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You are working away on your pinewood derby car, when suddenly a big
chunk of wood breaks off! What do you do? Or, the paint has dried, but
it looks like a big drop of paint has ran down the side of the car!
Can it be fixed?

These - and many other - minor catastrophes happen all the time to
pinewood derby car builders. Fortunately, most of these things can be
fixed with no lasting damage. To help you deal with these situations,
today's feature article will share ideas on how to deal with several
'whoops!' situations.


Blocks can split when too much force is applied, especially if the
block had a hidden flaw to begin with. First, to minimize the chance
of splitting:

1. Pre-insert the axles into the slots/holes before working on the
car. Then remove the axles with pliers.

2. Don't use excessive force to insert weight into a hole or cavity in
the wood. Either make the hole bigger, or the weight smaller.

3. When creating a weight cavity with a chisel, use a sharp tool, and
work slowly. Don't try to pry off any more than a thin shaving of

But if the wood does split, try one the following actions:

If the block is still in one piece:

1. Open up the crack by inserting the tip of a small flat blade
screwdriver (or other thin metal item) into the crack.

2. Put white glue or yellow Carpenter's glue into the crack.

3. Use a toothpick or something similar to spread the glue in the

4. Remove the screwdriver and clamp the block. If you don't have a
clamp, wind masking tape tightly around the block.

5. Wipe off any excess glue, and allow the glue to dry.

If the block is in two pieces that fit well together:

1. Spread white or yellow glue over the entire broken area.

2. Put the two pieces back together.

3. Clamp or tape, wipe off any excess glue, then allow the glue to

If the block does not fit well together, then the best bet is to
start again with a new block.


This is a common occurrence, especially when creating weight pockets
around axle slots. To minimize the problem, leave 3/16" or more of
wood around axle slots, and work very slowly around axle slots.

Axle supports/struts also tend to break off. To minimize this
occurrence, insert an axle into the axle slot/hole while working on
the strut.

But if something does break off, here are some ideas to fix it. As a
bit of encouragement, a good wood glue is very strong, sometimes even
stronger than the original wood!

If the chip fits nicely into place:

1. Glue the chip in place with white or yellow glue.

2. Use masking tape to hold the chip in place.

3. Wipe off excess glue, and then allow the glue to dry.

4. Sand the repaired area after the glue dries.

If the chip is small and does not fit nicely into place:

1. Use wood putty to patch the hole.

2. After drying, sand the patched area.

If the chip is large and does not fit nicely into place:

1. Find a piece of pine and cut/carve it to fit roughly into place.

2. Glue the piece of wood in place with white or yellow glue.

3. Sand the area.

4. Use wood putty to fill in any gaps.


This is one of my favorite mistakes. To minimize the occurrence,
measure and mark the drilling location. Then before drilling,
re-check the position of the hole - is the block turned backwards or
upside down?

If the hole is 1/8" in diameter or larger:

1. Buy a proper sized dowel rod at the local hardware or craft store.

2. Cut a piece of the dowel rod about 1/2" longer than the depth of
the hole.

3. Place white or yellow Carpenter's glue into the hole.

4. Insert the dowel rod piece.

5. After the glue dries, trim down the dowel rod with a fine toothed
saw (a hacksaw works well).

6. Patch the spot with wood putty and sand.

If the hole is less than 1/8" in diameter:

1. Glue one or two toothpicks into the hole.

2. After the glue dries, trim off the excess toothpick material.

3. Patch the spot with wood putty and sand.


If the saw cut was barely started before the error is discovered, then
the cut can generally be removed by rounding the area with sandpaper,
or by patching the cut with wood putty.

If the saw cut is significant, but does not go all the way through the
wood, then the choice is between starting again with a new block, or
including the saw cut into the design. For example, if the cut is made
such that a mirror cut could be made on the opposite side, then the
cut could be design feature. Note how the saw cuts on the rear of this
car represent the feathers of the arrow:

If the saw cut goes completely through the car, then the design must
be modified or the process must be started again with a new block.
When deciding if the design can be modified, please note that:

1. Cars less than 7" long generally run slower than cars of the
maximum length.

2. If the car's profile is reduced, then additional weight must to be
added to compensate for the removed wood.


Getting a nice paint job takes practice, a good quality paint (mixed
very well), a smooth finish, a painting location with no wind or dust,
and the correct ambient temperature. Even then, runs can happen if
too much paint is applied.

So first, check the directions on the paint and follow them. Next,
apply several thin coats of paint, instead of one or two thick coats.

But when the inevitable run does occur don't panic.

1. If you plan on applying additional coats of paint, allow the run to
dry and then sand it off. You may have to sand off quite a bit of
paint, and then reapply a few coats.

2. If you have finished painting, then cover the run with a nice decal
or sticker. Decals are great for hiding paint runs and other flaws in
the car finish!


I hope this gives you some ideas for correcting the minor catastrophes
that occur when working on your car. But remember, mistakes are part
of the process - and is a method by which we learn. So be forgiving of
yourself or your child (or parent) and move forward. Mistakes happen
to everyone, and in the words of Red Green, "Remember, I'm pulling for
you; we're all in this together." (Unfortunately, the handyman's
secret weapon is not very useful on pinewood derby cars!)

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 2, Issue 11

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