It’s a good thing I’m so naturally crafty and handy and oh wait no I’m not

It was supposed to be so simple: take the little block of wood, cut it into a car-like shape, slap some paint on it, attach the wheels, ta-dah, done, finished, no sweat.

Of course, when it comes to me, nothing is simple … particularly a pseudo-carpentry project.

You need a Pinewood Derby website? Well, hot damn: I’m your man. I can code the living shit out of your Pinewood Derby website. You need me to make a functional Pinewood Derby car out of a block of wood? Yeah? How ’bout I just conjure up some fucking unicorns for you while I’m at it?

Actually, it wasn’t the mere fact that I had to make a functional car out of a block of wood that unnerved me; it was that I had to make a functional car out of a block of wood well enough so that it could hold its own against all the other cars—cars that I was quite certain were being crafted by dads who all had, like, engineering degrees and previous Pinewood Derby experience … and, you know, tools.

And it wasn’t that I gave a shit if the other cars made by the other dads beat ours in the race; it was that my 6-year-old son was counting on me to not be THAT dad … the one who makes the shitty car that all the other kids laugh at and whose owner they ostracize and taunt until the day that child shows up at the prom and gets blood dumped on him as a prank and subsequently uses his telekinetic powers to burn the whole fucking place down with everyone still in it.

So, yeah, maybe I was putting some unnecessary extra pressure on myself. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But, seriously, I had no idea where to even start. Was I supposed to be issued Pinewood Derby-car-design knowledge at the same time I was granted a penis? Because, if so, I got robbed. (Insert inadequate-penis joke here.)

“OK, no problem,” I thought. “This is exactly the sort of thing that the Internet’s for, right? I’m sure there’s plenty of info online that I can tap into.”

And, yeah, there’s plenty of Pinewood Derby info on the Internet … enough info, in fact, that one could conceivably create the most spectacularly kick-ass Pinewood Derby car of all time … so long as you’re willing to buy, like, special molds made specifically for straightening the nails that hold the wheels on the car, and you have access to every woodworking tool in Santa’s workshop, and you own your own airbrush machine.

No, seriously:

I don’t know what’s scarier: the fact that someone did that much work on a nail, the fact that someone made a video about the work they did on that nail, or the “HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE, THIS NAIL-FILING STUFF IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!” musical accompaniment. Pretty sure it’s a three-way tie.

And that video is just one of the many Internet resources available for every conceivable type of Pinewood Derby minutiae you can possibly imagine … the discovery of which made me break out in a flop sweat, for I was certain that all the other dads would be going to similarly insane lengths while constructing their cars.

In a desperate attempt to come up with some kind of workable plan, I paid $12.95 for a downloadable PDF of design instructions for building a Pinewood Derby car. No, I am totally not even kidding. The digital booklet contained plans for three types of cars, two of which appeared to require assistance from NASA, and one of which was, essentially, a doorstop. Guess which one I picked?

Perhaps the most unintentionally funny part about the Pinewood Derby is that the car ostensibly is to be built by the child with assistance from the adult … and yet it also requires, minimally, the use of a band saw and a power drill. I’m 40 and I don’t trust me with those things, let alone a 6-year-old.

Thus, for about a week, the ever-so-little free time I had was a blur of sandpapering and drilling and hammering lead fishing weights into shapes that would fit inside the holes I had drilled in the car’s body, and applying wood putty to close up the weight-filled holes, and more sanding, and black spray-painting (how creative!), and a positively painful hour or so of cutting with an Xacto knife one botched “Batman” logo after another, until finally, the night before the big event, I ended up with the thing you see above.

Did I mention that it had to weigh five ounces? Because it had to weigh five ounces … which, of course, meant that, when Zan and I arrived (barely on time, as is my custom) at the race site on the morning of the Pinewood Derby and the grown man in the Scout garb at the weigh-in table placed Zan’s car on the scale, the display read “5.13” ounces.

“That’s a problem,” Scout Man said to me as I pictured grabbing him by his sanctimonious head and introducing his nose to the table that stood between us.

“Awesome!” I replied, and then, using a small screwdriver as a chisel, engaged in a desperate attempt to pry from the car’s underside one of the lead weights hidden beneath the wood putty. Five minutes and one bleeding finger later, I succeeded … because, quite frankly, failure was not an option; I would have gnawed through that car like a fucking beaver to get that weight out before I would have let my son get disqualified from this stupid-ass race that I so badly wanted to put behind me. (And I’ve already addressed the randomly assigned car number, so let’s just move on, shall we?)

Fortunately, Zan was oblivious to all of this drama. All he knew was that I had made him a Batmobile, and he liked it, and it performed admirably … even managed to nab first place during one of the four heats in which it ran.

He was happy. And that is the only reason I do all this shit.

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  1. Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    That is so funny!!! No, I never had to make a pinewood derby car, but I’ve “helped” with plenty of other crazy school projects like miniature state floats and log cabins built out of popsicle sticks and marshmallows…oh, the memories…you brought them all flooding back! Now I won’t be able to sleep tonight!
    But you’d do it all again for that big smile on your son’s face!!! The joys of parenthood… 🙂

  2. Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Omg, I love that you guys, with the black and awfully phallic little (er, BIG!) car got randomly assigned #69. Dude, you did a great job – and your boy is clearly very happy with the results. He’s so glad you’re not one of the whackjobs who buys a customized nail form – that’s when the project completely ceases to be about father-son bonding and becomes a whole ‘nother beast. I say, well done, DS!

  3. Posted March 29, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my. We just went through this. Funny thing is, my husband’s a contractor–with all the necessary tools–but since he’s all serious about having our son actually help with the car it looked far worse than yours. Really. Needless to say we lost to the douchebag “designer” dude who literally makes two models of the car – one his son is allowed to play with and the one he races (with a glass-like finish, perfect axles, and a paint job that would make Nascar proud). You would NOT believe what he comes up with. But we’re content to say he’s an asshat and tell our son that he did good work. BTW — I was passing through the Michael’s store the other day and there was a HUGE display of Pinewood Derby stuff (chisel sets, colorful wheels, special paints, etc) that might come in handy in the future.

  4. Posted March 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I seriously just laughed out loud reading this. We quit scouts just before the pinewood derby.

  5. Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    OMG This is hilarious! And I can’t believe there are videos dedicated to Pinewood Derby! I’d never even heard of it until your earlier post. Maybe it’s just a Boy Scout thing? I did the Girl Scout thing for about five minutes.

    Good to have you back 🙂

  6. Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help but sit here and grin knowing my son will someday be a boy scout and my husband will be just like you. I kinda like that. Not the pain and torment part but the being a good guy and an outstanding dad part. By-the-way, yes, I just called you a good guy and an outstanding dad.

  7. Posted March 30, 2010 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    So glad we had girls . . .

  8. Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    My husband and son will be doing this project as well soon. I am not at all “handy” and well, neither is the hubby but my son wanted to do it with daddy! Thank god for that! HA!

  9. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    If my son joins scouts, we’re going on vacation during pinewood derby week. I love my husband; he’s very talented and funny, but there is NFW I’m going to let the man who almost lopped off his fingertip with the lawnmower anywhere near a bandsaw.

  10. gail
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Yay, you! Well done, even with the bloody finger. You’ll get better at this, trust me.

  11. Posted March 30, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    That totally reminded me of when my brother had to build his car, back in 400BC. My dad owned practically every tool in Santa’s workshop, so that helped. My son is going to be up against it if it ever comes to this in his lifetime, because we own none of the appropriate tools. Congrats to you and Zan.

  12. Lucy
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Hi! Long time reader, but this is my first comment. Are you ready? Here it is:
    There’s an episode of South Park that you might enjoy. It’s called pinewood derby.
    Oh, and I really love your blog! Thanks for writing it.

  13. Fabs
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    You did good! I hate the stress of these kinds of “kid” things, but they only remember the fun parts.

  14. Posted March 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    That video music is just hilarious.

    Yet again though, another great blog. I love your writing style and look forward to every new update here. You’re craziness and your love from your family is a touching – and very entertaining – morning read.

    Great job on the car and congrats to Zan on his win!
    .-= Jessie´s last blog ..The One Where There’s Too Many Things in Par – Parenth … Brackets =-.

  15. Gayle
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    OMG, I laughed until I cried! What is up with that YouTube video on nail filing?? I am so glad that you choose to spend your time making much more useful videos like playing air guitar in your underwear!

    But your sweet boy has a huge smile and a ribbon and that is the ultimate pay-off!

  16. Posted March 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I remember my Dad going through pinewood derby with my brother Jeff…..
    I think Jeff got to pick the paint colors and maybe sand a little. All the politics of the leadweights…cripes. But now 40 years later and a shop full of tools and saws that would make Santa envious, Jeff has a booming toy biz of his own, so you just never know……
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Rosie O’Greenpetal Flower Fairy Doll =-.

  17. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    awww…the things we do for our kids! He won’t remember what it took to make it, but he will remember that you did it for him and WITH him! Kudos daddy!
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..What happens to all the teeth… =-.

  18. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    After sitting in front of retail stores every freezing cold weekend in February listening to my Girl Scout daughters continuously ask strangers, “Would you like to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies?” so that the troop can earn a lousy .60 cents a box, I think I might rather enjoy getting to race a Pinewood Derby INDOORS. I also think Scouts (Boy and Girl) is more taxing on the parents than the boys and girls.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..The most important footage =-.

  19. Posted April 1, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    CONGRATS Zan (and Dad!)!! It turned out great! And I agree with Diana…I’ve set outside selling GS cookies…in the HEAT…because face it…we live in TEXAS…30 degrees here feels GREAT to us…so sitting inside at the derby would be a treat… I also agree that it’s more taxing on us than it is them…

  20. Gail K.
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Look up the definition of “Dad” and there you go! The smile on Zan’s face is your prize for being the kick-ass DAD that you are!!

  21. Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Permalink


    Seriously. Those pinewood derby guys R SRS. They mean Srs Biznizz.
    .-= The Domestic Goddess´s last blog ..The Suckiest Sucky Spring Break That Ever Sucked =-.

  22. Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure the car number was randomly assigned?

    The Batman logo compensates for anything that might be slightly imperfect about your car.
    .-= E.Peevie´s last blog ..The Green Room is Moving On Up =-.

  23. Posted April 7, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Great job on the car!

    Our Sears has Pinewood Derby days where they have a worker there to cut out the cars for any Scout that brings in the wood.

    The pictures are great. I do think though you’ve just added another reason for me not to want my son to join Cub Scouts. That is some serious business there.
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Brothers =-.

  24. Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Nice !

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