Wednesday, February 4, 2015

10 Pinewood Derby Tips

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It's our favorite time of the year---Pinewood Derby time!  It is the most exciting event each year and it's easy to see why...making cars and racing them!?  I'm sharing with you some Pinewood Derby Tips today.  

1. Follow the rules.  I know, this seems a bit silly, but it's the most important.  The quickest way to end a race is not be allowed to participate because you didn't follow the rules.  Before the first cut, before the first speck of paint, before you start on those axles, READ YOUR RULES!

2. Fast or Cool? Around here, the boys have an option--their car can be fast or it can look awesome. Of course, fast cars can look neat and cool paint jobs can still be fast. For the most part, however, you need to decide which route you are taking.  

3. Bake the block. A new tip for us this year is to bake your wood block.  In an oven heated to 250 degrees, bake your uncut or cut block for a few hours. This draws out any moisture and you are able to concentrate the weight in the desired location(s).  

4. Choose a sleek shape. One of the easiest ways to end up with a fast car is to choose a sleek, aerodynamic shape. We prefer to work with a wedge shape.  

5. Sanding.  Sand, sand, sand, sand, sand the car.  Once your Scout has chosen a shape and the cuts have been made, sit them down with squares of sandpaper and sand, sand, sand, sand, sand the car.  When he thinks he's done, he probably needs to sand some more.  

6. Paint it Up. Regardless of the paint scheme, it's still going to be painted in some way. Help your Scout achieve a smooth finish to help reduce drag. We opt for spray paint. The boy's rattle can skills get better with each year.

7. Be the Heavy. Typically, Pinewood Derby cars need to weigh 5 ounces OR LESS. Not a teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy, tenth of an ounce more.  Where you put the weight is pretty important.  It depends a lot on the shape of your track, but a good rule of thumb is to place weight in the middle of the car and going toward the rear--never on the nose. There are several different types of weights. However, if you show up to registration and you find your car is too light, there are ways you can add some weight cheaply and quickly.  (Note: If you are going to be racing for a few years, it would be a wise idea to invest in your own digital scale. Kitchen scales are $10-$15 and can be very helpful to have at home.)
  • Coins. Hot glue them right onto the car.
  • BB's. Drill a hole, insert BB, cover with glue.
  • Fishing weights. (see process above)

8. Graphite is Your Friend! (CHECK YOUR RULES!) Depending on what is allowed, don't forget the graphite powder. A little spritz on each wheel/axle before race day will help the car reach its max speed potential.  

9. Skip the Kit! It's not necessary to buy a body kit for the car. I'll just say that the very first Pinewood Derby car our oldest son built was a kit added to his block to make it look like a truck. He then painted it red, white, and blue. To this day, it's the coolest design of all of our pinewood derby cars.  However, it was so slow that he won the Official Pace Car Trophy--a prize for the slowest car in the Pack. 

10. Want to have the best time? Let your Scout be the primary car builder. As a Pack, we offer an Outlaw Division for parents/adults who want to make their own car. If your Pack doesn't offer that, perhaps you can suggest it.

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