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Book Review: Getting Started in Pinewood Derby

I recently received a free copy of Getting Started in Pinewood Derby by Troy Thorne. This colorful workbook goes through all of the steps involved in building a car. My favorite thing about the book is that it is directed at Cub Scouts – who should be doing most of the work on their cars. It includes lots of very nice step-by-step photos, so young car builders can understand what needs to be done.

The book is divided into 7 “sessions”, which help keep the process from seeming overwhelming to a young Scout:

Shopping  – This section will help your Cub Scout put together a shopping list of everything he needs. It even helps him decide which items he will need from the hardware store and which things he might find at a craft store.

Shaping – In this session, the Scout learns how to use a pencil and ruler to mark the car. He will also learn how to use a coping saw and sanding techniques. There are 12 patterns in the back of the book for getting that shape just right, plus a blank template grid for creating a custom shape.

Painting – The painting section doesn’t just include instructions for painting,. It also includes instructions for using tape to prevent gumming up the slots with paint and applying decals. Plus this session includes some very creative alternatives to painting.  A dozen design ideas are presented along with ways for him to let his creativity run wild.

Axle Prep – Axle prep is a must if your son is concerned with speed. This session goes through detailed instructions to get those axles as smooth as possible. The pictures in this section really are worth 1000 words.

Wheel Prep – Like axle prep, wheel prep can really help your son’s car speed down the track. This session goes through how your son can get those wheels smooth for optimal performance.

Weighting – After all else is finished, the goal is to get the car as close to 5 ounces as possible without going over. Lighter cars will not go as fast. Cars over 5 ounces are disqualified. This session gives instructions for attaching weights for best performance.

Test Runs – This session shows how to do some test runs at home, without an official track.  Your Cub Scout can find out if his car pulls to the left or right (which will slow it down) and how to correct the problem.

There are a few additional chapters, including some car patterns and a memories section for pictures and memories of the big race. Plus, it includes the official Pinewood Derby rules. Throughout the workbook, the young reader is guided by Dash Derby, a colorful cartoon character.

While the subtitle of the book is “Step-by-Step Workbook to Building Your First Car”, ZM – who is a Webelos II and is working on his last car – spent a long time looking through it and got some fresh ideas for his final car. When I asked him what he though about the book, he said

It gave me lots of good ideas. I know what I want to do now. I’m going to do a wedge with wrapping paper sides and a Webelos 2 on top. It’s going to have a blue background with a yellow stripe.

So whether your Cub Scout has never built a car before or if he is just looking for something different to do, I recommend this book. It is available on Amazon: Getting Started in Pinewood Derby: Step-by-Step Workbook to Building Your First Car


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