January is for the Pinewood Derby

Almost before the finish dried on Doug's Bench I was again working late into the night on a deadlined project. Our Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood Derby was on Saturday, January 24th, and by race time I had to help my three (3) scouts build their cars and completely re-build the Pack's track.

Looking up the track during the re-build.

The car building was a standard fare of de-burring and polishing axels, followed by careful weight distribution. We've built many cars in the past and this task - though enjoyable- was routine.

The new and time consuming project for me this year was re-building the track.

Our Pack has an old track which was made from plywood, pine and aluminum. The plywood edges were all work and the pine boards which joined the sections were loose with over-sized holes. Assembling the beast was a nightmare as alignment was next to impossible.

I removed the aluminum tracks and scrapped the old plywood and pine. I started fresh with 1/2" baltic birch plywood for the base and used some Oak I've had in my basement for years for the legs.

In order to connect the four (4) track sections I first tried using these Panel Connectors from Lee Valley. While they worked great for the two (2) panel joints which rest flat on the floor, unfortunately, I found that they were completely unsuited for the joint between the starting section and the next, which hangs in the air before the track levels out. Here, I had to resort to the traditional wooden connectors. Instead of having them screw onto the connecting section, I instead build tightly sized pockets to receive them. I then drilled through the pockets and connectors and locked them together with hinge pins.

My co-Den leader +Edward Leight came over and helped me schlep the whole track to our warehouse at work (the assembled track is 32' long). We dry fit the wooden sections and then attached the old aluminum tracks. When we tried to re-assemble the track with the aluminum on, we found that it had stiffened the plywood to the point that the first, second and third track sections were all in the air. Thankfully we were able to address this by removing most of the aluminum attachment screws while the track was assembled. With the aluminum and plywood separated from each other the track finally relaxed and fell as it should. We then put back just enough screws to hold the aluminum tracks in place.

Once the track was substantially complete and cars could run it, I turned my attention to our cars. They were finished just after noon on race day. I turned my attention back to the track and cleaned up the aluminum sections a bit with a small file. Then it was time to pack it up and head to the Derby.

This video is a combination of several time laps photos I took during the build.

Also check out this video of the Pack 151 Pinewood Derby race.

We did well, with my youngest winning the Tiger division. My twins placed First and Second in Webelos. All of them went to the finals, and my youngest went on to win second overall.

Don't forget about the +Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast. We talk woodworking with Guests from around the world of woodworking every other week. Subscribe to the RSS feed or iTunes today.