By Martin Van Roosendaal
Jan 07, 2015

January is Scouting’s Pinewood Derby Month

For me the best part of the Pinewood Derby is the smell of the pine when I help my sons cut out their cars. Fresh pine is a special scent that takes me back to the days of gathering wood with my family. My dad would load us up into the pickup truck and with lunch, rope, gas, oil, replacement chain, sharpener, and chainsaw we would set off to cut down trees for winter fire wood.4641_PWD_Champ_1_24_webbox_Council[1]

When I smell the fresh pine scent, the memories of gathering firewood always rush back to memory.  The smell reinforces the love for my family and the time spent with them working and playing hard. Most importantly, though, it is one of the many things that signifies the importance of finishing things that I have started.

The Pinewood Derby, like gathering wood, has become one of those life lessons I teach my sons. When they bring home their pinewood derby kit their excitement is uncontrollable. They want to open it straight away and instantly cut, paint, and put on the wheels so that they can play with their car. However, I pull back on the reigns, at least try to, to slow their complete excitement while, at the same time, explaining to them about the process of building a pinewood derby car.

derby_ovalsI like to lead by example. So I purchase my own derby car and as I begin the process of building a car, I have my sons mimic what I do. I let them come up with their own design by drawing it out on paper. After the design is sketched we talk about the practicality of the design in relation to the block of wood and positioning of the weights and wheels and why it is important to design a car that will be competitive and unique to my sons.

When the designs are finished and transferred to the block of wood we head out to the garage to cut out our design. I show them how to set up the scroll saw and explain the safety rules in great detail, having them repeat what I say, and then I cut out my car. After I have finished my cut out, I have them re-set the scroll saw and explain the safety rules to me. I allow my sons to cut out their own cars, but with my hands guiding theirs. We take our time as we both learn the feel of the wood and tension of the saw.

With the cars are cut, we begin the most laborious part of the pinewood derby experience—sanding. I feel that this step is important because it really illustrates the importance of hard work. My sons need to know that even though a job is tedious and time consuming, it can still be rewarding. We sit together and sand our cars with the various grains of sand paper. We work at it until we have a smoothly shaped piece of wood that is ready for paint.ot-pinewood-kids-watching-the-racejpg-0a454527b7219563

After the painting we place the wheels using various tools to make them just right so the car goes down the test track without a wobble or pull to one direction or the other. When the wheels are set just right, we add the weights, then retest the wheels and then we wait for the day of the derby.

The wood is cut and stored in the woodshed . . . the car is cut and is prepared for the derby. The best part of the experience is that I didn’t build the cars for my sons and they learned that hard work, dedication, patience, and finishing a job brings a wealth of knowledge and personal satisfaction that they did their best and did it themselves.

Saturday, January 24th is the Orem’s Scout Shop’s PINEWOOD DERBY CHAMP CAMP

Champ Camp is a day when parents and boys can come-on down to the Scout Shop and learn how to build their own Pinewood Derby cars. There will be experts on hand to help the family with designs, cutouts, wheel and weight positioning, and a test track to fine-tune the cars for competition. The experts will demonstrate the various tools and how use them so the cars go faster, straighter, and be competitive. Don’t wait until the day before the Pinewood Derby to build the car, and don’t build the car for your son! Build it with him! So, come on down to the Orem Scout Shop on January 24th, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and learn how to build a Pinewood Derby car with your son.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *