Pinewood Derby Information
The Pinewood Derby is one of the most popular events in Cub Scouting. Each year, Pack 380 holds a “Fun Night” at which Scouts can try out cars built from an official kit in preparation for the official Pinewood Derby Night. The top 3 cars from each Scouting level get to compete at Oxford Valley Mall against the winners from the rest of the 25 Packs in Playwicki District.
The purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to give Scouts the chance to work with their parents to build a car from a kit, and experience the sense of accomplishment in seeing that car compete against their peers for Speed, Best Paint and Best Design awards. The cars are made from a block of wood according to rules developed by Playwicki District (see link below). Scouts should choose the design and perform all painting on their own. Your son can also perform most sanding with some oversight. Other tasks in building the car, such as cutting, applying wheels, etc. will require parental involvement that should decrease with the age of the Scout. In other words, your son should have the chance to do as much work on the car as his age and capabilities permit!!! As you will see from the links below, there is almost no limit to the amount of time and effort that can be put into these cars, but no work should be done without Scout involvement.
Our Pack is lucky enough to have a very good electronically-timed track with 6 lanes. To avoid the impact of “slow lanes”, each Scout will race their car in each lane. The computer decides lane assignments and racers. The racers with the fastest average time receive our speed awards. These are the same rules used by Playwicki District.
At the end of all the heats, the computer will give us the four cars with the fastest times. The top four averages get a Pack 380 speed trophy, but only the top three racers will get to race their cars against all the other Packs in the Playwicki District. The 4th place car gets to go to the mall only if one of the top 3 knows they can’t make it to the mall in advance.
- Racers should wear their uniforms!!! Scout must be present to race!
- Once the car is weighed and measured at check in, no additional work may be done to the car. Exceptions will only be made for special circumstances (wheel falls off during races, etc).
- Cars selected to race at the mall will be impounded at the end of the races. No additional Graphite or other work may be performed on the car.
- Only Scouts will be allowed to place the car on their assigned lane. The official starter will assist if needed.
- Only official BSA kits, wheels and axles may be used
- Axles may be glued in, but the tips of the nails must still be visible when the glue dries
- Cars should be as close to 5 oz as possible without going over. You will need to add weights to your car to get to that weight. Since gravity is what powers the cars, lighter cars are at a significant disadvantage! Note that weights on the bottom must be recessed, or they will rub on the track and may not finish.
- Use Graphite lubricant on your wheels and axles. This is available at most hobby stores and many craft stores, but be warned…it is very messy!
- Don’t forget to put your name, level and pack # on the bottom of the car and don’t paint over it!
Everyone has their own process, but here’s mine! I started with the computer and searched for pinewood derby car images. It’ll give an idea of what they look like. The easiest design is the wedge. Basically, you cut it diagonally, paint it and slap in the wheels in the two axle slots on the bottom! Of course, many Tigers will have a favorite matchbox car that they want to copy. It’ll probably have roll bars, a scoop in the front, and a wing on the back, just to make it nearly impossible for you to copy…but that’s half the fun! You can even do fun designs, like gluing the pinewood derby box onto the block of wood and racing it that way (no cutting!), or painting it to look like an ice cream sandwich! Keep in mind that in the short distance you are racing, aerodynamics plays almost no role. If you have a car that rolls smooth and straight, you will win regardless of the design.
Once your Scout has selected the design, let him give you as much help as possible in any measuring, cutting and sanding. We made our cars using only hand tools, but if you happen to have power tools, they’ll probably make life easier. If you are looking for one tool that will be a LOT of help, go buy a Dremel or similar hand-held tool.
Now comes the fun part…let your scout do ALL the painting. Let him design it to match his favorite car, or just paint it free-style. If they want it to look like car paint, use spray paints. If you want it to look like a kid painted it, use model paints from any hobby or craft store. They can also glue on steering wheels, people, stickers, etc, as long as they don’t stick out any higher than the official Playwicki District rules (see link below). The key to this step is to use weights to make the car as close to 5 oz as necessary. If you don’t have a scale, most supermarket deli counters will weigh it for you. Our official scale will also be available on fun night!
After all sanding, painting and decorating is done, it’s time to work on the wheels. If you and your son are REALLY into it, you can buy attachments for your drill and sand your axles so they are silky smooth. I would recommend at least cutting away the metal burrs on the underside of the axle nail heads. The Playwicki rules say you cannot sand the wheels, but I believe they are more concerned with reshaping them than smoothing them out. In any case, I’m sure it’s o.k. to remove any extra bits of plastic (flashing) around the wheel.
Now the final and most important part…attaching the axles and wheels to your car. I would highly recommend applying graphite to each axle and wheel before you attach it to the car. Use newspaper because this stuff is MESSY and hard to clean up. Let your scout spin each axle/wheel set around for 5 minutes while they watch TV, and keep them together as a matched set (they tend to “wear in” to each other). Put them into the axle slot of your car and make sure they are straight. Crooked axles will cause the car to wobble or veer to one side.
Occasionally you’ll find your car is balancing on three wheels. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as your car can travel in a straight line. If you can pull off the straight line thing, you’re a contender. It’s not easy, and my son and I haven’t managed it yet! Glue the axle in place using something that dries clear. That’s very IMPORTANT because if we can’t see the axle tips, the car will be disqualified. Give the car a final weighing and you’re ready to go!
- Playwicki District Official Pinewood Derby Rules
- Ultimate Pinewood Derby Site.
- ABC Pinewood Derby
- Maximum Velocity