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Critical Pinewood Derby Car Design Elements

Axles Wheels The Perfect Match
Weight Car Design Lubricant


Well, here you are.  You have received your Pinewood Derby car kit and have decided to search the internet to find some guidance building a competitive pinewood derby car.  There is a distant, foggy picture of your child holding a winner's trophy, but the road there is anything but clear.  Don't stress.  The hard part has been done.  We have researched every pinewood derby car design tip we could get our hands on, tested them, thrown out the bad, improved the good, and came up with numerous of our own.  "Dominant By Design" is an accumulation of that effort.  Well, in addition to the Pinewood Derby Grand Champion trophies.  So, read about the basic elements you will need to build a dominating pinewood derby car and make some room on the dresser for your champion!


Simply put, the Pinewood Derby is won with dominating axles.  Not only do the axles you receive in your basic kit have scratches, burrs, mold marks and a dull finish, they aren't even straight.

The basic modification methods for dominating pinewood derby axles are:

Axle Straightening
The axles that come with the basic kit are not straight regardless of how they look.  Straight axles are the key to alignment and alignment is a major key to winning.  We will show you the methods used to straighten the axles including instruction on using the Pro-Axle Press a special tool designed specifically for this procedure. 

Friction Reduction
The axles received in the car kit are dull and have an assortment of scratches and burrs.  One has to remove these and shine the axles to an absolute mirror finish.  Ahh, you say, no need to buy the tips book.  He just gave us his biggest secret.  Not likely.  There are numerous means to reduce friction in the axles besides common sanding.  Besides, how smooth is enough?  We will show you the common steps to shine your axles then what we do to take our axles to a completely different level. 


Pinewood Derby Axle

Pinewood Derby Axle Polished


As stated above, you can't win the pinewood derby without great axles.  However, most derby enthusiasts stop right there without giving a lot of thought to the wheels.  They may sand the outside surface to reduce the mold mark and create a smooth surface but little else.  There are a number of procedures you can perform to modify the wheels for dominating speed. 

Like the axles, you can't even make the most basic of assumptions for the wheels in the fact that they are not perfectly round.  They do not have similar bore sizes either.  These are not insignificant details as a pinewood derby car cannot sit flat on the track with one wheel riding higher than another.  A lathe such as the Pro Shaver XT is required to round the wheels, but a number of other procedures can be performed without special tools.  We will show you how to perform the modifications to these often forgotten friction spots and then provide a graphite coating to reduce the friction even further.  Simply put, give your axles a home they can be proud of.


Pinewood Derby Design Regular Wheel

Pinewood Derby Design Finished Wheel

You have spent hours on axles and wheels and now need to pick the best combinations to race in your pinewood derby car.  Its not just taking your prettiest wheels and combining them with your shiniest axles, 1 with 1, 2 with 2, and so on.  The combinations must be fast, but they must be stable as well.  There are wonderful marriages to be made and we will lead you through a detailed testing program to help you determine your best wheels, best axles and, finally the best combinations to put on your car.  Then, we will show you the proper way to pre-race the combinations for a final showdown.

A pinewood derby car can weigh up to 5 ounces.  However, not all weight is the same.  One has to redistribute a significant amount of weight from the car body (wood) and replace with more dense weight (lead or tungsten) in the rear of the car.  We will show you how to identify and remove the inefficient weight in your car and replace it in the optimum location to maximize the "kick" at the bottom of the track.  In addition, we will show you how to determine the specific center of gravity and modify the weight distribution of your car to achieve the proper balance of speed and stability.  Furthermore, we describe and offer supplemental weights you can easily apply at weigh-in to reach the full legal limit.

Pinewood Derby Lead Tape

Aerodynamics play a significant role in pinewood derby car design but so does balance, weight placement, alignment, friction and extended wheel bases.  We will explain these elements and once the car is together, we will work through a detailed process to assure that your wheels, axles and car body are aligned such that the car runs straight down the track.  In addition, one can build a modification into the car body to provide a legal head start on the other cars.  Sound too good to be true?  See for yourself!

By the way, don't follow the car design on the BSA kit box.  The car is actually reversed from the desired design as the wrong part of the car was used for the front.  We'll show you why!


Pinewood Derby Car Aerodynamics Pinewood Derby Car Template
Pinewood Derby Car Template Cut Pinewood Derby Design

You can have the shiniest axles, smoothest, roundest wheels, most aerodynamic body and still lose a pinewood derby race without proper lubrication.  Graphite plays a huge part in the performance of your car.  The common method is to apply graphite to the wheels once the car has been completed, spin several times, re-apply, spin a few times and then put the car under lock and key until the weigh-in.  Well, this may have been fine in the past, but not now.  There are several prominent contact points that need to receive a worked-in graphite coating before the race.  We will show you these areas and the best means possible to incorporate the coating.   

Pinewood Derby Lubricant Pinewood Derby Lubricants


A pinewood derby car needs to look good.  It needs to look fast, mean, pretty, cool, wild, weird, or whatever the child wants the car to look like.  After all, it is his car.  He needs to enjoy the project, and if you enforce your design wishes over his, he will not enjoy it as much.  However, it is up to you to explain, with our help, that a car can look cool, goofy, pretty, weird or whatever, and still beat the socks off any other car that just looks fast.  By the way, painting isn't simple either. 

Pinewood Derby Car Design 2 Pinewood Derby Car Design 4
Pinewood Derby Car Design 5 Pinewood Derby Car Design 6


In order to implement some of the more difficult procedures needed to dominate the pinewood derby, you will need specialty tools.  In addition, you may need certain accessories such as weights, files, jewelers rouge, alignment tool, graphite, ultra high grit sandpaper, treated polishing cloths, and more.  We will guide you through the use of each one of the specialty tools and accessories needed to get the edge on your competition.


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