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  • PINEWOOD DERBY TRACK

    We are not are very rich pack and we are considering building our own Pinewood Derby track. I would like to know if anyone else has built their own track. Was it difficult? Time consuming? And was it worth it? Should we consider a fundraiser to buy our own?

  • #2
    pinewood derby tracks are hard to keep consistent lane to lane when homebuilt. The aluminum ones are more so. The electronic timers are worth having as they eliminate the human factor at the finish. If I was in a new pack I would approach a more established pack about borrowing or renting theirs for the event. The cost is substantial for a once a year event. You may even be able to get an older track from a pack that is upgrading to a new one. When I was in cub scouts the pack purchased a new aluminum track it was paid for by business sponsors who got "nascar style" banners displayed at the event and recognition in the program. If you have a skilled fundraising type available this is a good way to go.

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    • #3
      I agree - making one seems like a lot of work and expense, and very difficult to maintain straight tracks. We've loaned our track to an LDS troop who only has 8 boys, no money to purchase their own track. They sent us a folder of lovely thank-you cards from their boys and parents. When the time comes for us to upgrade to an aluminum track, we'll be looking to donate the one we have.

      I'd ask around and see if anyone could loan you theirs, or maybe even let you piggyback their day. Come in after their pack races, run yours.

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      • #4
        From the experience I have had ... only a skilled wood worker would be able to do it and even they will have nightmares making it right.

        I like those above me suggest that you either rent one from another local pack (or Troop). Or you hold a fund raiser and buy one of the nice pre-made ones.

        As a side note I know of a local troop who owns their own track (as I recall they half built and half bought the parts already made) and they rent it out to packs. As I recall there deal is something like $150 dollars per event, but they even supply the man power to assemble, disassemble, and repair the track. As well as several leaders / scouts to help run the derby and judge it.

        Scott Robertson
        http://insanescouter.org

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        • #5
          Just to give an alternate option, we did build our own, and it works fine. One dad was fairly handy, but he wasn't a professional. It's not like it's an incredibly complicated piece of equipment. The lanes are pretty consistent. We do use software/hardware that lets all the cars run in all the lanes, so any lane variation would come out anyway.

          If you google around, you can find plans on the web (e.g. http://www.rahul.net/mcgrew/derby/track/). But it is a fair amount of effort, and all of the above suggestions are good.

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          • #6
            You might try to find a pack that has folded recently. I got a nice track from a defunct pack nearby. It was in storage at the school where they used to meet, the school was closing, and they were cleaning everything out. It was homemade, and is probably better than our pack's track, but since we have a scoring machine for ours, I'm passing this one on to a new pack that is trying to start up. Ask your District Exec. if he has contact info for ex-leaders or chartered Orgs. for defunct packs.

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            • #7
              We just built a track last year. Plywood with a formica racing surface. Initially 32 feet long. Track was too fast (1/4" difference between 1st and 4th in some races) to score by eye. We built 2 additional sections later bringing the track to 48 feet. Had MAJOR issues with the track after the additional length was added. The plywood for the 2 new sections was not the same thickness as the original pieces, so there was a lip. Had cars come off the track. Gonna do a LOT of work tuning it up before this years races (we do a Pack derby and a public fundraiser derby). It was a LOT of work to build. Took a LOT of time. If you want to build one for a race this coming winter (after Jan 1) start building NOW. If you want to race before the end of '07, buy a track.
              Try to get donations of material. Most expensive part for us was the formica. Check with local cabinet makers and see if they would be willing to donate. If not picky on colors, they probably have some scratch & dent or scrap they'd give you. You may even get lucky and find one willing to make the track for you for the tax write-off.
              The more work area you have, the better. Check with your local vo-tech and see if they'd be willing to let you use their shop (or even better, see if they have a senior needing a carpentry project and get him/her to build it for you).
              If at all possible, do final assembly of the joints and legs on site at the location where you hold your races so you can fine tune them during the build, instead of having to go back and fix them later like we are having to do.
              Put table leveling feet in the bottom of the support legs so you can screw them in/out to level the track for the race insead of having to put stuff under the track to shim it every time.
              All-thread w/ wingnuts and washers going thru 2x4's on either side of the track joints makes for a strong and CHEAP way to join the track sections.
              If possible, build a box to store the track in to protect your investment.
              I could go on and on with design suggestions, but this post is long enough. If you would like additional input from me, let me know.

              Would I build a track again? Yes.
              Would I buy an aluminum instead of building one if I could afford it? Yes.

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              • #8
                I would like to echo what some of the others have said. My old pack and 2 others created a "Pinewood Derby Cooperative". My pack had the equipment, but had never tried to get our timer to work. One of the other leaders had his pack buy the software and got it to work for us.

                Something like this is a good idea - you can pool resources, and each pack can add something. Create a "Pinewood Derby" kit. Include flags, decorations, and the other stuff to make it fun.

                Another option that several packs in our area do, is to hire someone else to come in and run their pinewood derby. That way, your pack doesn't have to deal with storage, set up, running the race, etc. You can leave it to someone who has it down.

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                • #9
                  My take is different on this. A woodworker of modest skill and only a few tools could build a track that would be fine. Materials choice is where you can design in unifomity. Although rather expensive my fist choice for the track would be MDO plywood, which has a smooth paper face that takes paint nicely. Number the sections so they go together in the same order every time and use flat head machine screws and wing nuts to join each section. My former pack has a track built by a former Cubmaster. It has three lanes, but in use we only ever used two of them. Each car was ran at least twice switching lanes each time; to win the car has to win two consecutive races. We used double elimination so that each Cub got a fair amount of track time. The Cubs had fun, the parents enjoyed it and the Leaders had a great time. PM me if you wnat further details on special design element of the track.

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                  • #10
                    Curtis,
                    Good evening. In regards to your situation, we are in a smiliar one ourselves with our track on it's last leg. Our pack is in a very small area itself, located on a US Navy base. Because of this our resources are limited. However, a suggestion would be to look for other packs in your area that would want to go in on the purchase of a track with you. We are looking at an aluminum one ourselves. Doing this would cut your costs and develop a 'network' of fellow scouters. Not to mention the possibility of having additional help come race day.
                    Good luck and I hope things turn out positively for you!

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                    • #11
                      We pay a gentleman to come in and run our Derby Race. He brings a 4 lane track, electronic timers, music and all the other bells and whistles.

                      I think it is a lot easier than building, upkeep and storing a track. That might not be an option for other packs but it is ours.

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                      • #12
                        My old pack had a homemade wooden 3 lane track. Each of the lanes ran at a different speed. It was quite the puzzle to put together. We had adults eyeball the winner with a poster board on the wall and somebody filling in the blanks on with a magic marker. Lots of complaints by sore loser adults and unhappy kids.

                        We had several good/great years of popcorn sales and sprung for a new system. Aluminim track, software, electronic timer, all hooked to a computer that displayed the results on the wall 10 feet wide for all to see immediately as the race was run. All cars run on all four lanes against different cars in all the heats. We chose to declare winner by lowest total time of all heats.

                        Kids love being able to run their cars at least 4 times. Parents no longer complain that their sons car did not get a chance to run in the fast lane, against the "correct" set of competitors, or whatever else. Fun quoitent went up dramatically for all.

                        Our pack has hosted the district event for the past 3 years. We offered to set up our track and run a PWD for any Packs that could not or did not want to run their own event prior to the district PWD. The deal was we would keep the money from any concessions we sold. Not a single pack in the district took the offer.

                        We have two old wooden tracks we would willingly dontate to any Pack that is in need that is willing to come get it.

                        I would suggest you contact council about other Packs that would be willing to lend or sell your pack an old track or even run the event for you until you can raise the funds to handle on your own.

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                        • #13
                          After our first PWD last year, one of the Dad''s in our Pack spent a weekend building our very own. We used it for the first time at our Join Night last week. It is amazing! He found plans online by googling it. But he tailored the plans to "make it better."

                          He is a great woodworker, so it was something that he wanted to do. Also, his track that he built looked far better than some of the kits I have seen.

                          I think if you have someone that is capable of making a good track, go for it.

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                          • #14
                            Approach your Council about the issue. We are a very large Pack and have been blessed recently. We routinely set up and run our current three-lane track with timer for Packs unable to afford one. We are currently fundraising for a six lane aluminum track, at which point we will donate our old one to council for the use by packs that do not have one. My point is that you may be surprised to find the resources available to you if you ask.

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