FAST Pinewood Derby Car – You’ll Need:
FAST Pinewood Derby Car
So in essence, we want to maximize the potential energy in your car and minimize the losses due to friction and other forces. While I can’t give away all our secrets, here are a couple of tips to do just that.
The easiest way to maximize the potential energy in your car is to make it as heavy as possible. Find out what the maximum weight is (usually 5 oz) and make sure you are right at that weight. Use an accurate scale and weigh your car throughout the build and design process. Usually, additional weights will need to be added to your car. Tungsten is the recommended material for weights (denser than steel and safer than lead).
Put the weight towards the back of the car. On an inclined track, this will give you a little higher center of gravity, which means a little more potential energy. Look at the car in the first picture. Most of the weight in it is in the back rear of the car. Just be careful not to put so much weight back there that it causes your car to do a wheelie.
One commonly used method is to make the car just a little heavy, then remove material at the race site by drilling a little wood out of the bottom of the car. This is the method we used last year.
Then we start polishing the axles. This is a fun job that your son can do. Start with a rough grit sand paper and cut it into strips. Have your son hold the strip and pull it against the axle while it is spinning. Move the paper back and forth and change it out often. Fold the sand paper in half and push the exposed rough edge down gently on the head of the axle. Be careful not to pull too hard as you could bend the axle, which would really slow things down.
Move to a finer grit of sand paper and repeat the previous step. You can move through several different grits to eventually get down to a very fine (1600) grit paper.
The next tip that we’ll share is axle location. The block comes with pre-cut slots in which to mount your son’s axles. However, I would not recommend using them as they are usually not square, meaning they will cause your wheels to be ever-so-slightly out of alignment, which could pull the car to one side or the other and slow it down, especially if the wheels ride against the edge of the track.
Instead, drill new holes just outside the grooves. A #44 bit is the perfect size, but may be hard to find at your local hardware store, so I’d suggest ordering it online. The new hole needs to be drilled in perfectly straight, so either use a drill press or a guide (like the one below).
Here is Reed’s car from last year coming down the track.
On a side note, our pack had fun, inexpensive, and easy to make trophies. They were small blocks of wood with Matchbox cars on top, spray painted gold.
Well, I hope you both have fun making your son’s car. Remember to involve him in every step of the process. You can help him do most of the work while ensuring that things are done right. Be sure to explain why things must be done right and the benefit of taking time to do so. In my opinion, it should be fun for the boy but a little bit hard too, so that he remembers the effort that it took to build. That way, when he sees his car going fast down the track, he can equate hard work with positive results. Winning isn’t everything, but teaching your son that research, correct application of principles, and hard work creates positive results is a valuable lesson.
blogging at So I Married a Craft Blogger
MORE PINEWOOD DERBY RESOURCES
Make your own Pinewood Derby Trophys
FREE Printable Pinewood Derby Certificates
Thank you:) I shared this post with our wolf parents!
Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom says
Love it! Sending this to my hubby!
I’m bookmarking this post so I can refer to it again. Thanks so much for all of the great tips!
Melanie @ bear rabbit bear says
I may have to have to hubby read and interpret this one..haha.. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much for sharing this!! I have a Tiger cub so we’re new to the derby scene. It’s going to be a blast!!
Polly @ Helping Little Hands says
We’re not there yet…our son is 4…but when we do I’m sure they’re gonna have fun. My husband is a physics teacher…
Alison @ Oopsey Daisy says
TOTALLY bookmarking these tips for when Little Man is older.
Great tips! We made many cars with our oldest three boys and are just about to start making more with our youngest two boys. Thanks for sharing your expertise!
Maria Gagliano says
This is great! Thanks for posting. Just attended our first Pine Wood Derby last week.
Lydia Thompson says
Thanks so much. Our pack is building now. It is our first year so all this is so incredibly helpful.
what kind of glue did you use to attach the trophy cars to the bases? super cute idea 🙂
Mandy Beyeler says
we used Gorilla Glue because it foams and fills in around the car – – good luck!!
thank you 🙂
Sherry Smothermon-Short says
Love these tips! I’m printing them out for my Bear Cub Scout!
Sherry Smothermon-Short recently posted…Ultimate Guide to Bird Identification for Cub Scouts
Thank you for the useful tips! I came here looking for advice for my daughter’s first Powder Puff Derby with Brownies. I must admit, as I read this it bugged me every time you said “your son’s car.” I’m not some crazy femanist, but it did irritate me because it’s not just boys who might want make a derby car. I get it, you probably wrote it thinking about the fact that you built it with your child who is a boy. But the assumption that anyone reading this is only here for a boy is very presumptuous.
I’m only making the comment to encourage you to keep these things in mind when creating a blog post as I cannot possibly the only person who ever read this and was annoyed by it.
I love the blog, the format of your posts, and all your amazing ideas. Keep it up.
Mandy Beyeler says
Thanks for the insight! I was definitely focused on the cub scout side of things since that’s what we have experience with, I love that Brownies have a Derby as well! Good luck to her!