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Fears to Cheers

November 2002 was upon us and it was that time of the year for my son
Chris and I to begin preparing for the Pinewood Derby. Last year was
our first time racing, with Chris being a Tiger. Even though we placed
third in the Tiger den (Tigers are not allowed to join in the pack
finals), I knew there was a lot of room for improvement. I vowed next
year's car would be better.

After looking for all the tips and tricks we could find on the Internet,
I felt we had developed a decent strategy in building a very fast car.
One of the ideas we picked up was to weight the car slightly above 5
ounces and to chisel away the wood (i.e., not remove any lead) during
weigh-in to bring the car's weight down to 5 ounces.

I chiseled out a small area underneath the car for the slab of weights.
We also went through the process of painstakingly ensuring that the
car's wheels were in alignment and in toe. We took our car to the post
office. The car weighed 5.1 ounces. Fantastic! I could easily take
off one-tenth of an ounce from the car if I had to.

Weigh-in day arrived. Chris and I got there 15 minutes before closing
and stood in one of three available lines to weigh the car on a scale.

"5.1 ounces." No problem. "I'll just chisel out a good portion
underneath the car and try again." We stood in line again. Rats!
Still 5.1 ounces. More chiseling. Still 5.1 ounces.

Now I was getting upset - I was chiseling away too much wood. We
decided to go to another line and try that scale. 5.0 ounces. "Hey!",
I said. "That scale says 5.1 and yours says 5.0!"

"Too bad," said the official. "You must go back to the scale on which
you started." I went back to my corner and scraped out more wood. We
got in the original line with the "uncalibrated" scale.

"5.0...no wait...5.1," said the official. "The scale said 5.0 and then
jumped to 5.1. You need to take off more." Now I was upset, which was
the worse thing I could be. I took the car back to my corner, scraped
some more wood, and then 'oops!' I tore out a chip of wood by the axle
with my chisel. Now the left nail and wheel were slightly loose. OH NO!
The alignment and toe was off, and there was only a few minutes left
before they shut down the weigh-in!

I rolled the car on the floor checking the alignment, adjusting the
wheel and nail, and all the time I was thinking "all this work,
and we'll end up last." We took the car to the scale.

"5.0 ounces!" (I think the guy felt sorry for me).

Race day arrived - my heart was racing too. Potential problems were
running through my head, "Is the alignment and toe still good? Will the
car bang against the rail all the way down the track? Will the nail and
wheel fall off?"

First place in the den, second place in the pack. I knew we would do
well all along!

David Ensminger

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 3, Issue 1

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