Pinewood Derby Experiences, Part III

This is the penultimate chapter on the Pinewood Derby track a friend and I built at Edwards AFB when we had kids in Cub Scouts thirty years ago. After getting all the pieces collected, the first step was to test it out. It is 32 feet long. The best place to set it up was on my back porch. After all this time and mileage, it still worked! It had some dings but the electronics still functioned and the cars stayed on track. In the picture you can see the middle four lanes occupied by my son’s three cars and my 54 year old version. Everything worked but it needed to be “freshened” up a bit and the joints needed work. Working with filler and sandpaper I filled the nicks and smoothed out the all-important rail edges. This is the part of working with wood that I hate but it had to be done.

Also, I’m a bit older bending over is not my favorite thing either but it had to be done…no wait, perhaps not.



Instead of bending over I raised the track up and put it on tables. This made the painting and sanding easier. The smoothed out track was then painted flat black then I needed to fix an old problem. After the car crosses the finish line, it needs to be stopped. The suggested method is to raise the rail at the end so that the car is lifted off its wheel and rides on the rails. The problem is that most of the cars are slick on the bottom. They have a good deal of speed and frequently don’t stop within the 2 feet provided. The previous solution was to put a section of pipe insulation on the end for the cars to bounce off of. That works but sometimes the cars bounce back and off their rail and collide with other cars on the track. The new solution was to coat the rail after the finish line with rubberized paint. The foam barricade at the end is still there but hopefully the cars won’t be bouncing off of it. I’ll tell you if it worked when I return from camp.

The pictures show the start and the end of the track but I wasn’t done just yet. Over the years, the track was hauled from the place to place as four separate boards. Usually, the sections were carried loose in the back of a pickup truck. After all the filling and sanding (which I hate, remember?), I didn’t want to arrive at the camp with new damage. I needed a shipping/storage crate. The track pieces needed protection and combined into one package. It would be heavy and it would still be hauled in the back of a truck. My truck has a six foot bed which is 2+ feet too short for the track sections. The packed track would have to be tilted. Also, the access to the summer camp facilities is via a few miles of dirt road and I would need a dust cover. OK, still with me? The next step would be to build the crate. Then the crate needed a cover and wheels.

Here’s a bit of warped logic that always seems to apply in projects such as these: “There is always just one more thing to do.” So far, the track has been repaired, refinished, improved, packed, and secure but the electronic score box needs protection too. Luckily, I didn’t have to build something this time. An under bed storage container from Walmart was all I needed and luckily the packed electronics fit handily in the crate and under the dust cover.

At this point, the track is ready for its trip to the national forest but there’s just one more thing to do…The Pinewood activity is an elective activity at the camp. Kids at the camp range in age from 8 to 17 and if I’m to get any participation, I must sell it. I already have four cars (see but I needed something a bit more modern and exciting. I got out a couple of car kits and built two new ones. That would give me six examples and a car in every lane for the demonstration. I’m going to show include a picture of one but the second one is a bit of a surprise and it would spoil it if I attached the picture to this blog. In order to see the 6th car, you’ll have to wait until I return from camp unless you’re at camp.

I’ve had a ’66 Nova Super Sport since the year I graduated high school so I decided that it might make a good Pinewood Derby car. I took a picture of the car and started in. I’ll let you know how well it did when I return in Part IV. Wish me luck!




About AZAtheist

Retired--Researcher, Developer, Program Manager, Arizona Regional Director--American Atheists, Organizer--Tucson Atheists, Organizer--Skeptics of Tucson
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pinewood Derby Experiences, Part III

  1. vistosolady says:

    Hi Don,

    I wish you and the kids the best of luck and lots of fun.

    You certainly showed me there is more to a pinewood derby then a block of wood with wheels.



    Falling down is part of life

    Getting up is living.

    • AZAtheist says:

      Thank you Diane. There is a LOT of work that goes into preparations for Camp Quest each year and a LOT of work during the week to keep the program flowing. I’m hoping that the Pinewood Derby will be a rewarding endeavor that some of the kids will remember 50 years into their future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s