Monday, May 25, 2015

Pinewood Derby Race Set


This could hardly be considered a wood carving but since it is made from wood and this is my blog: So it qualifies! 

It was recently decided that my wife and I would have Grandkid duty for a couple of days in the early part of June while our daughter is working.  They live in another town so we have been thinking about the types of things that we could/should take with us to entertain two 7 years olds and two 8 year olds for long stretches of time.  One of the things that we came up with was a pinewood derby set.  Any race track design carried with it an additional requirement: it had to have the capability to be disassembled for transport.

Four Completed Cars Ready to Race
I started with the cars.  I went to my favorite hobby store with the intent to buy four Official Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car kits.  As it turns out, doing that wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed it would be.  I was there in late April only to discover that the “official Pinewood Derby Racing Season” was over and that all of the “regulation” car kits had already been pulled from the shelves and stored for next year.  All that remained on the shelves were the fancy, to say nothing of expensive, brand name kits.  Some of these kits cost as much as I had hoped to spend for the entire set…and that was just for one car!

 They did, however, still have sets of official Pinewood Derby wheels on the shelves so I snatched up four sets and went home.  Fortunately, Basswood is something that I got a lot of, so I figured that I would just design and build my own cars.

Note the track alignment pins protruding from the tops of pylons
Visions of fancy race car designs danced in my head as I drove home but after a quick sobering walk around the block I realized that to show up with four different cars was only to ask for problems as far as which kid got which car.  I decided that it was a better idea to make them all exactly the same.  I  settled on a relatively bland 1930s, open cockpit, retro race car design and made four cars as identical as I could.  Their mother specifically requested that no “kid painting” be involved…hmmm…Gee, I wonder why. :-)  So, I sprayed them with a coat of polyurethane and we purchased some details so that the kids could personalize them. 

I thought about the track for quite some time and finally decided that 3 pieces of ¼” Luan underlayment (15” x 48”) connected end to end would make a reasonable race track.  Easy to assemble and transport. I built 3 pylons of progressively lower heights to support the race track.  

Each pylon has a set of dowel pins sticking out of its top to lock the track sections together.  I added a tab to the underside at the upper end of each track section to force it to be flush with the next higher track section to minimize the chance of a bump where two sections meet.  The idea works “pretty well”, but not perfectly.  You do have to run your fingers over the seam to make sure that everything lines up correctly and adjust things accordingly.

I ripped down a number of ¾” wide strips from the same Luan sheet and glued them to the track sections to form the lanes.  If I was to do this over again, I would either use something thicker or glue down a second strip on top of the first one, because the cars “can” still jump the rail.

Track and Pylon Details
I made the pylons out of more pieces of the Luan glued together with blocks in the corners for strength.  I used thicker pieces of pine along the inside edges at the end of each pylon to give the alignment dowels something substantial to be glued to.  The original Pylon heights were 6”, 4” and 2” with about a ¼” slope (in the direction of travel) to the top.

I had done some preliminary testing to see how much height I would need to give the cars a decent starting speed to make it a real race.  At first, it seemed that a 6” high starting pylon to be plenty high enough.  But, after completing the entire course I discovered that I really needed another 4” or so at the top to really get the cars moving at a speed that a 7 or 8 year old would like.  So, I build a four sided box with a rabbit around the inside for the original first pylon to sit down into.  Fortunately, because the track is relatively flexible, I discovered that the other two pylons could remain unaltered.  This 10+ inch high starting point sends the cars off at a nice, exciting speed.
I used polyurethane on the track sections and used some red, white and blue spray paint to give the pylons a little added flair.

Starting Gate
The starting gate is partially my design but the concept is based on a “how-to video” that I found on the making a Pinewood Derby race course.  The design uses a main shaft (a piece of ½ plastic pipe) to hold four short pieces of ¼” dowel that stick up through the track, one in each of the four lane of the track.  Each car is positioned on the track with its nose resting against one of these car retaining pins.  
The main shaft is mounted to the underside of the top section of the track using 5 blocks of wood.  A ¼” dowel runs through the support blocks to act as a “stop” for the car retaining pins after the gate has been released.  

 One end of the main shaft has an elbow and a short piece of pipe that form a handle used to “cock” the mechanism.  The other end has a small cylindrical collar fastened to it.  
 
View of Underside of Starting Gate
 The gate release is a short section of ½” dowel that sits in a short length of plastic pipe.  The gate release is locked into a hole on the perimeter of the collar by a spring located in the base of the pipe.  When the gate release is retracted, the main shaft, which is rubber band powered, is released and rotates forward.  Each of the dowels snaps down through its slot in the track, releasing all four cars simultaneously, auto-cross style.  

The rubber band used to “power” the starting gate is looped over the car retaining pin in the second lane (going l-to r) and is stretched to the retainer under the track near the top edge.



Operation of the Starting Gate

video

 

How Well Does it Work?   You be the judge!  Yeah, there was a bit of bumper cars goin' on there:-)

video
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Here's My latest Lettered Lovespoon

I've completely lost track of just how many lettered Lovespoons that I have completed so far.  The number has to be in the high 30s or low 40s by this time.  This is just the latest in the series.  Lady's initial on top, guy's initial on the bottom and they are locked together.  In this case, really locked!

This spoon is a bit special in that I was also able to incorporate the "S" of the customer's last name into the handle.  Most letters don't lend themselves to that.

This one was part of a two spoon donation to an auction to help raise funds for church youth trip to Detroit this summer.   That's reminds me, I really have to ask the buyer of the other spoon about what she is looking for in her spoon.  She made an appointment to talk about it but a school snow-day dashed those plans.

I don't have too much else to say about this one except that I'm glad that it actually worked out.  Most of the time Basswood is very forgiving, but the piece that I cut this spoon out of was very fibrous and kept breaking away as I carved.  I had quite a time.  Thank goodness for sandpaper and polyurethane!  It took a lot of sanding to make it smooth.

'Til Next Time...Keep Makin' Chips!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Passing of one of the “Good Guys”



Tommy (on the right) and Ray (on the left)

I was greatly saddened to hear this morning that we have lost a really, good guy.  Well…at least someone who could greatly improve the mood a cloudy Saturday morning with his wit and antics... Tommy Magliozzi, the older of the two “Tappet Brothers” on NPR’s Car Talk.  I’ve been a loyal listener for most of the 25 years or so that they have been on the air.  

In case you did not "know" Tommy, he and his brother Ray had an 11 AM (at least here in Pittsburgh) Saturday morning show that ostensibly was about cars and car repairs but as the newscaster said this morning, “…was really more about two brothers who loved life and each other.”  My wife, who is not a car buff by any stretch of the imagination, looked forward to listening to the show any time we were riding around together on a Saturday morning.  One time, she was even able to answer a caller’s question about “spongy brakes” because she had heard a similar question on a previous show and had retained the information.
 
Anyone who has heard the closing of the show is familiar with their list of fictitious “staff members” with unique names (all puns), like “Picov Andropov”, the Russian Chauffeur.   

When I was first got into wood carving, I did a number of pieces based on these names and I thought that this would be a good time to show them off.  (Note: These were "early works" so I don't feel that they are quite up to my "more recent" standards:-( but I wanted to show them off in memory of Tommy).


 
Chief of Tire Technology  -- Yessar Itsaflat
Russian Chauffeur -- Picov Andropov....Yep! that's a bottle of Vodka behind him!





Australian Tour Guide -- Joaquin Matilda

Greek Tailor -- Euripedes Imenedes
Head of Buildings and Grounds (not the sharpest pencil in the box) -- Moe D'Lawn

I guess it is fitting to close with a quote...well, no...not one, but actually, two quotes...


Ray:   "Don't drive like my brother!"

Tommy:  "Don't drive like my brother!"  (these make much more sense if you have 
listened to "Car Talk")

'Til next time...Keep makin' Chips!








Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yet Another Warther Museum


Way back in 2010, I visited and the blogged about my visit to TheWarther Museum in Dover, Ohio.  If you haven’t seen it, it is a place that all woodcarvers should visit at least once.  It houses the most amazing collection of works by possibly the world’s best woodcarver…well …OK…at least the best carver of wooden trains. 
As I mentioned on my blog back then, “The museum is not terribly impressive on the outside but on the inside it is like a fine jewel box. Each locomotive is mounted in a display case, backed with a velvet curtain, and is beautifully illuminated for maximum visibility.” 
Most of the trains have moving wheels and drive rods with tiny, dangling chains (each with dozens of individual links).  The trains are not carved from nice soft basswood (like I use) but out of unbelievably hard materials such as Walnut, Ebony and Ivory.  If that doesn’t impress you, then a glance at his tiny shop with its meager tool collection will.  How anyone with could manage to produce such fine works in such a tiny place without the aid of any power tools (if you don’t count the drill press) is beyond me.
Close up of the Rigging
Well, now, history is repeating itself.  Dave Warther is following in his grandfather’s footsteps with one slight difference. Instead of trains, he carves beautiful sailing vessels from ivory.  His ship models range from the Nile barge of the famous Egyptian pharaoh, Cheops to the largest model, the Coast Guard training ship “the Eagle”. 

Cheop's Nile Barge
Perhaps the most striking features of the ships is that even the ropes in the ships’ rigging -- of which there are hundreds -- are “carved” from ivory.  When he was only a teenager, David developed a technique for reducing the diameter of an ivory “stick” down to a strand measuring only 0.007” in diameter with amazing flexibility.  Lines that are to appear to be “pulled tight” are straight but lines that are intended to droop, do so very convincingly.


The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria
He has taken a page from his grandfather’s book.  Each of his 80 ships is displayed under a glass cover with lighting worthy of the crown jewels.  In fact, the lighting is almost too good.  The ships are so dazzling that, because of my inexperience with my brand new camera, my photos did not come out as nicely as I had hoped they would.
David’s museum located about 20 or so miles west of Dover (between Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek on Route 39) and it, too, is definitely worth the time and effort to see. I have no idea if many people get the treatment that we did, but we were lucky enough to arrive on a day when the museum tour was led by the artist himself.
So if you are visiting the Amish country of central Ohio, don’t pass up a stop at the David Warther Museum.