Friday, February 6, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 2

Ok, here is the brain dump of what my son and I did to get a winning pinewood derby car:

First steps:

  1. Get the car kit a month of two before the derby. Start working on the car early to give your son and yourself time to learn and overcome production obstacles. Beginning the work on the car a few days before the race will cause stress and frustration and lead to a poor outcome.
  2. Create a work area for the car kit with all the tools so you and your son can work on the car and have everything in one place.
  3. Have your son organize the tools and layout of the work area-he will take more ownership in the car and the process.
  4. If you can, buy a second kit and pick the best wheels and nail axles out of the two kits.
  5. Some choose to buy the books about how to make a winning car. My advice is to check out the library and see what it has on the pinewood derby. Also, networking with other dads will give you 90% of the knowledge you need for a great car.

Car Design

  1. Have your son draw designs for the car on paper first 1 to 2 months before the competition. This will engage his mind and create excitement about the process of creating the car.
  2. Look at pictures on the Internet to get ideas of designs. Really cool stuff out there.
  3. Make it as close as possible to your son's design-this will create more ownership from the boy.

Tools I recommend for this project to speed the production process:

  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdrivers
  3. Variable speed drill
  4. High speed drill tool(Dremel)
  5. Wood chisels
  6. Pliers
  7. Jigsaw or ban saw
  8. Belt sander

Car body

  1. I believe the more aerodynamic the better. He chose a smooth curved shape this year and got good results. However, I do not believe that the greatest speed return will be in this area so don't go crazy with it.
  2. Cut the car body with a ban saw or jigsaw.
  3. Teach your son workshop safety tips as you go.
  4. Sand the body down with a power sander or belt sander.
  5. Make it an inter generation project and include grandpa if possible!
  6. Sand the body nice and smooth to prepare for painting.
  7. Start with a coarse grit and then use finer and finer grit sandpaper for final preparation.
  8. Pencil on the bottom of the car "F" for front and "R" for rear - this applies to some designs that are hard to tell front from rear.
  9. Do a "axle" test and see if the axles are level by placing the nails in the body axle slots and checking them with a level.

We would travel to my dad's workshop and do all this work. I imagine that we spent about 1-2 hours out in the shop teaching, cutting, sanding, truing, and cleaning up the shop. My goal was that both my sons remember working with Grandpa and Dad on their cars.

Next post will cover things to do for the wheels and axles.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 1

On Friday night, my youngest son had his last ever pinewood derby race for cub scouts. Both of my boys raced in the local pack race and enjoyed this activity. My oldest sons highest placing was 7th out of 28 cars and my youngest best finish ever was 5th in 2008. This year, we determined to use the kaizen approach and pull out all the stops since this was the final race that we would participate in. I will tell you that this was the best race we ever had in our family! Before I reveal our secrets and how we finished, here is what we decided to do in the final derby of our family:

1) My son had to do over 50% of the work on his car- In my opinion, Dad doing all the work defeats the purpose and spirit of the pinewood derby. Some of the cars that race are obviously built by an goal was that by doing over half the work he would take interest and ownership in the car.

2) Inter generational project - My dad, myself, and my son all took time to work on the car. My father is a fabulous woodworker with a primo workshop and he helped his grandson cut and sand the body of the car. Our goal is that he remember working with his grandpa and his dad and how much fun it is to do projects with his family.

3) Check listing all the things I learned previously - in all the past races, I learned a few tips here and there. This year, I went back to all the techniques I had heard over the years and followed them in the building of the car.

4) Add my own improvement - this year I added some of my own kaizens of which most I believe helped the cars performance in the race. One didn't work at all...not all kaizens work!

5) Focusing on the process instead of the outcome - the time that I any son spent was building and working on the car to do all the things we knew to make it go fast. We focused on the fundamentals and process of reducing friction in every place possible instead of thinking about winning the competition. If you work on the fundamentals, the results will take care of themselves.

In my next post, I tell all the secrets we learned over the years and how we used them. Unlike so many others charging for pinewood derby car information, we share what we learned for free to benefit everyone that wants to read it.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer