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Pinewood Derby

Get ready to start your engines. 

The 2015 Pine Wood Derby is right around the corner and according to our MC Ara Vartabedian is the best time of the year.  I’m providing this link for you to pre-register and to sign up for much needed volunteer spots.  (you will still need to register and weigh in on Jan 30th)   The main one in particular is a Race Manager.  If there has been a time when you asked yourself, how can I assist with a pack event, this is it.

Please read this email carefully it is a long one and it will help your son avoid potential disappointments come race day (Jan 31). The venue will again be at Mulready School, doors open at 9:15 with opening ceremonies at 10:00.

If your son has not yet received a Pinewood Derby Kit, then please contact me at  Scout kits, as well as sibling kits, will also be available at the Pinewood Garage on January 7th.

For those of you who are new to the BSA pinewood derby, we wanted to pass on some info and official rules to make sure everyone is properly informed before attempting to build any exotic car designs.  First off, the pack will have a ‘Pine Car Garage Night’ on January 7th at Riverside Gun Club from 5:30 to 8 pm (please arrive no later than 7:30.  We are expanding the time of the event and starting a bit earlier, so as to reduce the wait time at the power tools.  We will have band saws, a drill press and some other tools available to help people if you don’t have access to these things beforehand.  We will also have weights to add to your cars.   There are things you can do before then, if you want, such as working on a design idea, or starting to prep the wheels and axles (see below).

If you are unable to make it to the garage, there is the option of using the services of “Wooden Toys and Crafts” in the same building as Trombetta’s Ice Cream in Marlboro. The owner, Bob has templates and charges $3 to cut the car (no weight holes drilled)

I’ve attached the official rules guide issued by our district, the J.P. Becker district, that are used for the regional derby each spring.  You will notice that these are last years rules.  Should there be any changes, I will let you know.  Our pack follows these rules too. The main things to pay attention to are (1) the 5 oz weight limit, and (2) the wheel guidelines.

Regarding the weight limit – no car shall exceed 5.0 ounces on our official scale at weigh-in when the car is registered on Fri Jan 30th.  As the speed of the car depends on the weight, this means that in order to be competitive you want to get your child’s car as close to the 5 oz limit as possible. Of course, in designing the car, you may cut away some of the wood, or add some in other areas (as long as  it stays within the size guidelines); ultimately you may need to add weight to the  final design to get the car close to the limit. The pack will have some weights available at the pine car garage night (January 7th), so we can help people get the cars set on weight.

(competitor’s tip – you get the best results if you put as much  of the weight near the BACK of the car as possible; ideally the center of balance  should be just in front of the rear wheels, so that the front end won’t pop up)

Be sure to also make note of the car dimension guidelines: 1) Overall width of car shall not exceed 2¾ inches.  2) Length of car shall not exceed 7 inches. The stated dimensions include decorative items attached to the body of the car.

 As for the wheels – first, they must be placed in the axle slots that are pre-cut on the car (you may not extend or shorten the wheelbase).  Second, you may lightly sand the outside surface of the wheel but you may not modify the wheel surface in any other way.  In fact there is no need to do anything else, the BSA wheels have been made a LOT better the last few years, by incorporating a few  of the modifications that are commonly employed, so that now you hardly need to do anything to the wheels.

When working on the axles, with close inspection you will notice that the axles (nails) have crimps on the shank and burrs under the head of the axle.  With a careful touch these marks can be removed with a small mill file. This can be done without damaging the integrity of the axle.  At the garage I will have a method to show you to make this easier.

(competitor’s tip – It is highly encouraged that you help the boys  polish the axles to make them smoother, this has a big impact on the  performance of the car.  Do this with high-grade sandpaper (1000-3000 grit), which can be found at Auto Zone or the like)

You also want to make sure the alignment is good – if the car doesn’t roll straight it will be slowed down from rubbing on the track.  Angling the axles up or down is not helpful as it leads to more rubbing.  Try to get them as straight as possible.  You can always test a car by letting it roll down a board at home before you glue the axles in place.  Lubrication is also very important.  The only wheel/axle lubricant allowed is powdered graphite. (Not only that, but it is the best; people occasionally try Teflon powder or other stuff, but they have been shown to not work as well as the graphite.)  Liquid lubricants are not allowed.

 If there are any questions regarding construction rules and guidelines, feel free to email me.

Good Scouting


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