Designs for Pinewood Derby - How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car (2024)

Designs for Pinewood Derby - How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car (1)How to Design and Build Your Pinewood Derby Car

If you are looking for pinewood designs for your car, click here

Pinewood Derby for Beginners

Building a Pinewood Derby car can be quite simple, taking a few hours, or it can take over a 100 hours. If this is your first time building a car, I suggest starting out with a simple design requiring only a few cuts of the block. Below are a few tips that will help you build your car. Use this as a starting point. If you want help, for a few dollars, there are several very good books that will guide you step by step through the process. See our Pinewood Derby Designs Books.

Before building your car, please follow the rules and safety guidelines

Here are a few simple safety guidelines:

  • Wear protective goggles, gloves and a dust mask to protect your eyes, hands and lungs.
  • One self-help video recommends melting lead to add for weight. Don’t melt lead. It is not only a very dangerous operation, it is toxic.
  • Children should not use power tools without adult supervision.

Design your Pinewood Derby Car

Designs for Pinewood Derby - How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car (2)First step is to have fun thinking up a pine derby car design. Don’t limit your imagination, but keep in mind that the more complicated the design, the harder it will be cut the pine block and shape the car.

If you are short on time, consider a very simple design that requires only one or two cuts. For example, the wedge shaped design only requires you to cut the block on a diagonal. Hold the block so you are looking at it from the side, then draw a line with a ruler from the bottom left to the top right. Voila, one cut. The half with the axle slots is the part you are going to use, while the other half can be used for firewood. You are basically going to cut the block in half starting from the top edge to the bottom edge.

From here you can easily see how your car design can be as simple or complex as you want.

Cut your Pine Car Block

There are several ways to cut the block of wood. I recommend securing the block of wood in a vise or bench. This is not only safer, but it will be faster and easier for the saw to go through the wood. For a single, basic cut, any handsaw will do. For more intricate cuts, use a coping saw which can be used to turn corners for detailed cuts. If you have a band saw, you probably aren’t reading this. But if you know someone with a band saw, they can cut the block out for you in a jiffy. How to use a coping saw.

Shaping your Pine Car Block

Now that the easy part is done, its time to shape and sand your car to create that “Detroit showroom” look! Your car will look more like a real car if you sand off all the rough edges, round off the edges of the block, etc. After all, how many cars have you seen where the body comes the sharp points. Sanding and rounding off edges will also give the car a more aerodynamic look. A rasp is a great tool for shaping your car. How to use a rasp. Once again, be sure to wear protective gloves and a face mask so you aren’t breathing in saw dust.

To shape your car, you can use a wood file and different grades of sandpaper. Start with a course grade of sandpaper and finish up with a fine grade. You can also use a sanding block to save your hands.

Adding weights to your Car

Why add weight? Well, since you cut all that wood away, the block is now very light. Your car accelerates down the track by the pull of gravity. More weight, faster it goes. The rules say that your car can weigh no more than 5 ounces. You goal should be to bring it as close to 5 ounces as you can.

The easiest way to add weight to your car is to purchase a little set of weights from a hobby shop or BSA. These weights come in segments that snap off so you can add just the right amount of weight. The weights can be glued on.

There are many other ways to add weight to your car…you can drill holes in the car and fill it with lead BBs or even glue a stack of pennies to the car. Just be sure that whatever you use, it is secured tightly so it doesn’t pop off during the race.

Painting your Car

You are now ready for the final touches…painting, decals, and decorating. This part should be done entirely by the child. Let them have fun picking the colors and designs that they want on their car.

The first coat of paint should be a wood primer because it will soak into the wood to create a base for the top coat. After the primer dries, sand it lightly with the very fine grade of sandpaper (200 or 400 grit). Next paint one or two finishing coats to get a clean, polished look.

If you are painting the pine car with a single color, use spray paint. If you want more than one color, brush it on. Masking tape works well to make straight, sharp lines. Just tape the part of the car that you don’t want painted, paint away, then peal off the masking tape. If you buy model paint and a small model paint brush, you can paint intricate designs on the car, like stars, numbers, happy face, scout symbols, etc. Most kids get into this part and really have fun painting their cars.

Finishing Touches

Aside from painting cool designs on your car, consider buying a set of decals. Kids love them and they add a nice finished look to the car. See How to use decals. Kids also like to glue on pieces of toys, like toy soldiers, car parts, lizards, you name it and it has been done. If you really want a professional looking car, car kits are sold that include fenders, exhaust pipes, bumpers, etc.


We’re almost done. The last step is axle preparation and putting the wheels on. The most important thing to remember is to deburr the nails that you received in your kit. What does that mean? There is a sharp burr on the underside of the nail head that must be removed. If you don’t remove the burr, it will dig into the plastic wheels as the wheel turns, severely slowing down your car. The easiest way to remove this burr is to place the nail in a vice so the head is sticking up. Then gently file down the burr with a fine file until it is totally removed. You can also remove it with sandpaper, though this will take longer. Your objective is to make the axle as smooth as possible.

When all four axles have been deburred, insert them into the block. They should be inserted so the wheel is about 1/8” from the car. If the wheel is too tight, the wheels will bind, slowing the car down. If they are too loose, the car will wobble down the track.

by Dave Murry

Would you like to build a stand for your car? Here is how

We offer several books for more details on building your car and speed tips.

For first-time racers as well as seasoned competitors.

106 pages filled with photos, illustrations and car designs show you how to build three levels of Pinewood Derby cars.

Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets Book

All the details about why and how each speed secret works. The science behind what makes a car fast explained in simple terms. Includes instructions for building the "Ultimate" car.

Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets Download

Designs pinewood derby


Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I can provide you with information and guidance on various topics, including designing and building Pinewood Derby cars. While I have personal experiences or demonstrate first-hand expertise, I can provide you with information based on search results and general knowledge.

Designing and Building Your Pinewood Derby Car

Designing and building a Pinewood Derby car can be a fun and rewarding project. Whether you're a beginner or have some experience, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Start with a Simple Design: If this is your first time building a Pinewood Derby car, it's recommended to start with a simple design that requires only a few cuts of the block. This will make the process easier and less time-consuming.

2. Safety Guidelines: Before building your car, it's important to follow safety guidelines. Some basic safety guidelines include wearing protective goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to protect your eyes, hands, and lungs. Additionally, children should not use power tools without adult supervision.

3. Cutting the Block: There are several ways to cut the block of wood for your car. You can use a handsaw for basic cuts or a coping saw for more intricate cuts. If you have access to a band saw, it can make the cutting process faster and easier.

4. Shaping and Sanding: After cutting the block, you can shape and sand your car to give it a more polished and aerodynamic look. Use a rasp, wood file, and different grades of sandpaper to shape and smooth the edges of the car.

5. Adding Weight: Since you've cut away a significant amount of wood, it's important to add weight to your car to ensure it has enough momentum. The rules usually state that the car cannot weigh more than 5 ounces. You can add weight by using specialized weights available at hobby shops or by drilling holes in the car and filling them with lead BBs or other heavy materials. Make sure the weight is securely attached to the car.

6. Painting and Decorating: The final step is to paint and decorate your car. Let your creativity shine by choosing colors and designs that you like. Start with a wood primer as the base coat, sand it lightly, and then apply one or two finishing coats for a clean and polished look. You can use spray paint for a single color or brush on multiple colors. Masking tape can help create straight lines. Consider adding decals or gluing on small decorative pieces to enhance the appearance of your car.

7. Wheels and Axles: The last step is to prepare the axles and attach the wheels. It's important to deburr the nails that come with your kit to ensure smooth wheel rotation. Insert the axles into the block, making sure the wheels are about 1/8" from the car. This will prevent the wheels from binding or wobbling during the race.

Remember, these are general tips to get you started on your Pinewood Derby car project. If you want more detailed instructions and design ideas, there are several books available that provide step-by-step guidance.

I hope this information helps you in designing and building your Pinewood Derby car!

Designs for Pinewood Derby - How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car (2024)


What is the best design for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The wedge is a classic and probably the easiest shape (besides keeping a block) to build your Pinewood Derby car. The Wedge is the foundation of many cool car designs, and it is designed to be aerodynamic and is a one-cut wonder.

What is the best way to shape a Pinewood Derby car? ›

To go fast, it's all about aerodynamics, and the best shape is a simple wedge. Just like a spoiler on the rear of a sports car, the wedge shape allows as much air to flow over the top of the car without hinderance while keeping the car pinned to the track.

How to decorate a Pinewood Derby car? ›

5 Fun Ideas to Enhance Your Pinewood Derby Car
  1. Let your car's design shine with a light kit.
  2. Opt for glow-in-the-dark wheels.
  3. Include fun and easy-to-use peel-and-stick decals.
  4. Transform your car into a firetruck, police car, or ice cream truck.
  5. Preserve your car with a display box.

What is the best tool to cut a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Band saws are the best tool for cutting a Pinewood Derby car block. If you don't have access to a band saw, a coping saw will do. Coping saws are economical and can cut unusual shapes and curves.

Should you sand Pinewood Derby wheels? ›

Sanding the wheels

Work up to as fine of grit as you can find. Only sand enough to remove imperfections and make the wheel round as possible.

Which wheel should be raised Pinewood Derby? ›

Decide which wheel to lift by sending your car down a straight line and seeing which side of the line it drifts toward. If it drifts left, raise the left front wheel. If it drifts right, raise the right front wheel.

Should I glue Pinewood Derby axles? ›

Slide the axles and wheels onto the car and glue into place. Use an epoxy or nonresin glue, and make sure you don't get any on the surface of the axle where the wheel rides.

Where is the best place to put weights on a Pinewood Derby car? ›


Science says the heaviest part of your car should be about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. The idea is that the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track.

What is the most aerodynamic shape for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

But aerodynamics rule the day, and the best shape is a simple wedge. Just like a spoiler on the rear of a sports car, the wedge shape allows as much air to flow over the top of the car without hinderance while keeping the car pinned to the track.

Can you put lights on a Pinewood Derby car? ›

This Head/Tail Lights kit features two white headlights and two red tail lights. Your pinewood derby car should have enough space in the front and rear to mount the lights.

How can I make my pine car faster? ›

The most important thing for a fast pinewood derby car is true, straight wheels and axles. Next, the wheels and axles need to be as smooth (frictionless) as possible. (You often get burrs on the plastic wheels that should be sanded down.)

What do you seal a Pinewood Derby car with? ›

Seal and protect it by spraying the entire car with clear gloss paint. Some clear paints might make the numbers curl. To make sure yours works, test it on a decal or number stuck to scrap plastic before spraying your car.

Can you hollow out a pinewood derby car? ›

Pine wood is a very light material, so we wanted to remove as much of it as possible while still keeping the structure intact. The best way to do this was to hollow out the bottom and up through the middle, attempting to keep the weight about one inch infront of the rear axle (for the most part).

What are characteristics of successful Pinewood Derby car designs? ›

To build the fastest pinewood derby car at competition, you need to maximize your momentum while also minimizing friction.
  • Quality Lubrication. A major way to decrease friction is by properly lubricating your wheels and axles. ...
  • Properly Prepared Wheels and Axles. ...
  • Perfect Alignment. ...
  • Maximized Momentum. ...
  • Aerodynamic.

How to make the most aerodynamic Pinewood Derby car? ›

The most basic aerodynamic design is a simple wedge. If you don't have time to design a complex car, a wedge will work just fine. Download a Pinewood Derby car template PDF to help you create your design.

What is a good time for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Pinewood Derby Results. The average times with just weight added was 3.288 seconds. There was 0.188 seconds between the fastest and slowest car, about 23 inches. The average time was 2.994 seconds, about 44 inches faster than without graphite (0.353 seconds).

Where is the best weight placement on a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Best Location to Weight Your Pinewood Derby Car

When deciding on where to weight your car, you should try to reach a final balance point of the car 1 inch or less in front of the rear axle. To achieve this, place 2/5 of the added weight behind the rear axle, and the remaining 3/5 in front of the rear axle.

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