Is this your first Pinewood Derby? If so, you′re not alone. There are thousands of first time derby car builders every year. For the first-timer, building a derby car is a lot of fun but can also be very confusing. The goal of Derby Monkey is to help remove the confusion and make building a Pinewood Derby car simple and fun.
Use the Recommendations Chart below for a quick and simple guide on getting started. If you want a more detailed explanation read the article "Pinewood Derby for Beginners". If you still have unanswered questions feel free to Contact Us anytime.
Pinewood Derby for Beginners
It’s important to remember that the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is intended to be a fun event shared by the scout and adult. You must decide how much emphasis you want to put on winning as compared to building a car just so the boy can participate. If you have the time, tools and limited skills there is no reason why dad and lad cannot have fun building a car together and making it super-fast at the same time.
Pinewood Derby racing at any level is much more competitive than most people think. Some packs have a detailed and strict set of rules to try to level the playing field as much as possible... others do not. No matter what pack you′re in or where you′ll be racing, chances are good that there will be at least one or two dads that will go all-out to win. You must be one of those in order to have a good chance at winning. We can help.
You may have noticed by now that there is an overwhelming array of Pinewood Derby tips, secrets, myths, facts, parts, supplies and kits designed to help you build a faster car. It is truly amazing at how involved and intricate Pinewood Derby car building can get. Remember, this is your first year. So, unless you have a lot of time, it is unlikely that you will learn and absorb all of the complex and convoluted factors and techniques of building a truly fast car. That will come in time. For right now, our goal here is to give you some basic information on how to approach this new and exciting venture. We will point you in the right direction on your path to building a super-fast Pinewood Derby car. Remember to have fun and, if this is for your son, allow him to participate as much as possible.
I. Do Your Pinewood Derby Homework
The very first thing that you should do is research... do your homework. That’s probably how you got to this page. Too many times a new car builder will wait until a short time before the race to start the building process. They then don’t have time to properly research what they need to do so they just slam the car together as best they can. Then, they wonder why their car was beaten so badly on race day.
It is very important to get an early enough start so that you can fully research the pack rules, the district rules, how the races are conducted, who qualifies for the district derby, speed tips that fit within your rules, Pinewood Derby blogs and forums, etc. Serious car builders start this project at least two months in advance. The Derby Monkey Garage allocates 3 months for the building of a new car for a particular race.
It’s likely that you haven’t given yourself that much time. Don’t panic... the other dad’s in your pack are probably just getting started too.
- Know the Pinewood Derby Rules
Make absolutely certain that you fully understand the rules. There are many sets of rules on the internet with certain important variations so don’t just go by any set of rules that you just found on the internet. Get your pack rules. Some packs will permit broad modifications to the wheels and axles. Some packs may only allow minor modifications. There is utterly nothing more disappointing than seeing your son’s car disqualified at check-in because you didn’t carefully follow the rules.
Some pack and district Pinewood Derbies have only one race division or class while others have several different divisions, such as "Stock", "Modified", "Outlaw" and "Open". Cars in the Stock class usually must follow the basic rules with no deviations, often allowing little or no modifications at all. Modified and Outlaw class rules usually allow much more flexibility in the building of the car. The open classes are usually for the scouts family members who wish to race a car. This is a great class for dad to enter his own car.
Find out who your Derby Committee Chairman is. Ask him for a set of the rules well before you begin building the car. Then get to know him. Converse with him and offer him your assistance. Offer to help him set up the day before the race. What you’re doing here is establishing valuable "goodwill" with the chairman. This will allow you to more comfortably ask for rule clarifications down the road. This new friendship may also provide helpful should there be any future rule disputes involving your car.
If at any point you are unsure whether a particular car building trick is legal, ask the derby chairman for clarification before you make that modification.
- Official BSA Pinewood Derby Rules
A very basic set of "Official BSA Rules" are provided in the car kits. Some packs will simply ask you to follow these fundamental rules:
Weight: Not over 5 Ounces
Width between wheels: 1-3/4"
Bottom clearance between can and track: 3/8"
Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited.
The car cannot ride on springs.
Only official wheels and axles are permitted.
Only dry lubricant is permitted.
II. What Pinewood Derby Parts Will You Use?
There are three basic sets of parts that will be a huge factor in how fast your new car will be. Those parts are:
- Pinewood Derby BSA Block or Precut Body?
Now you must decide if you are going to be building the car body from the wood block in your Official BSA kit, or do you want to use a cool looking precut car body?
Using the Official BSA Block will require you to cut and shape your own body. Perhaps you need some plans, design ideas or templates.
Click Here for our collection of free templates
Click Here for our workbooks of plans and patterns
You might also need body shaping tools or a nice carving set.
Using a Precut Body will save a lot of time, effort and perhaps some frustration. Plus you’ll have a super cool looking car.
Precut Bodies are made with either the standard (stock) wheelbase or with an extended wheelbase. Extended wheelbase cars are faster because of their stability but some rules will not permit wheelbase modifications. So check your rules.
Precut Bodies will also have either the standards axle slots or drilled axle holes. Precision drilled axle holes make for a faster car. Again, check your rules.
Click Here for our full line of pre-cut bodies
Some pack rules require that the pre-cut body be Officially Licensed by the Boy Scouts of America. Derby Monkey carries a wide selection of pre-cut car kits licensed by the BSA that are fun and easy to build.
Click Here for the car kits Officially Licensed by the BSA
- BSA Pinewood Derby Kit Wheels or Aftermarket Speed Wheels
Here is another decision to make. Do you want to use the wheels that came in your Official BSA kit or do you want to purchase some wicked fast aftermarket BSA speed wheels?
Using the BSA Kit Wheels is OK but, if you have the time and tools, you will need to do some wheel preparation to make them as fast as they can be. You’ll need to true the wheels, remove mold marks, cone the hubs and polish the wheel bores.
You may need some special tools for these desired wheel modifications. You should consider the following tools:
True wheels & remove mold marks: Pro Wheel Saver
Cone the hubs: Pro Hub Tool
Polish wheel bores: Pro Wheel Bore Polisher
Using Aftermarket Speed Wheels will save tons of time and give you a very fast car. These are Official BSA Pinewood Derby wheels that have been trued and balanced. Unneeded plastic has been removed from the inside of the wheels making them lighter and spin more freely. The truer and lighter the wheels the faster they will be.
There are several levels of pre-prepared wheels. The exact speed wheels you select will probably be governed by your pack rules. It is important to check your rules to see what wheel modifications are allowed.
- Available Hi-Performance Official BSA Wheels:
• Mold Matched: These are official BSA wheels which are hand selected, inspected and matched to the same mold number. Unfortunately, stock BSA wheels vary considerably from one mold to the other. This inconsistency makes for an unreliable set of wheels that do not work well with each other. Read More
• Precision Stock: These are official BSA wheels that are precision machined on the outside and will meet any rule book. These wheels can be raced without any additional preparation.Read More
• Pro Inertia Lite: These are official BSA wheels that weigh in at only 1.8 grams and retain all of the lettering and numbering inside so they will meet most Pack, District and Council Rules. These wheels are much faster than stock BSA wheels so you can gain a huge edge over the competition. These wheels can be raced without any additional preparation. Read More
• Pro Ultra Lite: These are the fastest BSA Pinewood Derby wheels on the market. They are official BSA wheels that are precision CNC machined with True Track Tread and reduced in weight from 3.5 grams to only 1.0 grams each. Extensive testing has proven that these are the fastest BSA wheels available. These wheels can be raced without any additional preparation.Read More
VIEW ALL WHEELS
Derby Monkey Garage has the most complete selection of derby wheels on the market.
Official BSA Wheel Comparison
At only 1.0 grams the Pro Ultra Lite Wheels are the fastest BSA Pinewood Derby Wheels on the market. The next fastest are the Pro Inertia Lite Wheels at only 1.8 grams. The Pro Inertia Lite Wheels leaves the BSA writing on the inside making them legal for most BSA Pinewood Derby rules. Check your local rules to see what wheel modifications are permitted.
- BSA Kit Axles or Aftermarket Speed Axles
Finally, you must decide on which axles you want to use. You can either use the stock axles that came with your Official BSA kit or you can use a set of pre-treated aftermarket speed axles.
Using the BSA Kit Axles will require a good bit of work and preparation. You must use a file and drill to remove the crimp marks on the nail type axle shaft. You must then use a series of sandpapers and/or polish compounds to fine polish your axles in order to reduce as much friction as possible. You should consider the following tools and supplies for this process:
File for removing the crimp marks: Axle File Dremel tool for turning the axles: Pinewood Derby Dremel Tools
Axle polishing supplies: Axle Polishing Kits
Using Aftermarket Speed Axles will again save you a lot of time and effort. Plus you will have some wicked fast axles. There are several levels of prepared axles. Most are Official BSA axles that have been machined on a CNC lathe to make them completely round and free of imperfections. They are then polished to some extent. Some axles have machined grooves in the shaft in order to reduce wheel to axle contact and to serve as storage wells for graphite. The fastest axles will be completely machine made and have a hard nickel coating.
All aftermarket speed axles have been polished. However, for the ultimate axles you will likely need to fine polish them even more
Make sure that you understand what axle modifications are permitted by your pack rules.
Click Here to see our full line of speed axles
III. Weighting the Pinewood Derby Car
You should really use some weighting material other than lead. Lead is poison so why put your kid at risk? In 2008 new consumer-safety legislation was imposed that bans lead from children’s toys, imposing the toughest standard in the world. The new law prohibits lead, beyond minute levels, in products for children 12 or younger. So, why let your child play with a Pinewood Derby car filled with pure lead? Zinc and tungsten are much better options.
Tungsten is the best weight for Pinewood Derby cars for a couple of reasons. For one thing, its completely safe to handle. Also, a tungsten weight is heavier than a lead weight of equal size. Because tungsten is so dense and compact you can add more weight in smaller areas. You can also concentrate the weight in a specific area in order to place your center of gravity in the optimum location for a speedy car.
Make any purchase from the Derby Monkey and you will get a free eBook that includes an explanation of center of gravity placement.
Click Here to check out our full line of Pinewood derby weights
IV. Complete Pinewood Derby Kits
The best way to get all aftermarket components to build a super fast car is to purchase a complete kit. For example, the Derby Monkey Xtreme Speed Kits come carefully designed and complete with the car body, speed wheels, speed axles and tungsten for weight. Cool looking decals are also included.
Some pack rules require that the pre-cut kit be Officially Licensed by the Boy Scouts of America. Derby Monkey carries a wide selection of pre-cut car kits licensed by the BSA that are fun and easy to build.
Click Here for the car kits Officially Licensed by the BSA
Click Here to check out our complete line of car kits.
One question that we get asked a lot is "What is your fastest Pinewood Derby car kit?" The answer goes like this... Every single car from our Xtreme Speed Series kits are super-fast and will likely out run your competition. However, the G-FORCE is the outright FASTEST pre-cut Pinewood Derby legal car kit money can buy. Hundreds of pack and district derbies have be won with this amazing car. This car will destroy all challengers... READ MORE
VI. Finishing Your Derby Car
Now, you’ve got to make your car as cool looking as possible… Right? Derby Monkey Garage has a complete line of finishing supplies. Testors One-Coat Lacquer spray paint has several great trendy colors and is super easy to use. It requires no primer and will paint your car with only one coat. The acrylic sets are totally safe for your youngster to brush paint their car. Also, the Derby Monkey has several super cool decals that will liven up any car.
V. Car Alignment
Most instructions manuals will have you to align your car so that it rolls perfectly strait with absolutely no deviation for at least six feet. That’s exactly what most first time Pinewood Derby car builders do. The theory, or myth, is that if the car rolls strait down the track it will not make contact with, and rub against, the center guide strip. Believing that the breaking effect caused by rubbing the rail will slow the car down many builder insist on a perfectly strait running car. The only problem is this adjusting technique is doomed from the start.
Experts agree that controlled rail riding will produce a much faster car. Yes, that’s right; if your car consistently rubs against the rail all the way down the track it will be faster. Here’s why: It is nearly impossible to have a track that will allow a perfectly aligned car to run straight and not hit the rail. Invariably, any car will drift into the rail causing it to bounce back toward the other side. This generates a side to side movement, causing the car to repeatedly slam into the rail. This is a huge enemy of a speedster. Therefore, knowing that you will certainly be hitting the rail (evidenced by almost every video of a fast car that you study in slow motion) you should bias the car to hit the rail on the front dominant wheel side, as opposed to the raised wheel side, which incidentally is yet another kiss of death.
Now, you must decide if you want to tackle this alignment technique. Most new builders are afraid to try this because of the time and skills required. The Derby Monkey has simplified this process by creating an easy to understand eBook and kit to help you create a Rail Rider. So, you should consider the following items:
Free Manual: How to Build a Rail Rider Advanced Rail Riding Kit: Ultimate Rail Rider Kit
During the race the wheel hubs will rub on the axles. This unwanted friction contact cannot be avoided. However, if you have properly repaired and polished your axles and hub bores then this friction is reduced. But even that is not enough.
We must thoroughly lubricate all friction points before putting on the wheels. Your scout rules will probably require that you use a dry lube. If so, use quality graphite, such as Monkey Dust or Hob-E-Lube. If, on the other hand, your rules allow for the use of oil then you should consider taking advantage of that by using a super lubricant like NyOil or Krytox.
Krytox GPL 100
The Derby Monkey Garage uses DuPont Krytox® GPL 100 whenever oil is allowed. This is a highly-refined synthetic thin-film lubricant with an ultra-low viscosity. When this stuff is properly applied it equals or outperforms any dry lubricant on the market including graphite. Krytox is much easier and faster to apply than graphite.
We believe that Pinewood Derbies should adopt a Krytox only policy. When properly applied, Krytox is much cleaner and leaves no trace on the tracks.
This stuff is also perfect for your nice paint job. Graphite will stain and ruin a light color paint job but Krytox will not.
Monkey Dust is a unique formula of natural and pure industrial grade graphite powders that create an extremely low coefficient of friction. The graphite particles that make up Monkey Dust are milled to a microscopic mesh size which makes it a very silky smooth graphite.
Make any purchase from the Derby Monkey and you will get a free eBook that includes an explanation of lubrication techniques.
Visit Our Blog
For more information on how you can build a fast Pinewood Derby car visit our blog at FastPinewoodDerbyTips.com. It is packed full of derby car photos, articles, speed tips, tricks and secrets.