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Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car


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About the Author

Creative Director for Fox Chapel Publishing, and a Pinewood Derby-winning dad, Troy Thorne is a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, and spent over 10 years in the advertising field. He is an active scouting volunteer, builds furniture and canoes, and works with his son who was a national finalist in the All-Star Derby Design Contest.


You can read my review of the other four Pinewood Derby books from Fox Chapel Publishing. What you're going to find are some of the coolest books EVER on cutting, drilling, painting, balancing, and racing a pinewood derby racer. So why another book? Glad you asked. While this new book certainly has some overlap with the other three books (mainly with advice on cutting and drilling), it's the new designs and techniques that make it a nice addition to the collection. The book uses the same cartoon character, Dash Derby, and he's got two new friends, Max Design and Professor Speed. These characters provide some fun and colorful antics to the discussions that include wheel balancing, building a test track, and using tungsten weights. There are a number of new car designs (my favorite has to be Quick Comet) - templates are provided for all of them so you can duplicate the shape and style of your favorite. Like the other Fox Chapel pinewood derby books, this one is in full color, offering super-detailed photos of the various aspects of creating a racer. I'm very impressed with the simple yet easy-to-follow instructions for using a variety of tools (some hand tools and a few machine tools). The book also demonstrates two commercially available products called Derby Worx Pro Body Tool and the Derby Worx Pro-Wheel Shaver XT - I wasn't aware of these tools but based on the photos, they appear to be providing some serious benefits with their machined bodies that are used as jigs. Pinewood Derby is going high-tech! The back cover talks about additional benefits of the book that include expert priming and painting instructions to give your car an automotive-quality finish and up-to-date materials and techniques for weighting and alignment. Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car is written by Troy Thorne and is 135 pages of full-color instructions.
Author Troy Thorne has followed up his Getting Started in Pinewood Derby publication with a new book, Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car. Starting with basic design, including cutting, attachment, lubrication and balance, the new book also includes a section offering championship secrets, offering options on how to shave seconds off a race time Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car (Fox Chapel Publishing, ISBN 978-1-56523-764.99.2-9) is priced at $14.99.
Good Read Fast Track to Success Get the authoritative lowdown for Pinewood Derby success from Troy Thorne's Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car (Fox Chapel Publishing). Filled with helpful graphics and super photos, the book transports you from beginning car construction to prize-winning modiciations, including infor on shaping, weighting, and axle prep. $14.95 at national bookstores.
Before we discovered Derby Talk, the 2006 release of David Meade's Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets was a boon to our family's racing experience. It made a lot of reputable information visible on the bookshelves of Scout shops at a time when speed-tips seemed to be closely guarded or otherwise sold via (sometimes dubious) mail-order pamphlets, etc. Since then, I've often recommended Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets as a starting point for those new to PWD. However, there was some advice that seemed questionable or outdated, and thus we recommended it with certain caveats. In December 2012, the same publisher released a revised title called Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car (BFPWDC). Authored by Meade's illustrator Troy Thorne, this new book admirably supersedes Meade's landmark work. [This new book is not to be confused with Thorne's other offering from 2011 -- Getting Started in Pinewood Derby -- an earlier work which is less focused on competition. Even though both books carry the same artistic elements and duplicate some information, BFPWDC represents a significant revision to both Getting Started in Pinewood Derby and Meade's Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets.] We now recommend Thorne's Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car as a more up-to-date starting point. For example, treatments like sprue-removal and hub-coning are absent, as these no longer apply to BSA wheels made after 2008. Also gone are some overemphasized tips like "quick-start" devices (aka cheater bars) and block-baking. More importantly, BFPWDC embraces and instructs on recent advances such as rail-riding, currently available tools, and new weights and accessories. It includes not just speed tips, but design templates and plentiful advice on detailed finishing. BFPWDC is not presently offered via BSA yet arguably less-useful titles are; for this reason it seems worthwhile to call attention to BFPWDC here. The value of a well-rounded reference is appreciated once one tries to scrounge up information through many varied sources. The author graciously acknowledges Derby Talk as a source for some information (and in the interest of full disclosure, Troy asked some people on DT, including me, to offer some early technical feedback). But there are still some circumstances where BFPWDC does not go quite as far as prevalent opinion on DT; this seems reasonable to limit the scope of the book, which is already pretty long at 136 pages. So (as was done with Meade's book), this thread is dedicated to pointing out some of the differences for the benefit of those less familiar with DT content. (It is not intended to disparage BFPWDC, but to simply complement this excellent resource with other content that might be gleaned from DT.) Of course the reader is always free to decide which information he feels is best: Weight Placement (p. 18) - Guidance on how to accurately determine the center of balance is absent. For a fixed wheelbase, the load under the front wheel can be "weighed" to calculate the center of mass (CoM) relative to the rear axle. The relevant equation is simple. Taper the Axle Head (p. 92) - There are differing opinions as to the need to taper the underside of the axle head with BSA's stepped outer hub. Polishing the Axles (p. 94) - Some find it beneficial to go much further with polishing, down to sub-micron-levels using lapping papers or liquids. Making Grooved Axles (p. 96) - It has been conjectured that excess graphite captured in axle grooves might actually impede rolling, rather than help it. Polishing the Wheel Bore (p. 104) - BFPWDC recommends polishing the wheel bore using a pipe cleaner and plastic polish, but most people on DT who have tried Sporty's bore-prep method prefer that approach. Building Your Own Test Track! (pp. 112-115) Although a fun-looking project, the top speed of a car on a 2'-tall test track will be 70% slower than the speed reached on a conventional 4'-tall track. For testing, the plans could be improved by replacing the first section with a 12' length (to raise the starting height), and then adding a timer. Bending Axles (p. 116) - Some prefer to install unbent axles into canted holes drilled with the aid of a drill press. Rear Wheel Alignment (p. 118) - An alternative alignment method allows the front of the car to skid down an incline on a piece of tape or thumbtack with the front wheels removed. The car should roll fairly straight if the rear-wheels are correctly aligned. Front Wheel Alignment (p. 122) - In BFPWDC, the camber of the rolling front wheel is not mentioned. Most DTers prefer positive camber on the dominant front wheel (DFW), and negative camber on the rears. I've included a few links as jump-off points to show where DT expands on BFPWDC content, but these links don't come close to covering the wealth of discussions and opinions expressed on DT. As usual, both newcomer and seasoned pro will greatly benefit from Derby Talk's search feature.

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