Here are the instructions that we use, by way of an introduction to this activity:
Participants should design, build and decorate their cars before the race night by carving their desired shape from the balsa wood using a craft knife. Weight may be added and the car finished with paint and decoration. The cars will be gravity powered as they run on our purpose‐built sloping track. Prizes will be awarded based on speed but also design and creativity.
Traditionally, the kits that are used in the US for Pinewood Derby events contain a block of pine wood as part of the car kit. Although there are strengths to use of this material, in my experience, in order to get a good shape and finish, it requires the use of power tools which not everyone has easy access to; such as a bandsaw, sander and drill.
Having surveyed a few people before our first event, I established that the average number of power tools per household wasn’t high in my local area, and there wasn’t a great deal of interest in purchasing such tools purely for the purpose of Pinewood Derby!
The reason why I chose balsa wood for the Block Cars ‘Balsa Racer’ kit is in order to make Pinewood Derby more accessible. Anyone with a handsaw, craft knife and a sheet of sandpaper has a decent chance of producing a car from the kit, on their kitchen table, that looks reasonably close to what they had originally intended! It also means that young people participating can get more involved in the process of shaping and building the car, and given the appropriate amount of adult supervision, it may also be a safer.
Of course, if you want pine for your kits, rather than balsa wood, then let me know and I’ll see what I can do!