How to prepare pinewood derby car body for gluing axles in place

Before even starting the process of tuning, a builder needs to address the following.  If I am drilling my own axle holes, how do I keep the axles in place?  After all once I install them, I will not be able to drill through the metal.

A series of holes need to be drilled prior to painting, prior to installing the wheels and axles.  It is not crucial to make them perfectly spaced, or in a perfect line.  What is important is that you leave room from the edge so that the glue doe not accidentally leak on your wheels.

Pinewood derby axle glue holes
Pinewood derby axle glue holes
Pinewood derby axle glue holes
Pinewood derby axle glue holes

Graphite Wheel Channel Pinewood Derby Body

Unless you build a lot of cars, one of the problems you will quickly find out is that with drilled axle holes, there is practically no way to add graphite to the hub once you have installed the wheel and gapped them properly.

Here's a builders tip.  Add a graphite lube channel.  With the BSA slots, you have wood removed that allows you access the inner wheel hub.  With Drilled body you literally run into a brick wall.  So just add some angled channels that allow you to to get to that spot.  I do mine with a rotary tool.  This can easily be done withe a file or some sand paper.  I just like power tools

If you accidentally take off too much and end up in the axle  hole, no worries, just remember that with the BSA blocks, there is an entire slot all the way across the body.  It's not going to hurt a thing.
Pinewood derby axle graphite channels
Pinewood derby axle graphite channels
Pinewood derby axle graphite channels
Pinewood derby axle graphite channels

What glue to use to glue Pinewood Derby axles and wheels

Super Glue or CA glue is glue of choice for many years.  Just remember this stuff is super runny or liquid, a little will go a long way and I have ruined many wheel sets because of this.  Little drops, I mean little.  And make sure your car is nice and flat so that it does not run into the wheel.  It WILL.  

Expert builders are now choosing RED locktite screw thread anti-vibrate treatment.  They apply it the same way as super glue.  It seems that it penetrates the wood better and it literally locks the axle in place.  Not going to move the tune job.  So if you are out of super glue, or want to give that a try I highly reccommend it.  
Here's the answer to the million dollar question.  What do I suggest?  First I say check you rules......  Then use the following advice.

So my choice:  Physics car body 3-wheel racer.  Lead Weight. 3k bent axles (3x 2.5, 1x 1.5), pliers, Wheel Polish kit or service, Derby Dust graphite.  You will have to choose what wheels you want to play by, but they will determine speed of car second to tuning the axles correctly

Pinewood Derby Tuning is the Key

So you are going to need to focus mainly on tuning or adjusting your axles.  You want your car to go down the track as straight as it can without going side to side.  Easiest way to do this is 3 wheels touching and make it ride along the center strip.  So you purposely make it track to the high side.  Takes time.  Not technical, Not complicated, just time.  The correct tool-- axle pliers.  This $25 purchase is the difference between a headache and a breeze.  what you will need is 4x bent axles so that you can do this:  for 4 wheels I always suggest 3x2.5 1x1.5 angles

If you have to do 4 wheel tuning....

Pinewood Derby Speed Axles

polish level.... 
3k for graphite with break-in 
100K for oil or graphite with just dust and spin.  You are substituting the lube for a higher polish metal.  
Bent axles will be fastest (rail riding) however each axle needs to be adjusted (tuned) so that it steers the car down the track and not side to side.  Each axle will have to be adjusted:  Watch the tuning video above...substitute treadmill for tuning board if needed.  Bent axles for the wheel to ride in one spot and also change the amount of tread presented to track.  Ice skates vs rollerblades just the inner part of wheel will touch. (red wheel). 
Picture originally published on forum

Pinewood Derby Speed Wheels


Lighter the better. Lighter wheels will require use of tuning pliers however to remove axles/wheels.  
Polish the bores.  Either you or me.  Its pretty simple.
Flawless bores will eliminate any abnormal rotation in relation to wheel spinning around axles.  

Weight reduced wheels start around 1.7 grams. Have all the lettering.  Charlie Bravo or Black Op's will be those weights. Charlie Bravo has factory outer tread.  Black Op's will have lathed outer tread.
Derby Worx makes a 1.5 and 1 gram wheel, but a little more noticeable machining done to them.   Lighter is always better! They are all very fast wheels.  Choose what will meet your pack's rules.

Pinewood Derby Graphite Lube

Graphite on graphite has a lower coefficient of friction than steel on plastic.  Our theory is build layers of lube on layers of lube.  Then you have graphite on graphite peeling off each race.  Break In / Lube building process
Winning Pinewood Derby Car Kits
Winning Pinewood Derby Car Kits - Canopy #4
Winning Pinewood Derby Car KitsWinning Pinewood Derby Car Kits -- Canopy #4
Fast, ultralight, light weight pinewood derby car body allows you to shift all the weight to the rear where it has the most potential energy to push you down the track to victory lane.

This body comes in at around 13 grams or about 1/2 ounce.  

We have paired this body with all the winning parts needed to leave them in the dust.  Our kit contains an ultra light pinewood derby body in that desired extended wheel base design for easy of tuning.  Comes with 4x ready to race wheels picked by you to meet your pack's requirements complete with wheel polish kit or you can have us polish them for you at an additional charge.   4x ready to race axles configured in all straight or bent axles for that winning rail rider tune job.  Your choice of a lead or tungsten canopy depending on your budget.  All kits come with our industry only finishing kit -- 7 grams of tungsten putty, HVAC foil tape to cover up any added weight to the underside, #44 drill bit for axle install/repair and sample tube of Derby Dust Dry Lube graphite to get you in the winner's circle.  Instructions and YouTube build references always included.  

Winning Pinewood Derby Car Kits
Winning Pinewood Derby Car Kits -- Canopy #4
Winning Pinewood Derby Car with Canopy
Winning Pinewood Derby Car with Canopy
Winning Pinewood Derby CarWinning Pinewood Derby Car with Canopy bottom view
Ultra light Pinewood Derby body.  These bodies start around 15.5 grams. Pockets and holes everywhere to adjust your Center of Gravity needs.

I got really bored last night and drew up a few canopy cars.  Will get them cutout over the weekend.  Some will be extended wheel base only.  Some will be regular wheelbase.  I'm not going to offer both styles for each type of car.  Too many bodies!  Too hard to test and get COG correct.  

Winning Pinewood Derby Car
Winning Pinewood Derby Car
Winning Pinewood Derby Car (bottom view) with pockets
Winning Pinewood Derby Car
Winning Pinewood Derby Car - top view And thank you... Wayne.... Your review on the treadmill process inspired me to just mass produce your design.
There is a Video on Youtube that gives you 7 Winning Tips to Pinewood derby.

Our PWD bodies utilize the steps.
1.  Center of Mass (Center of gravity) Location.  This step is supposed to give you a 36% increase in speed.  These canopy style bodies are super light and allow us to maximize weight placement where we want it.  Our setup is for a 0.930" COM in front of the rear axle.  Then we place weight pockets on the remaining wood sections so that you can tweak what works for you.  

2. Lightweight wheels.-  Claim is 16% increase in speed, but I tend to think the increase is more like 36% and COG is 16%.  I know if I can use a set of 1 gram wheels and tune a car, I will smoke nearly everything.  I will beat any car that has factory wheels no matter if I am racing a block of wood.  Seriously.  

3.  Aerodynamic.--  11% increase in speed.  Majority of our bodies are streamlined.   With Low weight placement.  We also remove wood around the wheel's outer edge to ensure that that part never touches the body.

4.  Polished Nails.  10% increase in speed  LOL we got that covered.  CNC polished nails.  Only one in industry that can state their axles are polished my a computer controlled machine.  

5.  Lift one wheel -  9% increase in speed.  All bodies made by Derby Dust have the option of 3 wheel racing at no extra charge.  We believe it is the only way to race.

6.  Graphite / lube -  Do we ever know this!  Derby Dust dry lube is a pure graphite with proper flake size and moisture content that will give you a smooth friction-less surface when you follow our break-in process.  

7.  Other  (long wheel Base, car shape, wheel gap, etc) 11% increase.  I think this is a BS category.  I can get a standard wheelbase to run just as fast or faster than a short wheel base.  Car shape is important.  Wheel gap is important based on the type of wheel hub.  It will differ.  

8. Derby Dust's conclusion which was not even addressed........  Fastest car is a tuned car.  Regardless of any other option.   Focus mainly on tuning or adjusting your axles.  You want your car to go down the track as straight as it can without going side to side.  Easiest way to do this is 3 wheels touching and make it ride along the center strip.   Takes time.  Not technical, Not complicated, just time.  The correct tool to do this with is a set of axle pliers.

Low profile body with .930ish COG, 3k bent axles (3x 2.5, 1x 1.5) for center rail riding, lightest possible wheels that you can use, Wheel Polish kit to clean up the bores of the wheels, Derby Dust graphite.


Free tips and tricks for the Pinewood derby

How to make Mill Drill weight pockets for pinewood derby cars

  • Drill Press
  • Cross Slide Table with Vise
  • End Mill Cutting Tool
Pinewood derby fender flare sidewall
For those guys that want to add some flare (play on words) to their build! These are more than just for looks. They will reduce wheel drag, too!
pinewood derby fender flare sidewall
Sidewall Fenders for BSA SLOT pinewood derby car. CNC cut.  We had to add them to the build list this year.  They cover the entire wheel with just enough clearance for all your canting and steering needs.  Again we don't hide our info, so here it is for all you guys to copy.

  • Specs:
  • Pine- White kiln dried
  • Length = 7 inch
  • Width = 1 3/4 inch
  • Thickness = 1/2 inch
  • Internal Wheel diameter 1.3 inch
  • Designed to be off-set high .05 inch (gap gage provided)
  • Weight=
These are some awesome fun flares.  You can shape them to anything that you desire.  Not just some arrow shaped piece of wood.  We took the hard work out of guessing how to do it for you. 

Every sports car has their wheels enclosed from drag to increase speed.  The same concept applies to pinewood derby.  These flares are unique that they extend all the way down to the bottom of the track.  Just remember to bevel the inner edges to keep the car from rubbing down the track.

Don't forget this comes with FREE WHEEL GAP GAUGE!


Center of Mass / Gravity Pinewood Derby Car

Free Pinewood Derby Tips Courtesy of Derby Dust

Placing Weights in a Pinewood Derby CarBecause there are MANY more factors involved making a pinewood derby car, there are many more articles to read.  This article is only going to address WEIGHT.

  • Completed Painted car with wheels and axles to a weight of about 4.3oz
  • Tungsten Putty (1oz)
  • Ruler (attached to a base so that it is standing on its edge)
  • Digital scale measuring in .001 oz (these are rather inexpensive these days.  Less than $10 shipped from Ebay)
This is no secret to seasoned builders.  Weight placement plays an important role in how well a PWD car will perform.  There are numerous scientific equations that will explain the science behind this.   Simply put the more weight you can shit towards the rear of the car, the more "potential" energy it will have.  The key important term his is POTENTIAL.   It is believed that the more stored energy you have, the faster your car can travel.   However, the PWD world has been proven that COG (center of gravity) is the more important than shoving all the weight in the rear of the car. 

What is COG?  It is an important function in building a pinewood derby car.  COG is the balance point of your car.  This will be measured by using the ruler.  There is a COG tool on the market for those that like to spend a few extra $$$.  I'll update this once I find it again.  WHY is COG important? Putting weight randomly on your PWD car is not the key to getting the most out of your build.  Center of gravity placement should be between 1/2-1" IN FRONT of REAR axle.  This is true for all wheel base types.  Whether you are using a standard wheel base or an extended wheel base.  This has been determined not by mathematical formula, but by the PWD junkies with thousands of builds underneath their belts. I have tried to prove them different, and just came to the same conclusions as they have.

Take notice on one particular detail.  TYPE of WEIGHT.  It will not matter if your weight is lead or tungsten to achieve a fast car. Do not listen to the hype.  Tungsten does not make a car faster.  Weight is Weight.  The maximum weight is 5oz.  COG does not care whether it is wood, steel, lead, or tungsten.  Before spending all your available funds on just weight, please understand this statement.   FOR all my builds, I use lead as primary weight.   Weight pocket (meaning how big a hole is drilled for lead) depends on car design.  Small profiles will need larger pockets to offset their reduction in wood weight.   For final weight,  I drill a single 3/4" forstner hole about 3/16 " deep just in front of the rear axle.  I add the remaining tungsten putty throughout this hole to properly distribute the weight according to its balance point. 

This balancing point (COG) will differ from car to car due to design, type of weight, type of wood, etc.   The first thought that comes to mind is that the most potential energy would be a weighted rear bumper.  This will not give you the fastest car.  (Actually this type of weight placement will give the car too much "push" and will cause your car to fishtail don the flat of  the track. )  Putting the weight on the front, although gets you a slightly quicker start down the curve, does not prove to be the best weight placement for the remaining flat portion of the track. The closer to a 1/2" COG (in front of rear axle), the more potential for a faster car.  From my experience, the closer the COG to the rear of the car, the more time it will take to tune it to its fastest speeds

For your first build, I suggest a 1" COG.  It will be the easiest to obtain.  It will give you a more stable ride, will require less tuning time.   Unless you have built the same design over and over, it might take some time tuning the COG.  For a preliminary run at things, cut out your body.  Sand it to near final sanding.  Drill out the holes for you weight.  If you are using the solid "plate" lead weights, it will be more difficult to distribute weight to obtain the proper COG.  I'm not a real fan of these as they have a lot of ZINC in them to make things shiny and it takes up a lot of surface area to use.  I am a big fan of 1x 3/8" hole drilled behind the rear axle, with 2x 3/8" holes in front of the rear axle as close as you can get them.  Then adding 1/4" weights.  If your build can accommodate 5/8" holes, that would only require a hole in front of and behind the rear axle using 1/2" weights.   Once you have the balancing act close, then finish the car, add the wheels, and then fine tune your COG with tungsten putty.

I suggest to bring you car (painted with wheels and axles) to a total weight of 4.3oz.  I suggest using tungsten putty for the remaing last ounce of weight.  It will be a trail and error prcoess.  Take a ruler, attach it to some sort of base so that it can rest on edge side up.  Mark the range of 1/2-1" in front of rear axle of your completed car, then start the balancing game.   Depending on your design, most builders drill holes on the bottom of the car to pocket the putty.  Use your best judgement.  You will use nearly all of the of the putty to bring it to proper weight.  By leaving the extra ounce of "ballast" you can easily move the COG to the proper location.  If you bring your car up to a higher weight, the less ballast material you have to adjust your COG.  The extra few dollars for the tungsten putty is worth the win. 

Once your COG is obtained, then the next step would be tuning your car.  Click here for the NEWEST method that is making winners out of first time builders.   Simple to see, simple to understand.  No track needed.  

Derby Dust has just took PWD to the next level. We take an original BSA block, flip it upside down, and mill (not saw) 2 new axle slots. Because of our unique clamping system, we are able to mill axle slots perfectly sqaure to each indiviual body. And the results will show this is key to buidling a suscessful fast car.
Why does this matter? This ensure that your wheel are pointed in the best possible position, straight ahead down the track. Watch the process, see the results. Less tuning times. Straighter running cars. A must for those guys that can't have canted wheels or have to have 4 wheels touching the track at a price that will not bust the bank! Get a FULL block, not a 1/4" strip piece of wood.

Want it drilled? We can do that too. And not with some mini drill press. We do it with a precision micro mill. Why? Because it MATTERS!

Then if you would like, you can have it pre-weighted.

Thinking outside the box, Derby Dust now offers milled/ pre-weighted blocks. No need worrying about how to make the weight work. Simply make your design fit around the perfectly placed weight of our pre-weighted blocks. No additional weight will need to be purchased.

Current Block weight weight weighs around 7.2oz
Depth of weight is approx 1/4"
COG If made into a simple wedge, the center of gravity is approx 3/4-1" in front of rear axle (your design will change that)
Weight: Soft Lead (supplied and formed to weight pocket). Once car is completed, simply drill excess weight out of front weight pocket to bring to weight. You will need to glue it in place prior to race day.
Foil Tape provided to cover exposed lead for those packs that require it.

New to 2013-2014 PWD. Drilled Sots. TO make it easier to install your AXLES, we will predrill your BSA slots with #44 drill. This will elimate the need for an axle install guide. Same a few bucks. Make it easier to install your wheels. No need to worry about mis-aligned axles!

    Types Of Wheel Base
  • Standard BSA Block
  • Drilled Std BSA Distance
  • Extended Wheel Base
3 Wheel bodies also available.