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Author Topic: Cub Scouts (Was: Pinewood Derby Memories)
skillery
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This is my favorite time of the year because next week is the big race.

I bought my own track a couple of years ago because the traveling Pinewood Derby man's track was too bumpy, and all the cars kept flying off the track. We keep the track stored under the bed all year long, and we've stubbed our toes on it several times.
I found some cool Pinewood Derby websites that feature all the tricks for building a really fast car. Now all the Cub Scouts come knocking on my door to get tips on building their cars. I share all the tips with each boy, so hopefully their cars will all be evenly matched.

I bought a drill press and a band saw and a belt sander and a Dremel tool for cutting out the cars. I wrote my own program for judging the race. I bought a projector for beaming the race results onto the wall. I bought a set of digital scales with a computer interface, so that I can project onto the wall the weight of each car.

I have driven my wife totally nuts, but I really have fun working with the Cub Scouts.

I've always wanted to buy a house big enough to set up the track. Finally my sister moved into a house with 34 glorious feet of uninterrupted floor space. We set the track up at her place and had a family reunion race. It was a blast! We wished we still had the cars we had built as kids.

[ March 11, 2004, 11:32 PM: Message edited by: skillery ]

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twinky
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[Big Grin]

When I was a Cub Scout we used to make cars and race them in the basement of the local church. I still have mine, it's somewhere in my parents' house. I never really figured out what the optimal shape was, though...

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beverly
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Ah, porteiro, we need to get to work on the Space Derby! [Kiss]
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mr_porteiro_head
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I am a Cubmaster, and I made the decision to not have a pinewood derby this year. The 1st-year scouts all wanted to do it, but the 3rd-year scouts didn't want to. So instead, we are doing the space derby. The boys still get to make something, but there isn't as much room for engineering, so the fathers won't get too competitive (a problem we've had in the past).
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pooka
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Now is there some kind of standard for track construction? Do you repeat all races with the tracks reversed for fairness?

When I was 11 or so I got my own racer. My sister thought I made it look too much like a nude lady. Not that it specifically looked like a nude lady, but I sanded it until it was very smooth.

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saxon75
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I never spent enough time on my cars, so they almost always did poorly. I won a silver medal once (which I still have), but I think that may have been with a car that somebody else made as a spare. In retrospect I probably should have given the medal to him, but I don't remember him caring.
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lcarus
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[Eek!] Wow! I've never heard of this before . . . I think it's pretty amazing how much you've put into this! That's very cool! [Big Grin]
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skillery
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There's a fellow over on AOL, by the name of Stan Pope who has made a science out of judging the races. He has come up with a method that allows even the slow cars to continue racing, rather than having a bunch of losers moping around. He sets it up so that every boy races against every other boy, and every boy races the same number of times in each lane. I put Stan's method into my computer program, and it keeps everybody happy.
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LockeTreaty
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As a cub scout I had quite a good time building those Pinewood derby cars. It wasn't until my last year that i pulled out the win, but I still nabbed most creativ e design two years in a row. One for a gangster car, which for the exhaust pipes were the cylindrical weights, and my favorite was a generic oscar meyer weiner car. [Big Grin]
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skillery
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I am always amazed at the great interest the girls take in the race. There is always a pack of little girls waiting at the finish line, wanting to touch their brother's cars. I usually have one of the sisters announce the heats over the PA. Even the teenage girls want to get into the action. We’re going to have to set up a race that includes the girls.
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PSI Teleport
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I always HATED Pinewood Derby.

Not because it wasn't fun.

But because the Bestema Family won every year.

They put lead in the cars, I KNOW it.

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saxon75
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Hmm... In my Cub Scout days we all put lead in our cars, in order to meet the weight requirements.
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PSI Teleport
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hmm....okay:

They put TOO MUCH lead in the cars, I KNOW it.

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UofUlawguy
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I never did really well, because I was always much more concerned with how the cars looked, rather than how fast they were. I would get a picture in my head, and I would make that car, even if the aerodynamics were all wrong. I did the same thing later in ninth grade, when my small engines shop class built CO2-powered cars. I chose pine instead of balsa for starters. I never had a chance in the race, but my car looked (and still looks) really cool.
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skillery
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The Bonebrake family ruled the Pinewood dynasty when I was a kid. I won the race my first year because my dad helped me a lot, but after that it was all Bonebrakes.

Disaster struck at the end of the final heat that first year when my buddy's sister Cindy retrieved my car at the finish line and then dropped it. Everybody wanted to race against me in a grudge match, but one of my wheels was missing.

We've got a rule now that states that only the Cub can handle the car, not to protect the car from the girls at the end of the track, but to protect the car from the boy's dad. I've heard horror stories about dads dropping cars. Talk about a sure-fire way to land yourself in the doghouse.

I raced the CO2 cars in shop also, and I've even heard of someone making a CO2-powered Pinewood Derby car. The car shot off the end of the track and embedded itself in a solid wood door at the church house.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Every year the engineering department at BYU has a pinewood derby race. There are three categories: scout rules, unlimited weight, and unlimed (but no explosives).

One year for the unlimted somebody put big rubber wheels and a remote control motor. That thing was *extremely* fast, but it wouldn't stay on the track, and was disqualified.

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Stan the man
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FUN! (No, is NOT Stan Pope [Smile] ) Raced them in cub scouts. won 1st place 2 years running. secret is in the graphite. Now we also hold races for the adults (for fun and bragging rights). A friend of mine who works for Diamler-Chrysler built a Prowler Pinewood derby car. It was nice looking. These are for fun only so no real restrictions.
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Jon Boy
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For my first pinewood derby, I made the car myself. I mean, my dad actually worked the power saw and drilled out a spot for the lead, but I drew the design, painted it, slapped some stickers on, and put the wheels on.

It barely made it down the track. The wheels were so crooked that the car could hardly roll. I lost by a wide margin. But that wasn't the worst part. . . .

The worst part was that they gave me an award for being the slowest. That's right! I got the turtle award. And I had to go up on the stage to accept my award. I remember fighting back tears (not quite successfully).

The next year, my dad made the car himself ('cause that's what everyone else was doing, anyway). He did his homework and found out how to make a really fast pinewood derby car. My car thoroughly kicked every other car's trash. It was great. And no, I don't care that I didn't even make the car.

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skillery
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Unlimited weight?

Was that on stock wheels and axles?

I knew that going over the 5 oz. limit would give the car more momentum through the flat, but I guess there is a point, beyond which the friction on the axles is too great. Sounds like a problem for an engineering student.

That Prowler car sounds cool. I have never been able to get that auto body finish on my cars. I remember seeing cars that looked like liquid metal, but my spray paint always ran when I got the car smooth enough. I've tried the quadruple-aught steel wool and the furniture polish, but could never get the car to look good.

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ladyday
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*is surprised so many girls seem to feel left out* Didn't any girl scouts have the powder puff derby? Ours usually took place a week after the boy's race. They were both big fun events.

*still has her gold medal. oh yes.*

I don't have the winning car anymore though [Frown] . Her name was Galaxy and she was red with little planets painted on the side. She didn't win for looks though; the following year Love Bug took the silver for that. She might be at my parent's house, if I ever find her I'll post a pic.

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Coccinelle
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I *loved* the Pinewood Derby.

My dad was the scoutmaster for about 10 years and he's a woodshop teacher. He would take all the boys (and his four girls) to his woodshop where we would shape/paint the cars. Oh, it was a blast-

He developed a system with the lead weights- he drilled holes in the back of the cars and filled them with BB's--my brother was the king of the derby for years, and if he didn't win it was always someone in my dad's troop.

Yay for the Pinewood Derby!

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Kwea
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Skillery: I love this thread! I am currrently preparing to help my young nephew with his pinewood derby car, and I have no clue as where to start. I loved the derby when I was a scout, but I don't remember much about how to make them. Also, out of all the years I ran a car, I only had one car that was any good (it took second, I think), so I'd like to start from scratch.

My nephew has the starters kit, but I think he lost one of the pins that hold the wheels on, so we are already off to a flying start, if you know what I mean..... [Big Grin]

Could you give me a few tips, especially about the weighting? I remember that my dad and I experimented with a few different techniques, but neither of us remembers which worked.....

Thanks,

Kwea

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Kwea
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Skillery: I just read your comments on another thread, so I had to come back here and comment....

You seem to have gotten a pretty good response with this topic, don't you agree? I guess us "oldies" aren't too bad.....some of the time. [Wink]

I was serious about asking for tips, by the way. I posted that way before I ever saw the OSC-fan thread.....

You see, it is possible to get honest responses from people here just by being who you are, and nothing else. I was shocked to find a pinewood derby thread here, and pleasently suprised at how many of us remember our own derby days!

And by the way, I am COMPLETELY jealous of your track at home..... [Big Grin]

Kwea

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Hobbes
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When I did the pinewood derby I spent a lot of time with my Dad doing it. The car came out kind of lame, but not that bad (since my dad pretty much did all of the cutting and what not). When we showed up we saw that about half of the boys had had their fathers make the whole thing. Which was fine really, we didn't need to win and if they cared that much... but then we saw one boy who had clearly done his all by himself and he was being made fun quite cruelly by the other boys. That was the last year we did that.

Hobbes [Smile]

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MEC
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The single year I entered the pine wood derby my mother helped me make my car, she's very good at crafting. I made a really cool looking one that was long and short, in order to reduce wind resistance. I painted it gold and put these cool looking flame decals on it.

I blew away all the competion in my troop by getting first in all three of the different rewards(speed, design, and something else). [Smile]
Then I went to the reginals and got first in design and that other thing, but tied in first for speed. They decided to let the other kid win in speed because I won everything else. [Frown]

[Laugh] My friend build a tall semicylinder shaped one and said it was areodynamic, It came in dead last.

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PSI Teleport
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Hey, we had to make CO2 Pinewood Derby cars for a grade in 9th grade Technology. That was the most fun I've ever had. My car sucked, but it was fun.

[ March 10, 2004, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: PSI Teleport ]

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msquared
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Our pack has an open competition for all the other members of the family, after the scouts have had their runs.

We have a three lane track and the first time through all the scouts run once in each lane. We go by dens. Then the top two finishers in each den go on the the next rounds.

As to the fastest shape, there isn't one. A physics guy once spent a few years testing different designs and stuff. He found that at the slow speed the cars are going shape means nothing. A block of wood could win. There were three things that affected performance.

1: Weight: get as close to the 5 oz. limit as you can.

2: Graphite. Using graphite on the axels was very important.

3: The most important was whell alignment. If the car rolled straight and did not bump into the track guide, it won.

msquared

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zgator
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msquared, I won using the graphite. No one else seemed to know about it.

Hobbes, that sucks that the kids make fun of the one who did it himself. Ryan's not at an age yet where I can really tell what kind of Dad I'll be, but I can't imagine making the whole thing for him. That takes away his fun and destroys part of the reason for doing it to begin with.

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Zamphyr
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@zgator: you can let him design it and shape it but please help him with the wheels. Nothing will kill you son's racing excitment like uneven wheels/slow wobbly car syndrome. Worse yet, I had my wheels fall off one year. If you think finishing last in every race is bad, not finishing is worse [Laugh]

Graphite and wheel placement were key to winning. Also, the 2 years I won, I made sure I had my car weighed at the local Post Office before hand. Most accurate scales I could find.

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msquared
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We have electronic scales that are accurate down to 1/100th of an oz.

msquared

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zgator
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Zamphyr, I plan on helping and working with him, just not doing it for him.

BTW, learned any new tunes on you pan flute lately?

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skillery
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Here's some car design tips from Stan Pope's site:

1. If your local rules allow, drill your own holes for the axles, and move the wheels to the corners. Use a drill press and a #44 bit (if you're using the official BSA car kit).

2. Re-shape the nail heads to minimize braking force.

3. Polish the axles. (My boys take four steps: 400 grit wet emery cloth, 800 grit wet emery cloth, pumice powder, and jeweler's rouge)

4. Put the weight in the back of the car to maximize potential energy on tracks that start with the car's back end higher than the front. To get the most weight in the back, skeletonize the car body. The fastest cars look like a ladder laying down.

5. Lift one wheel off the track. The energy expended bringing that wheel up to speed is never recovered because the track comes to an abrupt stop, with the wheels still spinning.

6. De-bur the wheels and re-shape the wheel hubs to minimize braking force.

7. Make sure the wheels are aligned properly so that the car runs straight and so that the wheels don't migrate toward the ends of the nails. Use wax paper shims in the pre-drilled holes to force the axles into alignment.

Stan Pope's page explains all these steps in a way that children can understand and learn the scientific principles involved. He's also got some helpful tips in there about lubrication and stuff.

At the end of the discussion he gives the children a little quiz, and there's some bonus questions. If your child answers the bonus questions, Stan will exchange a series of e-mails with you that will lead you into more advanced realms of Pinewood Derby design that result in a quantum leap in car performance. My neighbor boy tried the advanced techniques last year and finished two car lengths ahead of any other car. Now I've got Cub Scouts beating down my door, asking for the secret. I tell them to go to Stan's page.

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PSI Teleport
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DUH GRAPHITE! That's what the Bestema's were using. I knew I wasn't getting something right.

Gimme a break...it's been ten years.

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Kwea
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I remember my father and I using graphite on the wheels, but other than that I was clueless. Thanks for the tips.

I think I'm going to let my nephew do most of the bodywork, except for the overall rough shaping using power tools. I have a full woodcarving exacto-knife set that he can use, and he is old enough to do that fairly safely. I also think I'll let the overall design be his idea; does he want to go for style points, or is he most interested in speed? I think he might want to go for style points as he is completely car-crazy.

What do you use for weight? My father ruined one of my mothers good pans melting down lead to cast sinker weights so we used that same pan for my derby car, if I remember correctly. Does the kit come with the weight, or do you just improvise?

What did you mean by lifting one wheel up? Does it matter which wheel? Won't that make the car run off skew?

I bet you never thought this thread would get this type of responce, did you?

Thanks for all the info, I'll probably check out that link later tonight when I have more time to devote to it....

Kwea

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Gottmorder
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Ah Pinewood Derby racing, I have such fond memories of that...
First year: My car lost every time. It wasn't even funny.
Second Year: My car was one of the fastest ones. However, before the final event one of its axles got bent and screwed it up. Still won fourth out of the whole pack(I was sick that day so my older brother was racing for me)
Third Year: Did okay, I got 3rd in the Weblos pack.
Fourth and last year I raced: I am teh winnar! w00t!

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mr_porteiro_head
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If you go down to any scout office they have weights of the correct mass designed to be glued on the underside of the car.
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skillery
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Lift one of the front wheels 1/16 inch from the track. It will still rub on the guide rail if your car has a tendency to veer off-track.

We've had a big controversy this year over the use of lead weights. Last year's winner had melted the lead and sealed it inside his car with epoxy. One of the pack moms didn't like the idea of boys melting lead, fearing that the child would get lead poisoning from breathing the fumes. So she lobbied to have lead weights banned altogether. This year we have to use official BSA weights.

Attaching the weight to the bottom of the car is fine, but if your track's guide rail is higher than normal the weight will come in contact with the rail. I like to recess the weight so that it is even with the bottom of the car.

I still like to seal the weight in epoxy, but the pack mom says she wants visible proof that official weights were used. So this year the cars will have ugly weights underneath.

I told the pack mom about Stan Pope's suggestion that the boys pound the lead weights into shape with a hammer, but the pack mom decided that she didn't even want the boys to handle lead. Oh well.

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Dan_raven
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(sniff sniff) this brings back such sad memories of a time in my life when I was sooooo poorly mistreated.

You see, I am a second son. My Pinewood experience was relegated to my own work, with only fragments of ignored parental advice, and not the parental bonding that is so associated this grand American tradition.

Of course, this was after the Great Xylophone Incident of 77 (or was that 75?).

Some excuse can be made for my fathers attitude due to that.

But let me explain.

My elder brother, elder by two short years, was first in scouts, first to get his pinewood racer, and first to challenge my father to make it the fastest.

My father is a master mechanic, so for him to build a fast engineless vehicle, was simple. It was a mark of pride.

My brother and my father spent weeks in the basement, with the saws and the sand paper, and the graphite and the wheels.

The result was an ugly reddish orange racecar.

It lost.

Not last. It didn't fall apart, but it didn't win. My brother didn't care, but my father took this as an insult to his wood working skills.

A month later the scouts had a band formed with home made instruments. Most scouts showed up with bottles filled with water, drums of coffee cans and rubber.

My father spent the week alone in our basement with an old issue of Popular Mechanics and some pine.

We began to worry when more cursing came up the steps than saw dust.

The day before the great band performance my father came up the steps with a wonderful home made xylophone. It was a simple looking, perfectly pitched arrangement of blocks attached to a good base.

My father had (perhaps for the first time, definately for the last) followed the directions, and it was perfect.

The next day we discovered it was too perfect.

They wouldn't let my brother into the band because, "this is only supposed to be for homemade instruments."

"But" cried my brother, "this was home made. My daddy made it himself."

"I don't thinks so."

My father finally showed up with the much cursed pages of the Popular Mechanics magazine, and his loud voice.

They apologized, but still didn't believe him.

So, when, two years later, it was my turn to have my father help me with the pinewood derby woodworking project...

well, he wasn't that interested in helping.

And the troop leader...

well, he wasn't that interested in having my dad help.

Of course I was not really interested in cars anyway.

Sanding and carving was like, well, work.

That could have been the real reason that my entry, of a pine colored box-car with four wobbly wheels, did not do so good.

I deny my juvenile laziness had anything to do with it. I angstly blame it on my parental favoritism of my older brother.

Yeah. That's it.

(Sniff, sniff)

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skillery
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Tonight the Bear Den started their kite project. Instead of paper, we're using cheap plastic tablecloths from the party store and wooden dowels.

We're building a basic delta-style kite with a 6-foot wingspan. That's a pretty big kite for a 9 year-old to handle. They pull like a sun-of-a-gun even in a light breeze.

The plastic tablecloths come in a variety of colors, and we picked ours up for 79 cents each. The dowels were pretty cheap too.

When working with plastic we use a hot knife to do the cutting. We got one from the craft store called a "versa-tool," and it's made by a company called Walnut Hollow. In addition to the X-acto blade, there is a brass roller attachment. This roller gets hot enough to fuse multiple layers of tablecloth together. We fold the plastic back on itself along the edges of the kite to form sleeves for the 1/4-inch dowels, and then we fuse the sleeve closed with the brass roller attachment.

So far it's turning out pretty slick. The boys got a little carried away with the hot knife, heating up blobs of melted colored plastic and smearing it around.

The tricky part is mounting the crosspiece that holds the wings apart. For that we're using clear vinyl tubing. Cut a 2-inch length and drill a 1/4-inch hole crosswise through the tube toward one end. Slide the "wing" dowel through that hole, and then slide the crosspiece into the end of the tube. Do the same on the other wing.

Our pack is going to have a kite festival next month. It should be fun. These boys have got spring fever after having den meeting indoors all winter.

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Dan_raven
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I may cut your post and paste it in a file of mine--things to do with the kids during winter.

It sounds like a lot of fun!

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Kwea
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where did you get that knife/roller combo? I want to make one for the beach this year, and take my neices and nephew out to the park this spring.....it seems like a great concept!

Kwea

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skillery
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We got the hot knife in the craft section at WalMart. I went back today to see if I could find it again. They still have the hot knives, but I didn't see any roller attachments. There is a leaf-shaped "shading" attachment that works pretty well, but you will need to use wax paper between the hot tool and the plastic kite material to keep it from sticking.

We got the design for the delta kite from a book at the library.

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Kwea
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Cool...thanks again for checking that out for me. As I mentioned ealier, I have 2 neices and a nephew (who is in scouting) who will love making their own kites this spring, and I will love seeing them do it. Also, I want to make a GIANT one for myself and fly it at the beach near my parents house!

I'll go to Wal-Mart this weekend and see if I can find it.

Kwea

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skillery
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Last night was our pack's annual Pinewood Derby. We had seventeen boys participate, and thirteen of those boys stopped by my house to get pointers and help during the week leading up to the race. The result of all that help was that the race was very close and difficult to judge. As you can see from the race results only five ten-thousandths of a second, averaged over nine heats, separated the first and second-place boys. Third place was only nineteen ten-thousandths behind the winner.

I felt sad for Cody, who came in dead last, but he and his grandfather went for looks instead of speed. They even painted the wheels.

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Dan_raven
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What? No pictures.

We want pictures of the hot rods.

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skillery
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Here are some pix of the boys lining up their cars at the starting line. Once the race has started, only the boys are allowed to handle their cars, including positioning them on the track. That's part of the "driving" experience.

Malik (left), Cristhian (right)
Brett
Talon

Notice the camouflage pattern on the truck. That's a neat new thing called a "skin" that some of the boys picked up at the hobby shop. It's actually a water "slip" decal.

Edit: By the way, that's "Mrs. skillery" in the background of the Talon pic.

[ April 09, 2004, 12:12 AM: Message edited by: skillery ]

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Kwea
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Skillery: Thanks for the pointers, my neohew and I really liked them, and thanks to the link you posted (and some hard work) he came in second in his pack last weekend.

I found the red, white and blue "skin" at my hobby store, too, and that's what we used. It looked better than any of the painted ones, and we were the only ones who used it this year.

Israel (my nephew) was really psyched, and so was I. It ended up being a bit of a rush job, as he didn't tell me the date until 4 dayss before the race.

We polished the axels and I carved the shape by hand (he's 9, so I didn't trust him with the knife....maybe next year...), so we had a lot of fun making it.

I wasn't sure if we were allowed to melt the lead, and no one from the pack returned my calls, so I glued the weight all the way back, as high as I could get it.

At the race, we were beating every car but one by more than 3 car lengths, adn the one car that beat us went undefeated....we were the only car that was even close to it.....it beat us 4 times, each by less than a quarter of an inch.
Israel only lost one other race all day....after I caught him tossing the car around and catching it by the front wheels! He had bent the axles completely out of alignment...I wanted to kill him! I didn't get a chance to glue the axles in place, so the car went all wobbley on it's last run....

Still, he had a great time, and so did I....now if I can just get him to pay attention when I tell him something is fragile....lol....

Thanks again!

Kwea

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skillery
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Kwea: I'm glad that you and Israel had a good time.

I've been going through post-Pinewood withdrawal. It's a whole year until the next race.

Cristhian came over the other day to cheer me up. He said: "guess what I've got in my pocket." He'd found last year's derby champion. We thought we had lost if forever. It's the fastest car ever to race on my track. It had been in the bottom of his sock drawer.

Unfortunately there must have been some moisture in that sock drawer because the axles were all rusty. We're going to fix the old car up, sneak into the church building on a Saturday, set the track up, and see if we can squeeze a new record out of the "sock drawer special." I might even build a car of my own to race against it.

I'm feeling much better now that I have something to look forward to.

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Stan the man
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My friend's dad has a track at his house. Sturdy too. Helped build it myself. I was a two time champion and more time loser at the track. But now it is just plain fun.
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skillery
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Stan: Seems like there should be room on that aircraft carrier for a Pinewood Derby track. I'm still dreaming of a house with a room big enough.
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