Since 1953, the Pinewood Derby has been a major event of the Cub Scouts. In 2006, Reader’s Digest magazine included the event in its list of America’s 100 Best. If you want to be competitive in the next Pinewood Derby, here are some tips for building the best possible Pinewood Derby Car.
1. Check the wheels
What should you check? While your car wouldn’t perform well with square wheels, it’s also important that the wheels are perfectly round. This will give you the best chance during the race. Also, examine the wheels and axles for burrs. If you find some, then remove them immediately.
2. Polish the axles
You can finish this task more efficiently if you get another person to help you. While it requires some time and effort, it’s certainly worthwhile.
3. Sketch your car before creating it
Even if your future car’s design is in your mind, it’s crucial that you first put it on paper or in a computer file. This will help you to tweak the car’s design until perfecting it.
4. Provide enough time for the final coat to dry
This will prevent sticky paint from sticking to the wheels. To speed up the paint-drying process, apply several light coats rather than heavy ones.
5. Learn the rules
The Pinewood Derby rules were meant NOT to be broken. For instance, it’s important to learn the limits that the Boy Scouts of America places on the car’s dimensions and weight. These limits are subject to change, so review them each year before you start designing your Pinewood Derby car. There are other crucial rules that you’ll need to follow, such as those regarding how you make your car faster. Keep in mind that your car’s speed becomes irrelevant if you break any of the official Pinewood Derby rules.
6. Add lubricant to the wheels
Some options include penetrating oils, talcum powder, and graphite powder. Do some experimenting to determine which method is most effective for you.
7. Get the weight right
It’s crucial that your car not exceed the weight limit. Remember that you’ll be adding paint and putty to the car, so their weights should be included in the overall weight. The putty is for places on the car where you added the weights, and other locations where it’s necessary. Also, while you don’t want to exceed the car’s weight limit, try to get as close to it as possible. You can do that by adding lead weights to your car.
8. Put the center of gravity on the rear wheels
This will allow you to make one of the wheels in the front a little higher than the other wheel. Then you can roll on three wheels, instead of on four. That’s a big plus, since less energy will be needed.
9. Reshape the wheels (if allowed)
You’ll need to secure a mandrel to reshape the wheels. Virtually any approach will be effective, since it will lower the wheels’ mass. Thus less energy will be needed to turn them.