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  • Date Constructed: 

  • Lumber: Pine (of course)

  • Dimensions: 1.75" wide x 7" long x 3/8" thick (not including wheels)

  • Stain: Wood sealer (to keep the paint from soaking into the wood)

  • Topcoat: Spray paint

  • What We Learned:

I know this isn't much of a woodworking project, but I was amazed at how many woodworking tools my son and I used to build this car. We used the table saw to re-saw the block to half of its original thickness; we ran the block through the planer to reduce the thickness to 3/8"; we used the router table to smooth the edges; we used the mortising machine to cut square recesses in the bottom, where we glued the lead weights; we used the finish sander for some final smoothing; we used the combination square to confirm that the axle slots were square to the car body; and in 2005, my son cut the hole in the car body using a coping saw.

It was a very successful project—my son won the 2004 and 2005 Pack races, competing against 59 other cars! In 2006, he came in 6th, and in 2007, he came in 4th.

View the step-by-step process of how my son and I build a pinewood derby car.

  • What Didn't Work:

    • Translucent paint -  In 2004, we expected the orange paint to completely hide the wood grain, but it ended up being translucent, letting the grain show through. In 2005 through 2007, the white paint we picked wasn't translucent, so it did a better job of hiding the grain.

  • More Information:

The minimalist, flat-car design is not our own invention. My son and I did a lot of Internet research, without which we would not have been as successful. The following web site was invaluable to us:

Be careful to read and understand all of your pack's derby rules before applying the techniques from the above sites. Not every technique is legal everywhere. For example, you will read that you should mount the axles as far apart as possible, but our pack rules state that you must use the factory-made axle slots. Be careful not to break any rules!

View the step-by-step process of how my son and I build a pinewood derby car.

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