It wasn’t about winning, it wasn’t about losing. It was about the time spent, the process, making mistakes and learning, the small details, patience and persistance. When I look back on what may have sparked my interest in building things, it all leads back to this… a pinewood derby car, I was 7.
I can remember unboxing the wood in the old paper boxes with four wheels inside and four small metal axles. The smell of the wood still ignites something inside me that says, ‘do your magic’. There was an image we found in a magazine during this time from an electric car that was being developed with the fat end forward, looking like a speed skaters helmet.
We worked in a small shed that me dad could barely stand straight up in, it was in the fall and the shed was slightly cold. After we laid out the lines for cutting, we used a handsaw and used a pull cut to start the sawing and didn’t exactly create the perfect cut, as this was the first time trying to use a hand saw with the help of my dad. Three cuts were made to produce the shape, the back end to a tip, and the sides to create the fenders for the front. After it was glued and clamped together and left to dry overnight, next came the shaping and sanding to create the shape you see here.
He showed me how to use the block sander. After what seemed like an eternity of sanding to a 7 year old, going between 120, 220, and then 400 grit, I can still remember the sound of the sandpaper over the wood and the smell and feel of the fine sawdust on my little hands. When I asked my dad if I was done sanding yet, all he would say was, “Not yet, keep sanding.”
When we were both satisfied with sanding, we painted it. At the time, I was totally in love with neon colors and settled on hot pink. We then carefully weighed the car on a scale with the wheels and axles and had to add BB’s to the side and bottom of the car to get it up to the max weight spec. We then assembled with wheels and axles and lubricated them with graphite powder. We made some small adjustments to the spacing on the wheels to get the maximum amount of spin time.
I can also remember a few times during this build my dad saying, “Do it right the first time, or don’t do it at all.” Which I still think about today when I build a project. This may also explain why projects take me so long and plan for steps down the road.
This is my earliest memory of building something. The time he spent showing me how to use the tools, how to combine sawdust and wood glue to cover up the mistakes, and how patience and persistence can create something amazing.