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How to cut your car

January 6th, 2006 · 9 Comments

Each year the dilema around pinewood derby homes is how to cut out your car. If you’re lucky you know somone with a band saw. I finally broke down and bought a band saw this year — it’s amazing how inexpensive they are getting. Mine was under $70. But if you don’t have access to a band saw, here’s some ideas how to cut the car out. Kids, this is something you’ll want an adult’s help with.

You could always go with a hand saw, but you won’t get as good of results and it will take you a long time. The biggest problem is keeping your cut level so your car is symetrical. If you go this route, clamp the car to a workbench or c-clamp it to some scrap wood before you start to cut. This will make it easier to keep the car stable while you cut it.

You can also use the above clamping method but use a jigsaw instead of a hand saw. It’s a lot faster than a hand saw and the guide on the jig saw will help keep the cut level.

Use a power sander (like a belt sander) to sand off the unwanted surfaces of the car instead of cutting them off. This is easiest with simple car shapes, but with a little imagination you can do some great stuff. One boy in our pack created a model of the Titanic using a belt sander to shape the hull and attaching extra wood for the decks, superstructure, and smokestacks. It won best of show at the pack and district levels.

Look up woodworking in your yellow pages. There may be a local company that can cut out your car for a small fee.

Ask neighbors and co-workers if they have a saw. You never know who might have the right equipment to help out.


9 comments so far ↓

  • Elisabeth // Dec 5, 2006 at 8:30 am

    How does the removal of sections of wood add speed? I see so many cars with cut-out sections.

  • Adam Kalsey // Jan 16, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    It’s to reduce the rotational inertia of the car. By cutting out sections of the car, you can have better control over the location of the weight in your car.

    See for more information on this concept.

  • misty // Dec 27, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    so, can kids do this? or should the adults do this? or can kids do this with the assistance of an adult?

  • Reed C // Mar 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    My son cut his own wedge shaped car with a hand coping saw. Then he curved the top edges on our belt sander. Best if parent and child do practice cuts to get them straight.

  • Don // Jan 20, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I had a mini electric coping saw that we just sold in a garage sale because I haven’t used it in years. Now I need a saw to cut our car and have to ask all our neighbors if they have something. So far, I have a jigsaw which is not the greatest for a large chunk of wood.

  • Michael Blue // Jan 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    This was by far our biggest hurdle this year; our first year “back” into this hobby. Hand coping saw, plastic “miter” saw (don’t bother with the plastic casing miters, they flex too much), etc. Ugh. Definitely buying a band saw for next year.
    However, most home improvement stores will make basic, straight cuts for a very small fee, if you have your wood marked for them.

  • Gonzo // Jan 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    If you live in a town with a Woodcraft store have your child hand the old guy the car with the outline drawn on it, and it will majically reappear cut to spec.

    This also works at at almost any build to order woodworking shop.

  • Scott // Apr 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Another way to shape a car is with a rasp and a file, with the wood block clamped into a vise. Takes about 30 minutes to remove about half of the wood block, and is very handy for sculpting in smooth curves. After the file, sanding is a snap.

  • Dave // Nov 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I think the goal of this is the parent/child relationship building and skill development. It seems a shame to have your child hand it off to someone else only for them to do the work. Side by side, hand by hand. Power tools are helpful, but a handheld coping saw, file/rasp, and some sandpaper will get the job done every time.

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