Yeah, OK, I'm a Derby Dad. The shoe fits; I'm wearing it. Those of you who have been around for a few years have seen the lengths I went to for Fiona's cars the last two years. Well, this year, it was Aiden's turn to get the full treatment.
Trying to make up for the last-minute nature of last year's entry, and, realizing that I
had to er, got to make two cars this year, I bought a couple of extra kits and decided to get an early start. (There's an enormous amount of irony here, but I'll talk about that later.)
So, I asked Aiden what he wanted to make. Sky's the limit, I said — I figured I'd let him choose, and I'd worry about how to implement it. Well, Aiden went beyond the sky, and said he wanted a space ship. I heartily agreed, and we started sketching.
Well, I started sketching, anyway. Where Fiona can't do enough on projects like this, I was finding it hard to keep Aiden involved past the first five minutes. I don't know why; I just haven't figured out how to connect with him and motivate him yet. He's a mystery to me in so many ways. So I did this largely in five- to ten-minute segments, as long as the attention held out. Maybe I'm a bad dad, I don't know. But I'm trying.
Around the beginning of July, we watched the final flight of Atlantis, and something clicked in my mind. Instead of making up a spaceship, I asked Aiden, would you like to make a model of a real one? Aiden liked it, and the plan fell into place.
Fortunately, the details of shuttle design are well-represented on-line, and some quick calculations showed that the whole thing, tank, boosters, and all, would fit very neatly into the required pine car sizes at 1:300 scale. Better yet, there were plenty of patterns at that exact scale for people that liked to build paper models. A few printouts, and we had our blueprints. We could start cutting.
Fortunately, Aiden enjoys sanding. This is something I have a hard time explaining; Fiona really enjoyed sanding, too, both of them way more than I expected. Maybe it's the "hands-on"-ness of it, which isn't there for the cutting or painting. Not sure. Another thing I learned? Emery boards are perfect for kids and sanding. you can get all kinds of little details, in sizes just right for little fingers. A few bucks for a pack of 50 is a bargain, too.
The orbiter went together in several pieces:
Then it was time for painting. One of the things that has always frustrated me about the pine car derby is the fact that the weeks and months preceding it are almost without fail COLD. Spray paint doesn't dispense properly below about 50°F, and it's hard to get a really smooth finish without it. Fortunately for this car, we got the main painting done back in August. The rest of the cars had to be done indoors, in the shed, with the little wall heater running full blast for at least an hour ahead of time.
The final product went together the night we had to turn the cars in.
I'm pretty happy with how the final product came out. Aiden was, too.