Most of the pinewood derby cars I've ever seen have very crude designs and simple shapes that can easily be cut with a saw. I thought it would be cool if I made a pinewood derby car that looked like a super car, like the LaFerrari, but I have no idea how to approach something like that.

I know of CNC type machines that can carve wood, but getting a single car cut from a service would cost hundreds of dollars, way out of my price range. Any cheap ideas?

  • Ryan, do you have a "MakerSpace" in your area? MakerSpaces are organization that offer industrial tools to the general public; kind of like a gym but with tools instead exercise equipment. Usually before a MakerSpace will allow you to use their tools they have you take a class on how the equipment works. Jan 29, 2017 at 22:14
  • There are usually a couple of points about making these sorts of things. You need to worry about speed and aerodynamics. I think some of the simple approaches to get closer to what you need you affect your overall weight regardless of you materials. These are also typically something done by children so simple designs are helpful. Are you going for looks or functionality or both? If you are considering 3d printing do you even have a budget for this and 3d drafting experience? Have you seen other derby cars that would be closer to what you were thinking?
    – Matt
    Jan 30, 2017 at 2:00

2 Answers 2


Ryan, if you're not already done...one thing that hasn't been mentioned here is a "Dremel" tool (that's the most popular brand name, for a handheld rotary grinder.) They're pretty inexpensive and come with multiple bits/heads for different uses (like, wood versus metal.) It's a faster, easier way to do soft wood shaping (versus carving and hand-sanding.) When we made my sons' Pinewood Derby cars, both won for "Best Design"... one looked a lot like the original Batmobile.


If you want to make a block of wood, like you receive as a pinewood derby blank, into a complex shape, there are a few ways you can go about this.

The lowest tech way is to hand carve, using wood carving tools such as chisels and mallets, scrapers, and knives. You'll want some sandpaper in different grits to finish smoothing the shape as you go. Sketch out what you want to achieve on the surface, make rough cuts first with a saw if needed, and then refine using your hand tools.

More info on carving can be found online.

If you want to make something more complex and have access to a CNC cutting machine which can work with wood, you can use that once you have been trained to use it. Most of the machines I've seen only work on one face of the wood at a time, so you would have to make multiple passes to carve out each side as you like.

You will also need to learn and use a 3D modeling software package that is compatible with the CNC machine you are using.

There may be a makerspace or community workshop near you where you can learn more about all of this. Finding a mentor in person will help guide your craft more quickly than reading about it. Try a search online for makerspaces or hackerspaces near you. Here's a map to get you started: https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces

  • Any way you do it, even by hand, it will be very helpful to have pictures of the front, back, top, bottom(less important), and side views. Apr 30, 2017 at 2:25

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