|Project by reedwood||posted 01-22-2012 10:33 PM||3090 views||0 times favorited||30 comments|
”Hi Mauk, it’s William. Um, could you help me make my car? It’s for the Pine Wood Derby Race. I’m in the Cub Scouts and I have to make a race car. Can we make it in your workshop? I want to help too.”
”Sure, come over and we can work together on it. That will be fun.”
Well, this sure brings back memories.
Way back to March 1966
I too was a cub scout at age seven.
I still remember making a pine wood derby car from a block of wood just like the one he has to use.
It’s been an American tradition.
Yes, I’m the goofy Charlie Brown looking kid in the middle. Don’t laugh, I was born with a cleft lip.
So, I went on the internet and looked up pine wood derby cars and discovered the wonderful world of cub scouting all over again.
There were pictures of different cars, kits and decals, long tracks and smiling boys in their cub scout uniforms, covered in badges, holding their handmade race cars. It sure made me smile. This is gonna be fun.
I see that the rules are still the same; It must be no wider than 1 3/4”, by 7” long and 3/8” above the track and it can’t weigh more than five ounces. The rules also state that you can use a band saw, whittling tools and sandpaper. Of course, they encourage the parent to help but, it should be his project.
They had a lot of accessories, like straight axles and fast wheels….$11.99, extra fast wheels….$39.99, and super duper fast wheels – for $79.99. They had graphite lube and precut blocks – ready for sanding, lead weights, spoilers and roll bars and little drivers with a steering wheel.
So many options – all screaming at every dad,
”How much do you really love your son? You wouldn’t want him to LOSE would you?”
Ka ching…..”That will be $49.99 with tax please.”
Wait, the original kit is only $3.99. What just happened?
Poor Dad, didn’t stand a chance. Ha!
It didn’t quite happen that way with my dad.
He was a hard working, traveling salesman and had no use for tools. My mom was the cub scout den mother but she just said, ”Do the best you can. I’m sure it will be just fine.”
So, with my dull cub scout knife and some sandpaper, I made my first wood project.
After it was completed I colored it with crayons. I think it had blue doors and a yellow hood, green and red too. So long ago. At that moment, I remember I was so proud of my little race car.
The big race day.
All of my cub scout den friends were there. I’ll never forget the moment I saw my car sitting in the middle of all those cars on the display table. There were maybe 30 or 40 cars of different shapes and colors.
I couldn’t help notice their rounded shapes, sanded smooth and perfectly symmetrical, spray finished with decals and stripes. Some were long and thin like Indy cars with little men in helmets while others looked like modified muscle cars.
And there, sitting in the middle – my crayon colored creation with no particular body style to be recognized.
I remember I was embarrassed. No matter, nobody said anything so maybe it’s OK.
It’s my turn. I take my car over and set it on the track next to my friend’s slick looking silver bullet car. It felt like there were 100 people in the room watching us. I was so nervous!
The gate drops – Slam! They’re off!
The cars were side by side all the way down the angled track as they screamed down the last stretch.
Everybody is yelling, Go! Go! I’m so excited, my heart is going a mile a minute and I’m grinning from ear to ear.
My car is inching ahead! I’m going to win! I knew it!
Then, all of a sudden my front wheel falls off and the car leans into the rail and comes to a dead stop, right in the middle of the track.
Several of my friends standing next to me burst out laughing and started teasing and punching on me like kids do. I was smiling back I think; but inside I remember, I was devastated.
I’m not a winner – I’m a loser. I tried to smile as I congratulated the other boys.
I remember wondering why my dad didn’t help me like the other dads. Why didn’t he tell me to spray paint it?
Where was he?
I was just a kid but I think I learned what it felt like to lose that day. I knew it was up to me and I had to do better if I wanted to win. After that, I became a pretty good car model builder and eventually, a home builder and a wood worker.
So, with all that in mind, at 54 years old, (47 years later) I have been given a second chance to participate in the longtime cub scout tradition of pine wood derby racing and have an opportunity to help a young friend learn some really cool things with power tools.
As soon as William and his mother arrived, we sat down and looked at all the derby cars I found on the internet. Then, we drove to the local hobby shop to look at accessories and get more ideas for the design.
Now, the thing is, little William is really into trains, especially green trains. The spinning display stand in the store was full of pine derby car kits and accessories but it was no competition to the long display cabinet full of trains.
There was even a train track set up that ran around the whole store. He was in train heaven.
After thoroughly looking at all the trains, I finally get him back to the thinking about the project.
I asked William,
”So – after looking at all those model cars and pictures of other Pine Derby cars, what would you like your car to look like?... A muscle car like Tom Petty’s?... An Indy car?... A 4×4 pick up?”
”I want it to look like … A Green Train!” – said with the biggest smile possible.
Well, why not?
We decided to make two cars. One would be a Silver Vintage Road Racer and the other would be a Bullet Train.
We would tune up the tires that came with the kit and buy some decals, a spoiler and a little race car driver made of lead to help add weight.
With parts in hand – it’s time to build my, uh I mean, his first Pine Wood Derby Race Car.
First, we drew the design on the blocks and then, I set a bar stool in front of the band saw so he could reach it.
He was a little scared at first but with some encouragement and my hands next to his, he slowly turned the block and followed the line pattern very well.
He instantly became a band saw fan and wanted to cut out more patterns, but I told him he was getting side tracked. One project at a time.
He sanded the train while I listened to him talk on and on about all of the control panels in a train.
”This button opens this door and that button sounds the alarm, the brake is on the right and there is another panel with buttons over here.”
You could tell his dad took him up front for a visit with the train Conductor for several memorable tours.
After much sanding, we spray painted the race car silver and the train white for a base coat. Later, we sprayed painted the bottom half of the train green and added windows with a black magic marker so it looked just like the Lionel train he saw in the hobby shop.
The race will be held on Feb. 3rd. and I have been invited to watch the race.
I can’t help but wonder, Will I have my redemption? Will we win?
Or – will the wheels fall off and poor little William’s friends laugh at him?....Oh No!
Obviously, I’m having fun with this story. Ha!
If they did fall off it wouldn’t be the end of the world; they’re just kids after all.
Besides, learning to laugh at yourself with your friends when your wheels fall off,
and being a good loser is better than being a perfectly symmetrical winner any day.
.... I know.
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.