Notes

Pre-Shaped Bulk Car Kits
Do you need pre-shaped kits for an event you are planning. Our pre-shaped bulk kits are shaped and sanded, and ready for final sanding and painting. Each bulk pack contains three each of four shaped car bodies (12 total), wheels, axles, instructions and baggies. You can find them Here (Part 5468).

Inventory Clearance Sale
We are clearing inventory on several items including:

– Formula One car kit
– Paint Stencils
– Raingutter Regatta Decals

We don’t have many left, so don’t delay. You can find these items Here.

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.

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.

Feature Article
Rail-Rider Alignment Walk-through
By Randy Davis

Anyone that has done any research into pinewood derby racing will have run across rail-riding as an alignment technique to improve speed. There are a number of videos and write-ups on the topic available on the Internet, one of which (an article) I wrote back in 2014. You can find that article in Volume 14, Issue 4.

The 2014 article covers virtually all of the topics associated with rail-riding, but is light on the actual alignment process. So, today we will look more deeply at the technique for aligning the car. We will skip over axle prep, axle bending, and lubing. Also, we will assume that the car will run on three wheels.(1)

Prep Work
Before starting the alignment process, the car should be completed. That is, the car body must be painted, decorated, and at full weight. If you are using axles holes (instead of axle slots), then access holes should be drilled in the bottom of the car so that the axles can be glued in placed once the alignment is complete (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Access Holes

In addition, the wheels must be prepped, the axles polished and bent(2), and the wheels/axles should be properly lubed. In other words, the only steps left are mounting and aligning.

Mounting the Wheels/Axles
First mount the raised wheel. The gap is irrelevant, but set it at the typical 30 thousandths.

Next mount the front dominant wheel, with the axle angling downward (axle head lower than axle point). Set the gap at 30 thousandths.

Finally, mount the two rear wheels, with the axles angling upward (axle head higher than axle tip). Set the gaps to 60 thousandths, double the typical gap.

Figure 2 – Rear Axles Angled Upward

Rear Wheel Alignment
The first step in alignment is to align the rear wheels. This is done by gently rolling the car back and forth on a hard flat surface (desk, smooth counter top, etc). As you roll the car back and forth, watch the rear wheels. The goal is to get the wheels to stay on the axle heads regardless of the direction of travel.

If a wheel moves towards the car body, then the axle needs to be adjusted by giving it a slight rotation.(3) Adjust the axle and test again. Continue testing and adjusting until both rear wheels migrate to, and stay on the axle heads.

Video of Proper Rear Wheel Alignment
(Note that the wheels were started against the body to show the migration to the axle heads)

Front Wheel Alignment
Now the front dominant wheel must be aligned. This requires an alignment board that has been carefully leveled. You can read more about an alignment board in Volume 14, Issue 4.

Figure 3 – Alignment Board

Leveling of an alignment board is done with a very round ball, such as a leveling ball, billiard ball, or racquetball. Here are two videos showing the use of a leveling ball.(4)

Board Not Level

Board Level

Once the board is ready, set the car on the board with one side of the car lined up with the line on the board. Since our example car will be drifting left, the car will be lined up on the right side of the board. Let the car go and watch the direction of travel. With a left raised wheel, the car should drift left at least five inches over eight feet. Rotate the front dominant axle slightly and repeat testing until the car has the proper drift.

Video of Proper Front Wheel Alignment

Rear Wheel Check
Front wheel adjustment affects the pitch angle of the car, which can affect rear wheel alignment. So, recheck and adjust the rear wheel alignment.

Test On Track
If track testing is possible, do it now. The car should run smoothly down the track, with the front dominant wheel riding the rail. If the car zigzags on the track, it may need to have more drift (especially true of very aggressively weighted cars). Go back to the alignment board and add a few inches of drift.

Lock Axles in Place
After any track testing, recheck the drift. Then lock the axles in place with glue. Use white glue, yellow glue, or epoxy; do not use super glue. If axle slots are used, apply glue between the axle tips and smooth it over the point; keep the glue away from the wheels. If axle holes are used, apply glue into the access holes.

Now your car is ready to race. Make sure to keep your car in a safe place until race day. If you are allowed to stage the car, center the car on the rail and move the rear wheels to the axle heads. Good luck!

(1) You can raise either the front left or right axle, but for this article, the front left axle will be raised.

(2) Generally, the rear axles are bent at 2.5 degrees, while the front dominant wheel is bent at 1.5 degrees. Maximum Velocity offers Pre-polished and Bent Axles (Part 4035 or 4036).

(3) Axles can be rotated with Axle Extraction Pliers, or with a pair of needle nose pliers. If you use needle nose pliers, be careful not to mar the axles.

(4) You can find a Leveling Ball Here.


The teacher asked her students what they wanted to become when they grew up. A chorus of responses came from all over the room:

“A football player.”

“A doctor.”

“An astronaut.”

“The president.”

“A fireman.”

“A teacher.”

“A race car driver.”

Everyone that is, except Tommy.

The teacher noticed he was sitting there quiet and still. So she asked him, “Tommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Possible,” Tommy replied.

“Possible?” asked the teacher.

“Yes,” Tommy said. “My mom is always telling me I’m impossible. So when I get to be big, I want to be possible.”

Product Showcase
Paint Stand – $2.00 Off (Over 10%)

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:

– Allows you to hold the car in any position while painting.
– Works with axle slots or axle holes, and with any wheelbase.
– Keeps paint out of the axle slots or holes.
– Provides a stable base while your car dries.

Through February 21, 2017, you can get Paint Stand for $2.00 off. To take advantage of this limited time offer, add part 5385 to your shopping cart and use coupon code FEB8NL during checkout.

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase

Today’s cars are from Clifford Schmidt.  Clifford is a retired US Navy Chief, and races with the Awana Club at Green Hills Baptist Church in La Habra, California.

Red & White – 2013 Champion

Purple Corvette – 2014 Champion

Blue Ford GT – 2015 Champion

Classic Dragster

Navy Chief Racer

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 description of any special features to:
[email protected]

Please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.

Photos must be sent by e-mail in JPG format (minimum size of 640×480, 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
Fears to Cheers

My son and I had missed a few of the den meetings recently. I was on my way home from work and had called my wife to see what the schedule was for scouts that night. She said it was the pinewood derby. We had not gotten our kit because we had missed the recent meetings, so we had no car to race.

My son really wanted to do this together and I was feeling like I was going to let him down by not having a car to race. So I ran to a local craft store and bought a kit. The kit had a car that was cut to shape but the rest we had to do ourselves. We had only an hour before race time, so we scrambled to get it together.

To make a long story short he won 1st Place in his den and then went on to win 1st Place in the whole Pack. We were both surprised and excited! Who would have thought that would happen? Unbelievable…

Do you Remember?
If you have a pinewood derby story that is funny, unusual, sad, heart-warming, etc., please send it to me in an e-mail. Don’t worry about literary polish. We will edit as needed before publishing.

If your story is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2017.


Q: With a three-wheel rail-rider car does it make sense to offset theweight in the rear to balance the load on the two rear wheels?

A: Theoretically it would make sense, but in practice it makes no measurable difference. Check out the article in Volume 15, Issue 5 for an experiment on the topic.

Q: I have a car template that has the car length at 6.5 inches. Does it make any difference versus the car being 7 inches long?

A: Generally, you want the car to be full length. This facilitates placing the center of gravity further back on the car.

Want Answers?
Do you have a pinewood derby-related question? If so, e-mail us your question.

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 16 are posted on our web site Here.

Newsletter Contributions
We welcome your contributions. If you would like to contribute an article, a web site review, a speed tip, or a pinewood derby memory, please e-mail us.

Subscription Information
The Pinewood Derby Times is a free e-newsletter focused on pinewood derby racing. It is published biweekly from October through March.

If you haven’t already done so, please forward this issue to your pinewood derby friends. But please don’t subscribe your friends. Let them decide for themselves. Thanks.

If this newsletter was forwarded to you, why not subscribe to receive this newsletter. There is no cost, and your e-mail address is safe, as we never sell or share our distribution list.

To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to
[email protected]

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times
E-Mail: [email protected]

(C)2017, Maximum Velocity, Inc. 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.

Maximum Velocity 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 of America, YMCA, Awana, or any other organization.

(R)Maximum Velocity is a registered trademark of Maximum Velocity, Inc.
(R)Pinewood Derby and Regatta are registered trademarks of Boys Scouts of America.
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All other names are trademarks of their respective owners.


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