World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Discussions on buying, building or rehabbing a race track. Topics like plans, materials, tools, construction, finishing, commercially available tracks, and so on.
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SteveJahr
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World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by SteveJahr » Thu Jan 29, 2004 12:30 am

Ok well maybe not *the* cheapest :)

Last year I was part of a new startup pack and we wanted to run a Pinewood Derby. That meant we needed a track and had no money. So rather than rent one I set off to build a track as cheaply as I could. Between scrounging and some creative material selection I built a track, including electronic scoring, for about $80.

Some general pointers:

1. Minimize waste and materials overall. I used the plans from the Cub Scout How To book as a base. One 4x8 sheet of 1/2" particle board that I ripped into 4 lane sections. A few 1x4s that I ripped into 1x2s as called for in the plans.

2. For the lane guides do not even think of using lath. I started to go this way until I figured out that I had $75 worth of lath and it was all warped every which way. I picked up a 4x4 sheet of 1/4" masonite and ripped strips.

3. Buy the bulk package of screws for the lane guides.

4. Do not use blind nuts, instead drill a larger hole part way through and wedge in a normal hex nut. I bit of glue can be added as insurance that the nut does not come out.

5. The cheapest speaker wire is sufficient.

6. Scrounge whatever you can from your garage. Miscellaneous screws in particular.

An overall picture:
Image

My starting gate used PVC pipe and rubber bands. It latches up and spring loads down. Minimize mass of this assembly to reduce momentum and avoid bounce problems:
Image

Of course I violated the minimize rule by adding start flags :D The green lever is pushed down to release the gate and start the race. When the gate drops the flags drop too:
Image
Here is the underside of the starting gate:
Image

I got a bit carried away on the finish line :roll: I painted checkerboard on it. I also used the timer design off the net and software by James Brown. I modified the electronics to not use photo transistors and to use micro switches instead. I probably could have gotten the transistors to work... but I *KNEW* that I could get micro switches to work.

Image

A closeup to show the switch levers at the finish:

Image

I like modular designs, so I implemented the finish line sensors as a module that bolts to the track bottom:

Image

The switch levers work using a cam principle to activate the switch and the switch spring to return the lever to up. The individual switch setup:

Image

I have since replaced the popsicle stick switch levers with aluminum, the wood had durability problems. I also had some problems with the levers sticking in the down position, probably from rotating the cam over center. I added some foam as a secondary lever return spring in the track. In my latest outing this reduced the sticking down to 2 races out of 86.

This track has now been through three derbies. It got used as a secondary fun race track for a Girl Scout PowerPuff Derby. And last week it was the primary track for my new pack with 80+ boys. The part that amazed everyone is that we got through 86 races in a bit under 90 minutes. Nobody thought we could come close to being on schedule but we did 8) [/img]



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gpraceman
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by gpraceman » Thu Jan 29, 2004 1:14 am

Thanks for the photos of your track. It is amazing that you could build this all for so little money.

Some of your photos are rather large and blow up the page. Can you shrink them down for better viewing?


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Cory
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by Cory » Thu Jan 29, 2004 10:01 am

Very cool, congratulations!

I'd be curious to see the "curved" section. Does the 1/2" particle board flex enough on its own?



SteveJahr
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by SteveJahr » Thu Jan 29, 2004 11:02 am

Re: picture sizes...

Yep, I noticed the really big pictures. I have a high resolution digital camera with a large flash and I'm not afraid to use it :D I went through a couple of passes of shrinking them but looks like I missed one. I will shrink it this evening.

Re: track curve...

Yes the particle board does flex for the curve. It does have 16' over which to do this so the curve transition is pretty gradual. The track sections are joined together by 2 1x2s underneath with 8 1/4" bolts per joint as per the Cub Scout How To plans. This creates reasonably good joints and alignment since I have indexed all parts to go together the same every time.




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ranman106
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by ranman106 » Fri Jan 30, 2004 11:36 pm

Gee, I am going to have to look at those plans more closely instead of passing by them! Great job!



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GimpyPaw
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by GimpyPaw » Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:12 am

Could somebody point me to the plans for the electronic timers? I'm building a track myself, and need a cheap method of timing the races. Even something simplistic enough to indicate finishing order rather than elapsed time would suffice, for now :P



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PWD
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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by PWD » Fri Mar 09, 2007 7:30 pm

I am impressed. This really shows some creativity!



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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by quadad » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:26 pm

I LOVE this simple and inexpensive starting method ! It took me a while to notice exactly how the green lever releases the PVC, until I saw the notch in the wood. Great ! :D

I plan on using it for a 2-3 lane test track that I don't want to spend a lot of money or time on (need that for the cars) !

Thanks so much for the pictures !!!



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Re: World's Cheapest Pinewood Derby Track!

Post by Teeeman » Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:05 am

terryep wrote:Nice!

YES!


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