An Introduction to Pinewood Derby as a Hobby

When they held the first Pinewood Derby race in Manhattan Beach, California, in 1953, it gave birth to a pure form of competition. Simply put, who can construct the fastest car on a straight track? Pinewood Derby has maintained its integrity over the years, proceeding to provide kids and parents with incredibly precious memories while also teaching important skills.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the world of Pinewood Derby and how it works as a hobby that can benefit you.

What Is a Pinewood Derby?

The Pinewood Derby is a race typically hosted by a Cub Scout Troop, where participants race their homemade pinewood race cars. Cars can be as plain or as fancy as desired, and strict weight restrictions require the boys to distribute the weight allowed wisely to help the car accelerate faster.

Gravity propels every pinewood car down a steep wooden track, racing two or three other cars at a time. The victor is the first car to reach the bottom.

The Pinewood Derby Car Race’s Birth


Don Murphy got the idea for the Pinewood Derby while working at North American Aviation’s Management Club. Mr. Murphy wanted to design a Cub Scout activity for him and his son. While thinking about his company’s sponsored Soap Box Derby races, he had the idea to race miniature cars.

Murphy built models of airplanes, boats, cars, and various other structures and remembered how much fun it gave him. He also wanted to create a wholesome, constructive exercise that would promote good sportsmanship and craftsmanship through competition and foster a closer father-son relationship.

He asked his company’s Management Club, North American Aviation, to sponsor a “pinewood derby” miniature racing event for the Cub Scout pack. The club agreed to cover the cost of the wood and other materials.

Murphy created a miniature car (check out the top car model kits of 2021!) out of soft pinewood and began writing its rules. The derby spread like wildfire.

Within a year, the pinewood derby had been adopted by all Cub Scout packs. Boys’ Life publicized the event and provided plans for the track and a car made of four nails, four wheels, and three blocks of wood in its October 1954 issue.

Since 1953, little has changed in the derby. Approximately 43 million fathers (mostly) and sons participated during that time. And today’s Cub Scouts, moms, and dads share the same thrills, excitement, and rewarding moments.

Racing Regulations

Every Cub Scout Troop will have their set of Pinewood Derby rules, but a few rules apply to all races. The pinewood car, for instance, can only weigh five ounces. It must not be two and three-quarters of an inch wide and more than seven inches long.

You must build most of the car from a pre-approved kit, and anything that aids in speed – lubricating oil, wheel bearings, or springs – is strictly prohibited. Similarly, pre-built cars are not permitted because they defeat the purpose of every scout building their own.

Constructing a Pinewood Derby Car

This is the process of making a simple Pinewood Derby car, which only requires a few tools and can be done in your kitchen without making that much of a mess.

Tools Needed

Tools Needed

  • 1/2-in. Forstner bit
  • Chisel
  • Brush
  • Drill
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scale
  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors

Materials Needed

  • Official Grand Prix Pinewood Derby Kit
  • Graphite
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint
  • Screw-on Tapered Zinc Weight
  • Sandpaper

Step-by-Step Instructions

Make the Profile

Before cutting, remember that the axle notches are not equidistant from the block’s ends; the distance is greater at the car’s front. Connect the side profile lines on the car shape’s ends to the block.

Clamp the board and use a handsaw to cut the shape. Use a coping saw if your child wishes to create a wavy shape. Sand the car body with 220 grit sandpaper.

Drill the Weight Site and Attach the Weight

Trace your weight onto the block’s bottom, with the wide end facing the back of the car. You can use a screw-on tapered zinc weight that you can easily adjust by breaking off weight sections. Clamp the block to a table, using the body offcut to keep the block flat.

With a 1/2-in drill bit, bore out the weight location. Drill with a Forstner bit until the weight is flush with the car’s bottom. A standard twist bit will suffice if you don’t own a Forstner bit.

Remove any excess waste with a chisel. Put the weight on the block. Predrill the screw holes and use the included screws to secure the weight to the block.

Weights are the most crucial aspect of a successful race. You should also paint the car—use painter’s tape to mask off the axle notches so that the paint does not clog the wheels. Paint whatever you want.

Design the Wheels

The most effective way to reduce wheel weight is to sand the car’s wheels as smoothly as possible, rounding any sharp edges. For consistency, some people purchase wheels separately and pair the mold number on the wheels’ interior. Others use toothpaste on a pipe cleaner to polish the inside hub to remove any deficiencies in the plastic.

Smooth the Axles

The kit’s stick nail axles have a flat nail head and little ribs along the shank, both of which induce friction. By chucking the axles into a drill and then sanding them up to 6000 grit, you can smooth them out. While the nail is still in the drill, use a file to round the nail head’s inner face and sand it smooth.

Connect the Wheels


Hammer the axle nails in just tight enough to allow the wheels to spin freely with a little wobble. To hammer the wheels on the other side, place a block under the car to lift the wheels off the bench and avoid accidentally tightening them. Because hammering the nails straight is difficult, use a mallet and nail set to knock the car’s wheels into alignment by adjusting the axles.

Add Graphite

Since only dry lubricant is permitted, most people agree on graphite as a solution. What applications do you have for graphite? You can find wheels, axles, and axle slots everywhere.

It makes no difference what kind of graphite is used. To help the graphite break down, spin every wheel and blow the graphite into the wheels. Graphite is an extremely important addition if you wish to win some Derby races.