Pinewood Derby Introduction by Bill Kuhl
A few weeks ago, I noticed my favorite hobby shop in Rochester, Minnesota was selling Pinewood Derby parts and they
were making a commercial about Pinewood Derby. I had been a cub scout back in the 1960’s but our den somehow missed
the Pinewood craze. The event started in California in 1953 and was adopted by the scouts nationally the following year.
This article is only an introduction to what I have learned in a just a few weeks. From one source I read that 100 million
scouts had been exposed to Pinewood Derby, no doubt many of the cars were built by fathers of the scouts but I think despite
any negative aspects, this is an activity that much can be learned from. I built the car pictured above from a Revell kit and
tested it on the hobby shop track unmodified.
This is part of the display rack of Pinewood Derby cars and parts at EverythingHobby in Rochester. I later found out that
Daniels Hardware Store in Winona Minnesota has a Pinewood Derby display rack also.
These are the components from the Revell kit that I put together. The body is pre-cut, so it only requires sanding to
shape the car.
Two different grits of sandpaper were included with the kit. Most of the sanding I did with the coarse sandpaper until it
was torn and filled with sawdust. The pine wood sands easily.
I patched the hole and slots in the car and left off the plastic pieces to reduce drag. The weight included in the kit, was
trimmed until the car weighed exactly 5 ounces, the maximum weight allowed. Most people agree it helps to be close
to maximum weight and to have the weight to the rear of the car.
After getting the car to weight, the next most important speed tip is to fix up the axles by removing burrs and polishing
the axle with a small file and strips of sandpaper while spinning the axle in an electric drill. The polishing kit I purchased
included a small magnifying glass, a file, and several grits of sandpaper.
After fixing up one axle, I compared spinning the polished axle wheel with my finger to the un-polished axle. The wheel
on the polished axle appeared to spin twice as long. A dry lubricant should also be used on the axles such as graphite
shown in the picture on the far right.
I also purchased a “Wheel Turning Mandrel” to fix up the inside hub of the wheels and outside surface of the wheel.
Such modifications might not be legal according to your local rules.
Yet another tool I purchased was a “Wheel Alignment Tool”. It is important that there is a proper gap between the wheels
and the body and that the car tracks straight as possible. A car that does not track straight wastes energy rubbing on the
strip between the wheels on the track.
Some additional items I had purchased. The book I had purchased from Pitsco. The spray enamel is what I had painted
my car with, three coats. Currently I have not tried the replacement wheels or built the Indy car.