How to Build a Successful Pinewood Derby Car: Get Ready to Race!

Get ready to race

Pinewood Derby Logo

Essential Supplies

Finishing:gI_78784_Built For Speed Logo

  1. Sandpaper (various grades from coarse to very fine)
  2. Sanding Sealer
  3. Soft Natural Brush
  4. Paint
  5. Cutting Tools (Coping Saw, Band Saw, etc.)


  1. Weights (the closer to 5 ounces the car is, the faster it will be)
  2. Graphite Powder (Axle lubricant to reduce friction)

Optional Supplies


  1. Decals
  2. Accessories (Windshield, Headers, Motor, Drivers, Fenders, etc.)
  3. Zap-a-Gap Glue (For installing accessories)
  4. Templates to help you shape the car
  5. Racing Wax (smooth and polish the paint finish)


  1. Axle Polishing Kit (Polishes the axle to a high shine, reducing friction)
  2. Wheel Turning Mandrel (Allows you to smooth wheels and remove seams)
  3. Alignment Gauge (Makes sure wheels are straight for the least drag)

Safety First

Please follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Wear protective goggles, gloves and a dust mask to protect your eyes, hands and lungs.
  2. Children should not use power tools without adult supervision.

Where to start!

If this is your first time building a pinewood derby car, I suggest starting out with a simple design requiring only a few cuts of the block. If you were given a pinewood derby kit then you can start with the first step on this page. If you do not have a kit or if you do not want to cut the block, we have several varieties of pre-cut blocks, ready to go wheels and axles that are legal in many pinewood derby races and can save you time in the building process.   You will need one block, four axles and four wheels as a minimum to build a car.

Step one is is to inspect the block, wheels and axles. If a part is defective, it is far better to replace it than to try to fix it.


pinewood derby beginner blockThe most important step to remember is to HAVE FUN!!! Do not limit your imagination, but keep in mind that the more complicated the design, the harder it will be to shape your car. Your car is not allowed to be longer than the standard 7″ block length, so do not add anything to either end of the car. Your pinewood derby car should be under 4″ high to clear the finish timers at the end of the track (some rules restrict the height to 3″). Check your race rules for other restrictions.

FFH Pinewood Derby Cars

The Pinewood Derby Car: Sanding, Painting & Finishing

What usually separates an award winning car from the others is a glass-like, highly polished finish.  There are several steps and techniques you will want to use to achieve this.

  1. After you have cut the desired shape of your car, you will need to sand the wood using various grades of sandpaper. Start with coarse paper and gradually work down to a very fine sandpaper.  This will give you a very smooth base to start with.  Once you are satisfied, move on to Step 2.
  2. Prior to painting the car, you will need to seal the wood with Sanding Sealer. This will fill in the grain and pores of the wood, and show you any rough areas left on the car.  The Sanding Sealer should be brushed on using a soft Natural Hair Brush and allowed to dry for approximately one (1) hour.  After the Sealer is dry, sand the car with a very fine sand paper and then apply a second coat of Sanding Sealer.  Once that coat is dry, you are ready to paint your car.

Once you have finished all of the previous steps, you can paint your car.  Almost any kind of model paint will work, and we recommend following these painting suggestions.

  1. Spray painting will generally provide a smoother finish than brushing. Never spray with heavy coats of paint, as they tend to run or leave an “orange-peel” look.  Always spray multiple light coats, allowing adequate time for the paint to dry between coats.
  2. If you are using a Metal Flake, Metallic, Mica, or Candy colors paint, you should use a Silver or Gold undercoat first. These types of paints are translucent, and the Silver or Gold undercoat will incredibly brighten the color of the paint.  This is a similar technique used to paint real cars.
  3. Always let your paint dry overnight before continuing any other work on the car. Although the paint may seem dry, it is still soft, and may scratch.
  4. After you have finished painting, you can add any decals you would like.
  5. Finally, you may want to apply a Gloss Enamel Clear Coat to really make the car shine. The Clear Coat will help seal in the decals, as well as protect both the decals and the paints.


Remember, the fanciest car doesn’t always win. This is a Cub scout activity, let your child build his car. Most packs have Adult and/or Open Class Races for parents and siblings to have fun building their own cars.Pinewood Derby is In-Stock

We are here to help at Family Fun Hobbies! We have two Eagle Scouts on staff, we offer classes, have a scale to weigh in your car before the race and have all of the supplies you’ll need to become Race Ready!

Do you have a question? Just ask us!!!


For inspiration check out these amazing cars created by Family Fun Hobbies Customers!

Pinewood Derby


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