Hardware store helps Scouts craft pinewood racers

Hardware store helps Scouts craft pinewood racers

Bill Coffey leaned over his son, helping the 6-year-old wield a handheld sander as they crafted an ordinary looking block of wood into a Pinewood Derby racer at Old Town Hardware Saturday.

I can do it, Alexander Coffey told his father over the din of power tools, deftly sand down his oblong design. The Coffeys were one of a dozen or so families taking advantage of Rich Heilman’s third annual Pinewood Derby workshop, a chance to use the hardware store owner’s tools and personnel. 

Heilman, the father of a Cub Scout himself, got the idea to host a seminar from a similar workshop his son’s pack had done for years. For the uninitiated, engineering a Pinewood Derby car is an annual rite for scouts and their parents. When finished, the weighted, greased and painted racer is pitted against competitors’ designs in an all or nothing race for pack bragging rights.
But with a kit composed of a pine block, axles, wheels and little more than a few helpful instructions from the Boy Scouts of America, the project can be daunting, Heilman said. 

We get a lot of dad’s saying they just don’t have the tools, he said. Some people have never done it. It’s a good chance to talk to other parents and get good ideas.
While there are some restrictions the maximum car weight is five ounces the sky’s the limit when it comes to design. The Coffey boys tried to take advantage of a pointed nose for better aerodynamics, said Alexander, although he can’t spell the word if you ask him.    

Some, like Robert Lamb and his son Robert Jr., consulted the Internet before settling on a shape modeled after a classic American muscle car. It’s a special project for Robert, who remembers racing a Pinewood Derby car as a child. It’s exciting to do it again as a father, he said.

When I was a kid, when I was his age, I had the winning car, the senior Lamb said. For us it’s more about just working on it together. Winning would be nice, but it’s more about working on it together.

Saturday’s seminar was the first of three workshops Heilman will host at his South Washington Street store. Scouts still trying to figure out how to transform a pine block into a sleek, racing machine are welcome to return on January 15 and 22 for help.