Friday, January 13, 2012

Best of Post: A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 2

More on the pinewood derby stuff.  We didn't buy any books or spend any extra money on a "champion package" to get a winning entry-we simply kept relentlessly improving the car and reducing all possible friction.  Isn't the whole point to learn by doing with your son?

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:

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.

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.  Have your son organize the tools and layout of the work area-he will take more ownership in the car and the process.

If you can, buy a second kit and pick the best wheels and nail axles out of the two kits.

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

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.

Look at pictures on the Internet to get ideas of designs. Really cool stuff out there.

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:



Variable speed drill

High speed drill tool(Dremel)

Wood chisels


Jigsaw or ban saw

Belt sander

Car body

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.

Cut the car body with a ban saw or jigsaw.

Teach your son workshop safety tips as you go.

Sand the body down with a power sander or belt sander.

Make it an inter generation project and include grandpa if possible!

Sand the body nice and smooth to prepare for painting.

Start with a coarse grit and then use finer and finer grit sandpaper for final preparation.

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.

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

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