Making a Pinewood Derby car is a Cub Scout tradition. Our boys received their official Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby kit from their den leader and it included of block a wood, wheels, and specs. You can purchase additional kits at a local scout shop or buy an unofficial kit (meaning NOT approved for use at the Pinewood Derby race) from A.C. Moore and Michael’s craft stores. The scouts have a few weeks to make a car that will race on derby night.
The goal is for kids to learn about tool use and safety, collaborating on a project with a parent (or other adult), and to have fun. There is definitely a competitive edge to the event (for good or bad depending on how you look at it) since there are prizes and ranking involved. Depending on egos and kid involvement, I think the competition is driven more by some of the parents than the children.
Lots of good memories. I remember watching my brother race his car when he was a Webelo scout, and my husband was able to share the Pinewood Derby car he made with his dad with our sons. Although our boys would usually rather be behind or in front of a movie camera or planing/making props for their next show or film, they enjoyed designing their cars and learning about and working with power tools.
Having two derby cars to make and finding the time to work with each child to plan and construct the car was more of a challenge. And although our boys liked the idea of a speedy car, they seemed more into how they looked in the end. Their finished cars (see above) show their individuality.
Online you can find a staggering amount about Pinewood Derby car making and races, including videos and websites showing you how to make the fastest cars around. It seems an obsession for some.
Helpful tips when working on derby car (or any project for that matter):
– Plan to work on project in small chunks. Depending on the child or their expertise with tools, they might not have the stamina to work on a project as long as a parent does.
– Have the child involved in as much of the process as possible. They can look at their toys, online, or magazines for inspiration.
– Have them draw or draft what they want their car to look like and decide how to make the design work with the wood provided.
– Teach them about the tools they will use – what each one does and how to use it safely.
– Leave time to weigh the car. You may need to buy and embed weights in the bottom or top of car. To make your derby car the correct weight for the official scout race, you can purchase small weights at a scout or hooby shop. My husband bought sheets of lead from Home Depot, which turned out to be a cool decorative as well as functional element for one my son’s cars.
– Paint the car with acrylic craft paint and seal with a clear lacquer. Write your child’s name on the bottom and the year with a Sharpie – whether they make any more cars in future years or this is their only one, it will be a great keepsake.