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  • Pinewood Derby Cars

    Hi, I am trying to plan a den meeting where the boys who need/want help building there Pinewood Derby Cars can do so at the meeting. I have lots of single moms who don't have any tools. I don't even think they have a hammer or screwdriver to their name. In light of the "Age Guidelines for Tool Use and Work at Elevations or Excavations", how does a BOY make his own Pinewood Derby car? I mean one that isn't a block of wood, with paint, and four wheels. Is the expectation that they use the "prohibited" tools outside of Cub Scouts, so there isn't a liability?

    I am trying to stick to the spirit of "Boy Made" while still following the guidelines. Quite a challenge!

  • #2
    When I was CM the pack wasn't huge, only about 32 boys. So we had a PWD 'tuneup' meeting one night each week for a few weeks prior to the derby. The whole pack. We had almost as much fun at these 'tuneups' as we had at the derby itself. The dads brought all their tools (another testosterone-driven competition in itself) and we shared everything. The single moms had all the help they needed and all the boys got to explore new ideas and designs. Those were some great days. I wish you the best of success.


    • #3
      My pack also does a Pinewood Derby Workshop that some parents bring in their "toys" and the shape the cars. then the boys do the rest of the work. parents helping parents really works

      This year will challenging though. District moved up the PWD to the weekend after our workshop nite.


      • #4
        In our pack we encourage every boy to cut out their own Pinewood Derby using hand tools.
        Hand tools like a saw are still safe for scouts.

        So boys use a vice or clamp to hold the car and a coping saw and start cutting with the parent helping them to guide the coping saw to create the shape they want.
        Then sand the heck out of it first with a wood file, fill the cracks with wood putty and sand some more with finer and finer sandpaper
        the prime, paint
        tires in place
        graphite and race

        even tigers can use a hand saw to cut out a derby car with parental guidance to stay along the lines that they've drawn on the wood outlining the shape they want.

        see if this link works for helpful hints to use a basic set of hand tools to make a derby car that shouldn't conflict with the tool use rules.

        it's a word document, and it's at my pack website.


        • #5
          Our pack holds a Pinewood Derby workshop on a Saturday. We have 3 or 4 parents with woodworking tools--they bring them up to our meeting place. They run the electric saws/drills/etc. The boys decide on their designs, the adults cut them out. The boys can then sand them and paint them at home.

          It's not required, it's just something we like to do for those who have non-handy parents (like my son, haha).


          • #6
            All of my sons cars were made with coping saws and lots of sanding. We didn't make extreme or fancy designs, just basic cars. Somewhere we found templates of several different shapes.

            My husband has tools from here to kingdom come, but they are all for working on automobile engines. We have very few woodworking tools, and what we have I've bought. I thought about buying a scroll saw, but other than the Pinewood Cars would have had no use for it.

            So, power tools aren't necessary. A vise is a good idea to hold the block of wood steady, the new 3M sanding sponges make sanding easier for little hands. Go back to the basics and you'll do fine.


            • #7
              All of my sons cars were made with coping saws and lots of sanding. We didn't make extreme or fancy designs, just basic cars. Somewhere we found templates of several different shapes.

              My husband has tools from here to kingdom come, but they are all for working on automobile engines. We have very few woodworking tools, and what we have I've bought. I thought about buying a scroll saw, but other than the Pinewood Cars would have had no use for it.

              So, power tools aren't necessary. A vise is a good idea to hold the block of wood steady, the new 3M sanding sponges make sanding easier for little hands. Go back to the basics and you'll do fine.


              • #8

                With Nationals new tool restrictions for cubs you gotta wonder if the PWD is just gonna become the best dad made cars, which in some packs it already is or has been for a long time now. If the boy can't even make his own car anymore from beginning to end then what really is the point? As a WDL, years back, I owned some old hand woodworking tools that the boys used to create some great looking and sometimes odd looking derby cars at our den meetings, but they were all so aerodynamic my boys always took first or second in their heats. The engineer dads were so confused when they looked at and examined the cars why they were so fast. I told them the man I bought the tools from was a master woodcarver who had created magnificent works of art and he told me the tools had special magic in them. One of the dads looked at a very odd shaped car one of my boys had made and said, "Well it must be magic because no car that weird looking should be so fast." That "weird" car took top prize at the pack and district PWD that year.


                • #9
                  Since the cubs can still use hand saws and sandpaper there should be no reason for derby cars to become even more dad made vehicles. It's all about expectations. We expect every boy to make their own car, but of course we know dads often take over. So we have a bit bigger bragging rights to dad built cars racing against other dads so they put their energy there instead of in the boy's work. doesn't work for all of them of course, but it helps.

                  We all know the secreat is in well smoothed blanced tires with no burrs on the nails and lots of graphite.

                  One year the car that won was shaped like a half pipe with a super glued lego man skateboarding on it. THAT is the kind of cars we push in our pack, that's our pack culture so it works out well. We also repeat over and over again, don't do any of the work that the boy can do himself. eventually MOST parents get it.


                  • #10
                    I designed our pack Pinewood Derby to be easy to stage and to put all Scouts on an equal footing.

                    We build all Pinewood Derby cars in about an hour or so on a Saturday, then spend another hour and a half with boys choosing who they want to race against and racing as many times as they wish. The winner of each heat gets a sticker for their Pinewood Derby Racing License, so boys compete to see how many stickers they can get.

                    Boys may race 15-20 times or more, lining up with a buddy with the boys putting their cars on the track each time and picking them up after each race.

                    We may run three heats a minute at a peak racing level. Compare that to the dull, slow rate of racing common at elaborate Pinewood Derby races.

                    This works great for Tiger Cub, Wolves and Bears. Webelos Den Scouts can compete in the district Pinewood Derby race. They are often ready for a more competitive event.

                    On that Pinewood Derby Saturday, each Scout gets a Pinewood Derby kit in a box. Parents are encouraged to bring wood working tools they have, and we usually have a good selection of hand saws, chisels, sandpaper, clamps, paint and other tools and gear. The Scouts then work with their parents in designing and building their cars, and can also go to any other adult for help doing particular tasks.

                    So if Mom isn't much good at sawing, the Scout just seeks help from an adult who is good at that, and adults are always glad to help.

                    It's a friendly atmosphere for all. Moms aren't left out and everyone has a good time. We buy some pizza and drinks when the racing starts.

                    I'm not partial to overly competitive Pinewood Derbies that tend to have a lot of adult competition ladled on them. The model I describe above avoids that, and creates a level of competition with which most boys are happy.

                    For those who want MORE competition, I point them to the district Pinewood Derby where they can get as much competition as they want.(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)


                    • #11

                      Competition is really the heart of the fun in a PWD, if you neutralize that factor then the race becomes rather dull with no real motivation to succeed. In my old pack we had a seperate race for all the dads who wanted to build a car and the best part of that was they let the boys do the majority of the work on their own car, while dad concentrated on his. The result was the boys cars and races were much more equal and fair, and the dads races were much more cutthroat against each other and isolated from the boys races, a win win situation for the pack. Best part we had no more arguments at the PWD after making that change.


                      • #12
                        Hello Baden P,

                        There are certainly a variety of ways to conduct a PWD. You describe a method you are happy with and I have a method that works for me.

                        The method I describe is competitive for boys. They compete to see how many stickers they can get for their Pinewood Derby Racing License, and that is age appropriate competition for most boys below Webelos age.

                        And any of the Scouts who want sharper competition are welcome to attend the district PWD, which is a lot more competitive and has trophies as prizes.

                        We keep Dads busy helping boys make their cars as needed, then running the races,m awarding stickers and such. Parents attending our Committee meetings have been uniformly supportive of this method.

                        In my view, most Tiger Cub, Wold and Bear Cubs just want to race as many times as possible against their buddies especially or anyone else who has a car. They want a method to keep score too, which the stickers provide.

                        I use this model for the PWD and just used it for our fall recruiting night, where new families came in, made a stomp bottle rocket with their boy and then watched the boys launch their rockets. Boys whose rocket goes the farthest each time get a sticker for their Rocket Pilot License.

                        I might add that we don't recognize the boy who gets the most stickers. Scouts are free to count up their own stickers and they can compare that number with others if they wish.

                        After a while I look for boys with no stickers and encourage them to race against each other.

                        It's a format I continue to like a lot.

                        (This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)


                        • #13
                          When I was visiting DC, one of the Smithsonian Museums was hosting a "Family Scout Day." The Girl Scout side had a station where the kids could make wristlets with beads, etc. On the Boy Scout side, each kid got a PWD kit and there was a station where kids could decorate the car with pens, cut out art from magazines, etc. The kits were not the standard block of wood, but more of a tapered, triangle piece of wood so you didn't really need to shape the cars. I think there were the old dragster kits (do they still sell those?) Anyway, that was a blast since you didn't have the competitive dads making artwork-quality, wind-tunnel tested PWD cars, but instead had the kids who took a few minutes to dress up their cars, inserted the wheels, and started racing. I thought this would be a great way to do PWD since it really was the kids that did the work and had fun. Unfortunately, since we also race at the council level (it's a big thing here) and other leaders pointed out that the scouts don't get to use tools, I was never able to get the pack to do this.


                          • #14
                            Hey SP

                            My cub scout days were long ago but I really think you are underestimating your boys skills and desires. The fact you let the dads help with the car, as we both know, really means dad builds the car. I have seen it happen, the boy gets upset with dad and throws a tantrum or goes off by himself and daddy becomes the real racer. From my experience letting the boys do almost all the work invests them in the project and the PWD. As I said some of the ugliest cars these cubs have made themselves have wound up the winners, and that is what PWD is all about IMO. By the way that old pack of mine is still doing PWD the same way all these years later.


                            • #15

                              I'm a good observer of such things. I see the boys and parents working together, by and large.

                              The parents and Scout have to decide on a design for the car, which usually involves using a saw to cut off some chunks of wood.

                              The parents tend to help decide how much to cut, and the Scout may need some help doing some of the sawing.

                              Most of the time I see that partnership working. Some of the time the Scouts need help with the sawing or something else, and they look for another parent to provide some guidance and help as needed.

                              No tantrums. Having done this three times, these are no tears PWD. The Scouts generally do the things they can, and they choose who they want to race against, and they may race twenty times or so in an hour or hour and a half.

                              Most of the parents get that the idea is for the boy to do as much as they can. I have more trouble with parents horning in to flip pancakes at our overnight camp breakfast.

                              Parents don't put cars on the track. The Scouts either decide who they want to race against or they race against whatever Scouts are at the front of the line when they get there. The Scouts are the ones lining up to race, not the parents.


                              We make building the cars a partnership between the parent and Scout. The parents supervise the use of tools by the Scout and may help with some sawing and such when the Scouts find that too much.

                              The norm that is established is for the boys to do as much as they can. If I see a parent taking over, I discourage that.

                              I'm sensitive to the issues you raise, but I just don't see it as much of a problem. FAR better than the adult dominated, hyper competitive Pinewood Derbies I see all too often. All too often in thosde kinds of races the Scout has to check in his car two or three days before the race and he doesn't touch it again. Adults decide which cars will race and put the cars on the track and such.

                              My PWD model is designed to avoid those kinds of issues, and I think it does it quite well.

                              Like a lot of things though, we probably ought to change up the style lest it become too predictable, which it probably has. In four years of Cub Scouts, I've used up my good ideas. Time to move on, really, and let the new parents who are the program decide what to do.