Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 31, 2005

The tricks of the trade for Pinewood Derby racing

By Lynda Jensen

Any true Cub Scout knows how to make a seven-inch piece of pine wood go like crazy down a Pinewood Derby track – it’s the time and attention of a dad or grandpa.

This time of year finds Cub Scouts doing precisely that, with boys from Howard Lake, Waverly, Winsted, and Lester Prairie racing with their fathers and grandpas at the Pinewood Derby.

The annual event is the product of hundreds of hours of time and detail, nearly putting to shame any real car repair shop, producing cars that range the spectrum of makes and models.

The nuts and bolts of making a car are similar for each Scout troop, but the result is a wide array of cars bearing the signature of each boy.

The cars must not weigh more than five ounces, and Scouts use a wide variety of weights to make the cars come near that goal.

“It’s a lot of litte detail work,” commented Larry Roth of Lester Prairie. Roth and his three sons, Zach, Jacob, and Mitchell, race every year.

The Tintes family of Howard Lake also races faithfully each year, with more than a dozen cars to show for it.

Derek Tintes, 6, raced for the first time this year with a black sportscar that featured flame stickers.

Recipe for success

The process takes about two to three hours for each car, and begins with drawing a profile on the block of wood, said Mike Munoz of Waverly. Munoz has three sons in the Scouts.

Scouts think of their own designs.

“You look at other real cars (for design ideas),” advised Kyle Schmieg of Winsted, who is an Eagle Scout and has raced plenty of races in his younger years. The Schmieg family has five boys active in the Winsted Boy Scouts.

This year, Devon Munoz made a school bus.

The Roth brothers made a number of interesting cars this year, with Mitchell Roth making “Fast Money,” a car with a dollar bill on top, Jacob Roth making a police car, and Zach Roth making a version of the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee.

After the design is chosen, the woodcutting begins.

“You use a jig saw or band saw to cut it out,” Schmieg said.

Next comes the sanding, the most time consuming part, with many Scouts spending time with a piece of sandpaper in hand.

Some round the corners and sand away parts.

After this, the cars are painted, and then, weights are added.

Scouts use anything from dimes and quarters to lead shot in the car, melting or sealing the weight inside the vehicle.

“You want the weight toward the front,” Schmieg said.

The Tintes started out taping weights into their cars, then sealing them with a hot glue gun. This year, they are using wood putty, which is seamless on the vehicle and can’t be seen.

For a pickup truck one year, the Tintes ended up taping 10 quarters to make it work.

In the past, a car ended up being overweight, causing the Tintes to do some quick work with a drill that was brought along to the race.

After that, the family bought a digital scale to avoid this issue, Jesse said.

Wheels can be sanded to a certain degree to reduce friction, and graphite powder can be inserted between the wheel and nail, Schmieg said.

Many Scouts will glue everything from gas pedals, seats, mirrors, and spoilers, to windshields and stickers on the car.

Most packs own their own scales, but families may end up visiting the local post office to borrow a scale, or buying their own.

The races are quite competitive and overjudging the weight may cause a last-minute remedy.

The finishing touch is affixing the wheels, Munoz said.

When this is done, the Scouts are ready for the race.

When racing day arrives, cars are placed at the top of a track that is about 40 feet long, with the finish line at the bottom.

There are two different kinds of races for area packs, those among Scout members, and then an open class race that allows adults to make cars and race them.

For Lester Prairie, the open class has special meaning since it is named after the late Roger Jakobitz, who tirelessly spent time working with boys who didn’t have an available father to make cars with.

There are a variety of awards for fastest, and others based on looks. Most every Scout walks away with an award of some kind.

Area Cub Scouts will be turning in the results of their races over the next week.

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