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My Son is a Wolf Scout and today was his Pinewood Derby. I am on the Adult Committee as the webmaster for the Pack and this year was the first time as co-leader for the Pinewood Derby. Since I know the most about computers I run the computer system for the race. Last year we suggested an Adult League but was shot down. Since I didn't have anything to do with the event I couldn't really do much more. So when the person leading it announced he was stepping down because his boy was moving on, there were two of us that took it over. We both wanted an Adult League. Well last year our event was held up for over an hour as they were trying to get the computer talking with the track. This year we did check in on Friday and race on Saturday. However Friday night was also Adult League. There were only about 7 cars which was about half the parents from the Wolf Den. When some of the other parents found out about it they all wished they knew. We announced it in the Adult Committee meetings but I guess it never got passed down to the dens and I don't think the Pack leaders wanted to do it that much. However they did notice that the race went really smooth this year. Why? Because we worked out all the bugs on Friday. The Pack leader mentioned how well things went and I said we just went through a mini series on Friday with the Adult League. He seemed to like the idea now.

I thought I should post some pics of the car. The blue one is my son's and the John Deere Green and Yellow would be my car. The Wolf Den leader works for the Automotive Paint Division of 3M and he took all our Den's cars in and shot them with automotive clear coat. I ended up coming in 2nd in the Adult League. My son came in 3rd of his Den of 14 boys. Not too bad.

 

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Do you have any pictures of the unfinished kit? IIRRC the kits we had was a block of pine with a big notch cut out where a driver would sit, like a 50s Indy car.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Do you have any pictures of the unfinished kit? IIRRC the kits we had was a block of pine with a big notch cut out where a driver would sit, like a 50s Indy car.
I don't have any pics of the kit before working on it but this is what the boys started out with.

Official Pinewood Derby® Car Kit - Vehicle - Pinewood Derby - Crafts - BSA

Basically a block of wood that has two cuts where the axles go.

I cheated a bit on my car. For the Adult League we had to buy our own cars where the Pack provided the cars for all the boys. Well I was at Lowe's and saw that they had kits. I would have rather started with a block but the only complete kits that they had were either a Superman car or a Pickup. I went with the Superman car. I wanted to customize it more but didn't have time. I had to clean up my shop as it was a disaster out there. So I started with this kit. My intent was actually to just buy a block of wood and race that. I guess I could have just used a scrap 2x4 and used Logan's block as a guide. I was considering doing just that to demonstrate that aerodynamics really doesn't come into play. It is all how well you polish and set up the axles and wheels. Logan did snag the stickers that came with my car kit for his car.

The reason I had to get the shop cleaned up was we had the boys over to my house/shop last Wednesday to finish up their cars. They were asked to come with the cars all shaped and initial base coat done. Though if they were not that far I mentioned I had a couple scroll saws so they boys could cut out the cars and sand them in case someone was running behind. However that meant they may not be able to do all the stations because of paint drying times. Luckily everyone had them cut out, sanded and base coat on before arriving. There are three of us that kind of lead the Den of 14 boys. The Den Leader that works at 3M brought a professional airbrush, stencils and respirator from his work. They were doing decorations at that station. The other co-leader had a station set up over at one of my workbenches with a couple drills to polish axles. For my station I was showing them how to use a metal lathe. A little advanced for 7-8 year old boys so it was somewhat limited to explaining to the boys how they worked, what the dials and levers did. We would mount the wheels to a mandrel and true them up and shave off some weight while keeping them in spec. I basically just let them enable the power cross feed and adjust the cut depth. I had to keep their hands away from the chuck for safety so I would do the final sanding with 3000, 4000 and 5000 grit paper and then do the 3 step Novus polish. So that was more of a demonstration.

Once they completed all three stations they could head out. The Den Leader took the cars as I mentioned to work and shot them with automotive clear and baked them so they were ready to go for Friday. Thursday night some of the adults stopped back out and we worked on those wheels and final touches.

We had a good time. I wish the weather that night was a little better as then the boys could go outside and run around more. It was chilly and kind of drizzling out.
 

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Totally different than what I grew up with. Even the wheels look different. We were not sufisticated enough know about polishing axles or truing wheels. The only thing we learned was make them as heavy as rules allowed, gravity was your friend.

There was talk about drilling a hole the length of the car and putting a steel ball inside. The theory was; the steel ball would roll towards the front of the car as it went down the ramp and give it a boost when it got to the front. No one had a drill to try this, all just "bench racing" :laugh:
 

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Totally different than what I grew up with. Even the wheels look different. We were not sufisticated enough know about polishing axles or truing wheels. The only thing we learned was make them as heavy as rules allowed, gravity was your friend.

There was talk about drilling a hole the length of the car and putting a steel ball inside. The theory was; the steel ball would roll towards the front of the car as it went down the ramp and give it a boost when it got to the front. No one had a drill to try this, all just "bench racing" :laugh:
Very nice post Sennister and it's great that you are taking the time and sharing this experience with these boys. When I reflect on my life, as I do more and more these days, I find some of my best memories were being shown different things and learning from those with experience.

My pinewood derby would have been late 1960's and early 1970's. I think I did it two or three years. We had cub scouts then there was another level (Webloe or something similar if I recall). This led up to Boy Scouts if I recall.

I did polish the axles and smoothed the wheels as much as possible. Then my friends dad drilled holes in the underside of the car just behind the front axle and he owned a die cast shop so they poured a small amount of liquid zinc into the cars (his son's and mine) and drilled out the rear of the car an equal distance ahead of the rear axle as the metal added behind the front axle. While adding metal, we had been weighing the cars on an office postal scale and when we got to the actual race. our cars were a little heavy so they drilled out a little of the weight with a hand drill. My friend ended up winning and I came in a close second that year. Some dads protested because of the modifications to the car and the rules committee got involved. In the end, the win stood but some dads were unhappy.

But my most significant memories of the PINEWOOD derby, other than what I described, was that a kid in my pack, who's dad was a chiropractor and never attended a single event. The son was also on my little league team and we went to school together from Kindergarten through 6th grade. So I knew this boy well. His family had money and compared to mine, they were rich, but this poor young boy was so ignored by his father that when he showed up to the pinewood derby, he had colored his car with crayons and didn't have the axles installed. He didn't shave an ounce or any of the wood off of the car. It was in it's full block shape.

This boy was SO embarrassed and didn't want to show his car. He wanted to be around the other dads and boys, but he didn't want to show his car. My friends dad did what he could in a pinch at the actual race to try and help this boy so he would race. He did come in last place and was proud simply to have participated after overcoming his humiliation at how his car was when he arrived. Fortunately, back then, kids weren't as mean as they can be today and no one there really mocked him or teased him about the car. I think everyone felt sorry for him.

I remember riding my bike to Little league games and practices and I would stop by this kids house and wait for him. His uniform was never washed, in fact after the first time my mom saw that, she made it a point to make sure this boys uniform was clean. Even though we had little money, my mom found the extra $12 or whatever it was and bought him an extra jersey to wear and she would bring a clean one to the game and pick up his for the week before. At that time, we didn't even have "baseball pants" because of the cost so most boys wore jeans.

One time, after our coach made it a point that every boy need a cup, this boy didn't know how to wear it. It was sad how neglected he was when his parents lived the country club life and hosted big parties but never paid any attention to their son.

Fast forward to high school and this kid was into drugs and drinking. I lost track of him after high school until just a few years ago when my brother, who is the Captain in charge of the local county jail, said to me "So and SO asked me today about you and said to tell you hello". I was surprised to hear this and asked my brother about this now 50 plus year old man. My brother tells me he has an extensive criminal record for drug abuse and drug sales and some assault and other charges. I asked my brother about this guy and he said "he is headed towards a bad ending but he was really decent and respectful to me because of when you were kids." I asked if he just assumed that and he replied that "The guy said he was always grateful that you were nice to him and tried to help him".

While the guy was in jail during this incarceration, his girlfriend began living with another guy, who had just gotten out of jail. When the kid I grew up with was released from jail after serving a year locally, he went to the house to confront the guy and his girlfriend. When this guy knocked on the door, the new boyfriend answered the door and a fight ensued. The guy who had gotten out of jail retreated to his car and returned with a gun and he killed the new boyfriend and then shot himself. Just like that. It was all over. A terrible wasted life that I can't help but to think was directly a result of how he was raised or in fact, not raised, by his parents.

Sorry to get off the happy topic of Pinewood derby but every time I hear about the Pinewood derby, I can't help but think of this poor kids early life when I knew him and how it ultimately ended. :unknown:
 

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And, how many times has that same story been repeated? Unfortunately I fear the same situation is much more prevalent now than when most of you were kids. I was a kid before most of you were and in the fifties and early sixties, the world was a different place.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
We are already planning the next event in the shop. The three of us that are all kind of co-leaders are also into biking or at least I used to be quite a bit and the others are. I still have all my equipment from then so we are having everyone bring their bikes over and we are going to do a bike safety/tune up meeting. Now that we are in Daylight Savings we should have some light during the meetings. So we are coming over and doing some fun stuff. It is kind of a struggle to get the kids through the mandatory stuff for advancement in the winter but we try and make it as interesting as possible. Now that we are done with all that we try and do more of the outside fun stuff.

This year we had a few new boys join up and when we go through the cars the dads are pretty impressed. I know from talking to a lot of them that they are lucky to have a screwdriver and a hammer. Then they are looking around trying to figure out what half the stuff is.

As far as weight. The liquid or ball bearings which move are now illegal. There are lots of rules that I don't remember from back when I was building my car. I wish I knew what happened to it but it got lost over the years.
 

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As far as weight. The liquid or ball bearings which move are now illegal. There are lots of rules that I don't remember from back when I was building my car. I wish I knew what happened to it but it got lost over the years.
The zinc we added to the cars was only in a liquefied form from the die cast machine, it hardened into a solid mass once it cooled. It's Zebra Five and his rolling ball bearings that you have to watch out for. Creative thinking on their parts.......:good2:
 

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This is a trip down memory lane! :good2:

I'll probably come across my old car when we clean out my folks house. I do remember it was red. I did mine back when you could still take your Cub Scout knife to school, clipped on to your belt! My dad helped me (quite a bit!) with the car and we carved out the front of it and put fishing weights in there along with wood putty. I also remember polishing the nails that served as axles and putting just a tiny dab of sewing machine oil on them to slick them up! We didn't win, but we did a respectable job.
 

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The zinc we added to the cars was only in a liquefied form from the die cast machine, it hardened into a solid mass once it cooled. It's Zebra Five and his rolling ball bearings that you have to watch out for. Creative thinking on their parts.......:good2:
If we only had the tools to try that idea! We were not smart enough or even have a small enough scale to make our cars weigh the maximum. Nothing done to the nails or wheels either.

Our cars were weighed the first time at the track and found way too light. IIRCC a few nickles got taped to cars to make them heavier after weigh in. Our pack, it was more the kids made the cars without Dad's help

I am not sure where the track came from, but the transition from the "hill" to the long straight at the bottom was too acute an angle and few cars had there rear ends drag. So out came the pocket knife and quick whittling so they could try and make a full run down the track.

About all I remember about my car was it looked like a 50s Indy car and was painted with Testor's paint orange. And it did not win any races, too light.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The zinc we added to the cars was only in a liquefied form from the die cast machine, it hardened into a solid mass once it cooled. It's Zebra Five and his rolling ball bearings that you have to watch out for. Creative thinking on their parts.......:good2:
Yeah, I knew yours was solid which should be fine in the current rule book. It is anything that moves or is liquid that can't be used. Also if you use a lead based weight like wheel weights (which are no longer lead), they have to be painted to prevent contamination.

This is a trip down memory lane! :good2:

I'll probably come across my old car when we clean out my folks house. I do remember it was red. I did mine back when you could still take your Cub Scout knife to school, clipped on to your belt! My dad helped me (quite a bit!) with the car and we carved out the front of it and put fishing weights in there along with wood putty. I also remember polishing the nails that served as axles and putting just a tiny dab of sewing machine oil on them to slick them up! We didn't win, but we did a respectable job.
I remember as a kid the first time we raced I used a pencil on the axles for graphite lube. The second year we had a tube very much like what we have now. Spray some powdered graphite on the wheels and spin it a few times. I have seen comments were some people mix graphite with rubbing alcohol I think to make a paste. Then that is packed into the wheel and the axle inserted while wet to form a graphite bushing. Not sure of the legality of that though. I would have to review the rules.


Oh when we do the bike tune up stations we were talking about having a tool station. Basically a tool identification and proper use. Maybe I could even set up some fun stuff like an impact gun test. Get some ear muffs and a bolt through some steel or something so they can run a nut on the bolt. Torque wrench use and a few other things. Things like that can provide a valuable skill and yet a pretty low risk of getting hurt. Trying to think of some things that many of the boys haven't been exposed to like the metal lathe. I wish we could spend more time on the lathe with them as it is kind of cool and something they don't normally see. As I mentioned I went over the controls as well as the different cutting tools as well as how the quick change tool post works. So they can see how the different cutters are for different tasks and how it can be changed over. They were pretty curious about it.
 
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