Poundin’ Sand – Complete!

Poundin' Sand

In my last post about my Nerdy Derby car, all you saw was a bunch of laser cut wood pieces… well, here’s the final car.

Poundin' Sand

It’s almost dimensionally the same as a standard Pinewood Derby car. The body is constructed out of panels that were laser cut rather than a block of wood. Because it’s hollow inside, I filled it with sand. Why not lead? Well, someone else is already doing a car out of lead. I also though about marbles or something else that would roll around inside. I also thought about making one with acrylic and filling it with water.

Poundin' Sand - Wheel

The bottom has two pieces of wood attached so I’d have something to pound the nail into to attach the wheels. I glued the two piece together and then drilled a hole between them. (The wood is just 3mm thick, so layering made sense.)

Poundin' Sand

I spaced the wheels the same for the front and back, so there really is no front or back… it’s the same either way. You’ll also notice I did a terrible job of placing the lettering. I just added it to the side panels without thinking about how the wheels would get in the way.

Poundin' Sand - Wheel

The wheels are also 3mm wood, and I’ve sandwiched three of them together to make each wheel 9mm wide. I was going to glue the layers together but I figured I’d just put them on and allow them to spin independently (if possible.)

If this car wins nothing besides the “laser cut wood filled with sand” category, I’m fine with that. I learned quite a bit in the process of building this, and if I build another car, I have some experience to build on. (I also managed to cut a big pile of wheels and have nails to fit them, so we can have supplies for people to make cars on the spot.)

Update: Files are now on Thingiverse.


Nerdy Derby – Poundin’ Sand

Poundin' Sand

If you saw my last post about the Nerdy Derby we are planning, you probably figured at some point you’d see a car. Well, here’s my progress so far.

I cut the pieces from 3mm Baltic Birch plywood using the 60 watt laser cutter at Milwaukee Makerspace. Even the wheels are laser cut. I have no idea how well it will work, but I’m all for experimentation.

I’ve heard at least one person claim they will be building a car body completely out of lead, but I figured I already have plenty of sand around my house, so I plan to fill my car with sand, hence the name “Poundin’ Sand” (some of the runners-up included “Carl Sandburg”, “Sandoval”, “Sandy Bottom”, and “Adam Sandler”, but since “pound sand” sometimes means to engage in a futile activity, I thought it was fitting.

Besides, I’ve already awarded all the style points to Frankie for his belly tanker even though he’s not done yet, come on, just look at it!

Besides the glue to hold it together, the nails to hold the wheels on, and the sand, the rest of my car is 100% laser cut wood. I’m also planning another car that is (nearly) 100% 3D printed plastic. I’ve got some work to do on that yet, though the wheels should be done this week.

(Update: See the completed car.)


Nerdy Derby

Nerdy Derby

Coming across the Internet via our old pal Matt Richardson is this thing called The Nerdy Derby which is, well, here’s how they describe it:

The Nerdy Derby is a no-rules miniature car building and racing competition inspired by the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby. With a larger, more undulating track and no restrictions on the size of the cars or materials participants can use, the Nerdy Derby rewards creativity, cleverness and ingenuity.

So I thought this was a cool idea, and I think I’ve been able to convince some of the other Milwaukee Makerspace members that’s it a good idea, and we’re planning out first race.

We’re still nailing down the specifics on the track. We may use a standard issue track at first, or meld it with our own modified parts, TBD. Anyway, I’m hoping we can have at least one race on our own, and then we hope to bring it to BarCampMilwaukee7 on October 6th and 7th, 2012.

Car Kit

So start building your cars! And yeah, (almost) anything goes. (As long as it doesn’t damage the track.) Electronics? Cheese? Magnets? Whatever you can come up with.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve built a Pinewood Derby Car, so I thought I should brush up a bit. I ordered a standard kit, just to see it and get the physical dimensions. (And you can get a kit for less than $5.00 or if you want 10, they’ll come out to less than $4.00 per kit.)

But you don’t need a kit… all you need is something that will roll down the track. You got a box of LEGOs? Or something roundish? Go for it.

Axels and Wheels

I ended up getting a bunch of nails that are close enough to the right size, and I plan to try two things: laser cut a bunch of wheels, and 3D print a bunch of wheels. If I can make enough wheels, I’ll supply them to whoever needs them. As for the body of the car, we should have enough scrap wood at the Makerspace to provide plenty of cars.

You want in? Good. We’d love to have you in our race… Details to follow!

See Also:


Winter can suck it!


It’s been two days of cold weather.

What do I define as “cold weather” exactly?

It’s “cold weather” when I have to enter my car in the morning by crawling through the back door because all the other doors are frozen shut.

On a good day I can get out of my car at work using the driver’s side door instead of exiting via the back door.

I haven’t had a “good” day yet.

But hey, I should only have to deal with this for about 6 more months before it warms up.


Petey’s Big Adventure

Homeless or just locked out?

Well, I had quite an adventure this week… On Wednesday I managed to lock myself out, twice… and spent most of the morning trying to get back in.

Wednesday morning I walked out of the house (I was the only one home, as the wife was out of town all day) and went to the car, opened the door, started the car, put my bag in the car, pulled out the brush, and started clearing the snow off the car. Oh, I also closed the car door. This was my first mistake. See, my door lock doesn’t exactly work right. It has this great feature I call “auto-lock” where it remains locked unless you follow a specific procedure. For the last year or so I’ve managed to follow this procedure every time I’ve opened the door. Except this time.

I quickly realized I’m locked out of the car. And the car is running. And my keys are in the car. And my bag is in the car. Not good.

The spare key for the car is with the wife, who is more than an hour away, and has meetings for the next 12 hours. Even more not good.

The nearest house key is at school with my daughter, but I can’t easily get there. Also not good, but not bad, as she has a half-day, and will be home within 5 hours.

What to do… I manage to get into the garage, as that door was not locked. Of course I could only open it 1/3rd of the way, so I slid under it onto the solid sheet of ice that is the garage floor. Luckily, I have a weird assortment of tools in the garage, so I went to work fashioning a tool to break into the car. I was unsuccessful. I also attempted to break into the house. No luck.

I called the property manager, but he was in a meeting. I waited for him to call back, while sitting on a lawn chair, in the middle of the garage.

At this point I just had to kill time… how do you kill time without spending much money? The library!

Sadly, the library didn’t open until 9:30, and it wasn’t even 8:45. I ended up going to the Lumber Inn for breakfast (since mine was locked in the car) and by 9:15 I headed over to the library. I wandered around City Hall, which took approximately 4 minutes, and then waited for the library to open.

A delivery guy went into the library, I asked if it was open yet, he said no. Then a woman came into the building, stuck her arm near a wall, and went into the library. I was intrigued by this and thought I should try it. When I got to the door, I saw a card reader that I assumed she used. Nevertheless, the door was open. I walked in… slowly… and the library staff stared at me like I was planning on stealing all the books. I asked if they were open and they said “Not yet, a few more minutes” and then the woman I saw said “Oh, sorry! I must not have closed the door!” So I said asked if I should leave and come back in a few minutes, and they said yes and made me go wait outside the doors for the next few minutes. No. I’m not kidding. They kicked me out of the library and told me to come back when they were open, which, by now, was roughly 120 seconds into the future. If I had talked any slower, or asked more questions, I probably could have run the clock down. But yeah, they tossed me out. Crazy.

So I sat on the steps for about 100 seconds or so, and about 6 people came into the building all at the same time… 9:30 exactly. I assume they all know there is no way you’ll get into the library early.

We get in and about 4 of us head straight for the computers. Online at last! I manage to check email again, and do a few things for work, and finally by 10:45 the property manager calls, and he tells me he’ll meet me at the house and let me in.

I get back to the house and he lets me in, and tells me he has a car guy that can get me in the car for $50. I figured that I’d just let it run since I had less than $15 in gas in the tank. By the way, I got 0 mpg that day…

Once inside the house, I was able to get a bit more work done. The kids finally got home (half-day!) and I shared the story with them. I then devised a plan to siphon the gas from the car so it wouldn’t consume it all. I tested the siphoning in the house with water, then went outside, only to realize I couldn’t get to the gas tank since the release lever was inside the car. I tried to break into that as well. Unsuccessfully.

Eventually (8:45 that night) the wife came home, unlocked my car (which locked again, which I then unlocked again) and I shut it off, and got my bag out of it. The car didn’t run out of gas, but it was about 80 degrees in the car and the butter and cheese I had in my lunch bag were a bit melty.

I wished my bag wasn’t in the car, because it had files on it wanted to work on. Now you CloudFreaks™ will tell me I should keep all my files “in the cloud” but my files consisted of hundreds of hi-res photos that were over 5GB. Even if they were online, it would have taken me a full day to download them all.

So the moral of the story is, I’m ordering a lock pick set. OK, that’s not really a moral, but it’s what I’m doing.