How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car: The Basics
Your First Race? No clue what to do with the block of wood you’ve been handed? Here are the basics
you need to make your Pinewood Derby Car get to the end of the track without being embarrassed. First,
read the basic
BSA rules, then follow these basic tips:
1. Design a car. Let your child help imagine a design. Don’t limit yourself to a "car"
design. We’ve seen Pinewood Derby Cars shaped like Sponge-Bob, Pianos, Tennis Courts, Battle Ships,
Space Ships, cell phones, bath tubs, and more. If it’s your first time, then pick something that’s not to
intricate to carve. There are
pre-carved chassis that you can use if your troop allows. You can also start with a pre-carved
and carve it more. After
sand the car to a smooth finish.
2. Painting. You’ll need to
seal the wood first, or else the paint will just absorb into the wood, leaving a stained
finish instead of a solid color. It’s simple: apply 2 coats, sanding lightly in between. Now paint. If
you’re just doing 1 color it’s quicker and easier to
spray paint the car. If you’re doing multiple colors or detail work use
brush-on paints. Once the paint is dry, use some gloss coat to give the paint a shiny finish
and keep fingerprints off of your pinewood derby car.
3. Install the pinewood derby
wheels. You simply nail the
axles thru the wheels into the slots on the chassis. Try to get the wheels pointing perfectly
straight. Drive the axle in so that the wheel has enough space to spins free but not enough space to
wobble on the axle.
Weigh your pinewood derby car. First purchase some
weights. All cars need weight added. Your local post office may allow you to use their scale.
Bring the weights with you and set them on the scale with your pinewood derby car until your car gets to
5.00 ounces without going over. The weights are best applied under the car (all of the screw-on weights
we carry fit under the car without rubbing the track or violating rules.) The further towards the back
of the car, the better.
When you get to the race, your car will be weighed and impounded. Some troops do this up to a few
days before the race. Bring some extra weights with you in case your scale reads different then your
troop’s scale. Be prepared to remove weights also. Just before handing in the car, you need to apply
graphite lubricant to the inside of the axles, just where the wheel makes contact. Spin the
wheels to work it in. This is a must to be competitive.
Now enjoy the race! Check out all of the other pinewood derby cars, and get ideas for next year.
Remember, the point of the race is to teach your child building skills and sportsmanship. HAVE FUN!