Pinewood DerbyThe pinewood derby is one of the most popular and successful family activities in Cub Scouting. Pinewood derby cars are small wooden models that Cub Scouts make with help from their families. Then they race the cars in competition. The cars are powered by gravity and run down a track. Our 2022 Race Day is going to be April 30 at First United Methodist Church. For more information, read below or visit the Scout Shop website.
Some of the information below is intended for PWD first-timers, but we suggest that everyone read it all as a refresher as some rules have changed. Please keep this post and the rules handy as you help your Scout build his/her car.
Timing / Important Dates
The official car check/weigh-in is Saturday, April 30 starting @ 10:00am at First United Methodist Church. All cars that will participate in the PWD must be checked and weighed-in at this time (including sibling/family cars--see below). Following the car check/weigh-in, all cars will be held by the Pack until Race time. No further changes to cars are allowed after the car check/weigh-in. Race Day will start as soon as we get all cars checked in, but we hope to start the races by noon.
Goals / Overview
Have fun! Pine Wood Derby is one of the feature events of the Scouting year. Whether you and your Scout make a very basic car, or spend hours working through the intricate details of recreating a classic sports car, it is the process, more than Race Day, that provides the lasting lessons for your Scout. Of course, Race Day is pretty awesome and creates some great memories, too. Working with you on a PWD car, your Scout will learn about planning (e.g., it is important to pick and finalize a design before diving right in), safety (safety glasses--use 'em), how to use and care for tools ("so that's why they say measure twice, cut once"), patience (while watching the paint dry) and lots of other good life lessons. Personally, what we like about PWD is that your Scout starts with just raw materials and, using his wits and his hands, ends up with a cool, tangible product of his own design. The process is fun and it has a defined end, but it takes some real time to finish, which differentiates it from the spontaneous gratification of video games and other activities that don't require perseverance to make it meaningful. Plus, fast cars are cool.
Something that makes Pack 33's PWD unique is that siblings and parents are welcome to enter cars, too. For several of us with older Scouts, the event has come to involve our whole families, with several family members each designing and building their own cars. Parents (especially folks new to PWD) -- Please let your Scout do as much of the work on the car as possible, and don't stress over all the rules. At the end of the day, the idea is to take a block of wood, whittle/carve it into some semblance of a design, attach wheels, paint/detail it and have fun while doing so. It’s not rocket science. Every year, cars run the gamut from basic to complex, funny to authentic, and everything in between.
The 2021 rules sheet is attached. We follow the rules for the Mayflower Council race. The rules have changed somewhat from previous years. In addition to the rules sheet, there are a few additional important requirements/highlights/clarifications that apply to the Pack 33 PWD:
Do not use any "wet" lubricant or the "white" style graphite. Dry, powdered graphite is acceptable and is gray/silver in color.
Do not melt lead.
Do not use unofficial or heavily modified wheels. Only use official Pinewood Derby wheels, such as the wheels that come in your official kit. One change from previous years is that colored official BSA wheels are allowed. Wheels cannot be significantly reshaped, other than some light sanding, shaving, and/or polishing of (1) the outer wheel tread, and/or (2) the axle bore and its surrounding surfaces. Note that there is actually very little one can do to the wheels, so don't go crazy here.
Do not argue with the volunteers that generously donate their time and effort to make this event a success. The Pack measuring devices (e.g., scales, dimension jigs) are the final word, even if you measured it on your scientific scale at work.
Read and follow the attached rules
The Scout's name and den number must be written in permanent marker on the bottom of the car
The car is to be brought to the car check/weigh-in in a shoebox that also has the Scout's name and den number written on it.
In between the car check/weigh-in and the races, we display the cars on a table all together.
The car cannot weigh more than the official Pack 5 oz. (141g) test weight on the Pack’s scale. We strongly suggest you make some weight easily removable (for example, by using the tungsten putty or removable washers). We also strongly recommend weighing your car at home in grams (141.7 grams = 5 oz.), and going a few grams under. This has always worked for me (I go for 139-140 grams).
The car must fit inside the size box as defined in the rules (2¾ inches wide max by 7 inches long max, and no taller than 3 inches). (See attached pictures for an idea.)
The car must clear the center of the track. Please make sure any weighs attached to the bottom of the car are recessed, otherwise the car will not clear the center of the track (see the attached picture of the track). Any weight just attached to the bottom of the car without recessing it will not clear the track, and the car will not move or move very slowly from the drag.
All Scouts, Siblings and Parents are required to have fun!
Race Trophies will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fastest times overall, and the 1st place for each Den (provided they are not already in the above categories).
Many Scouts are less concerned with speed than looks. Some go for both. In addition to racing the Scouts’ cars, we display them and have all attendees votes on certain “looks” categories. This year we plan to award the top vote-getters in the following categories, and the judges will retain discretion to add more come Race Day:
Best Paint Job
Most Futuristic Looking Car
Most Realistic Looking Car
Fastest Looking Car
Shiniest Paint Job
Best Cub Scout/Pack 33 Spirit
Most Independent (i.e., looks like it was done with the least amount of adult help)
Best Character from the Movies/Literature/Video Games (e.g., some recent cars have looked like Minions, Avengers and Minecraft characters)
Most Old-Fashioned/Classic/Antique Looking Car
Resources & Tips
If your car is less than 5 oz. you should be OK. We recommend that you use a kitchen food scale to weigh your car, or bring it to the post office and have them put it on their scale. There is still no guarantee that this will meet the official Pack test weight requirement, so we also recommend that your weight be adjustable. If you use pennies or screws for weight, you can add and remove them to adjust weight. Don't get too complicated with parts that might fall off during the race. You cannot put anything back on once the car has been weighed and accepted for the races. If adding weights to the underside of the car, please make sure they are recessed (not sticking out). In the attached pictures you will see what the track looks like. If the weights are not flush with the underside of the car they will not clear the track. Every year we have to make adjustments to cars at the weigh-in, and it is difficult to do once a car is complete, and also frustrate and sadden your Scout as we dig into their work of art.
What should the Scout do vs. a parent? Parental involvement is key and, from a safety perspective, vitally important. The level of parental involvement will and should vary from Scout to Scout, and will likely diminish over the years for each Scout (i.e., from Tiger Cub to Webelo). Use your own judgment, but please let your Scout do as much as possible. This is an amazing learning experience that also helps boost confidence. Here are a few take 'em or leave 'em suggestions:
Most Scouts can “design” their car. Should it be a race car? Look like a rocket ship? Have a Lego guy on it? Etc. Help them draw it out.
Most Scouts can paint their cars. Paint pens are a great idea for younger Scouts and for detail work.
The “first-cut” of the wood block and affixing the axles to the car often requires more parental involvement, but as we have seen at past Pack meetings, many of the Scouts can use a coping saw.
Cutting and shaping the car can be accomplished with a coping saw, whittling (if your Scout has earned the Whittling Chip they can do that), files, etc. Power tools are not necessary.
Parents can really help with understanding and complying with the rules, and dealing with any weight issues.
Almost all sanding = Scouts
Decals = Scouts, all the way
Some good places for PWD tools and materials are:
Scout store in Southborough
Lowes (in town) or Home Depot.
Michael’s in Northborough often has PWD materials.
If you are stuck for how to get your car cut, please reach out to your Den leader and we will help you figure something out.