Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Here's my PineWood Derby Story... don't judge

If I told you about the utter randomness of the pieces I've been working on lately, you probably would think I'm crazy for accepting them. But - to be blunt - sometimes you (of course, meaning me) just get sick of building furniture. The thought of firing up the mortiser, or cutting 47 tenons just makes you (ummm.... me) want to scream (or cry). We all get tired of what we do, from time to time. So when a frustrated mother stopped by my shop with two of these kits,  she just hit me at the right time, in the right headspace. 

If you're not familiar with these kits - they're small race car kits that Cub Scouts are supposed to build and race, usually with a parent. I've worked on one years ago with some of my cousins, but WOW - things have gotten serious in the field of Pinewood car racing.  So this mother felt out of her league - she didn't have the tools, had zero experience, and yet - wanted to give her son a fighting chance to at least have a decent car with which to compete. 

Jamie to the rescue. 

Well, the internet too - I did some research and within minutes, found a really helpful (and frankly - interesting and captivating) video about research done on Pinewood cars, and how to make them winners. 

Some people really get into his competition, I had no idea!

The most important goal in making a good derby car is weight - and in this case - it has to be located about an inch in front of the rear axle. So I laid out the locations, and drilled some holes. 

Next, it was recommended that the shape of the car be altered to make it "reasonable aerodynamic" so again - some sketching and wham! Two cars with sleek profiles. 

The next part gets a little fuzzy, but there's a way to polish the axles, so that they allow the  wheels to spin with less drag.

 So I put each axel (i.e.... a cheap nail) into the drill press and used a variety of files, sandpaper and finally a buffing cloth to polish the axles.

 Next - I concentrated on the weight. The maximum is 5 ounces for each car, so I put them on a scale and added washers into the holes, until they were a hair under that target. Once I sealed the hole with a wooden plug, the weight was perfect. 

One plug was a little tight, and split the car, so...a little glue and we were back in business. 

And -  finally, pulling it all together and making one last tweak. Apparently, with all the testing that's been done on these cars, it has been proven that they race quicker by riding on three wheels, instead of four. Less drag.  So a simple bend in one of the axles will accomplish that. 

 There are other tricks you can do to the wheel, but I figured - I'd already done most of the tweaks, so this was the last one I would include. I'm still waiting for the race results and picture of the car, after it was painted.  But I suspect this one might have actually had a fighting chance! 

By the way, I feel like there are going to be people who will think this was wrong, and that the parent should have done this work. On some level, I agree. But - this parent at least gave their kid a fighting chance, and lacking the skills to work on a derby car, took the proper steps to make their kid a contender. There has to be some merit in that attempt. From the research I did, rare is the derby car that is actually completely made by the child. It's well known that parents usually work on their kid's car kits, because let's face it - how much does a Cub Scout know about aerodynamics or center of gravity or weight distribution?

Anyway - I'm sure this will bring up some conversation amongst my fellow woodworkers - let the dialogue begin!...

1 comment:

John Frame said...

Too cool. I think its great that the parent came to you, and that you accepted the race car chalenge. I don't see anything wrong with a parent seeking help for there child to participate in a scout function.
Its great that she is taking an active part in her childs life.