Tuesday, May 01, 2012

All That Non-Wasted Time

At this point, I should probably point out that I'd been working on Fiona and Aiden's Pine Derby cars, off and on, for nearly a year. Given the last-minute nature of the previous year's entry, I'd vowed to get an earlier start. I bought some extra kits, and we worked on them leisurely throughout the year.

Then, three weeks before the actual race, I picked up the rule sheet for this year's competition. I knew I was in trouble.

See, the previous years had been something of an arms race, with dads doing their best to outdo each other. There were lathed wheels, alignment tools, and plated axles. This year, they'd joined up with the local Cub Scout pack, and were using the stricter rules that mandated a lot less technological warfare, and a lot more child involvement. I'd spent 10 months of quality time with both Fiona and Aiden, and both their cars were disqualified, right out of the gate.

The saving grace here was a provision for a "family" category, where serious parental involvement was allowed. If we raced, both Boot Monster Big Rig and Great Endeavour would have to go in this category. Fiona could have raced in the main, but I'd moved the axles, which was verboten. To claim Aiden had done the majority of the work on his would have been quite a stretch. So I put the question to them: Did they want to race just the cars we'd made? Or did they want to race in the regular heats, against everyone else, using the stricter rules, and new cars? Or . . . both?

To my surprise, even though we just had a few weeks to go, they chose "both." So, once again, we were making cars from scratch, right down to the last minute. I handed them each a sheet of paper, and told them to draw what they wanted for their "regular" cars.

Aiden drew a wobbly wedge, and said he wanted to paint clocks on it. Fiona went over to the fishtank and drew the lobster.

We got right on that.

First step, of course, was getting our model to pose for us.

Modifying the design for the block.

I did the tricky cuts, but Fiona stood there for an hour, sanding, sanding, sanding until she got the shape she wanted.

Ready to paint. We had to pre-heat the shed for an hour to get it warm enough for spray painting.

I'm glad we had a practice run before starting to paint. There's a few lessons to be had here on technique and, well, keeping paint out of your eyes.

Lobstery the Lobster, ready to race!

Aiden's car needed a different approach. I smoothed out his lines a little, and cut pretty much exactly what he had drawn — which took all of two minutes. Painting it didn't take much longer. What could we do to make it really cool?

Aiden found this really cool paint, which dried to look like hammered gold.

Aiden just wanted to paint clocks on it, but I thought this might be a bit difficult for someone who was still learning how to write. After mulling it over for a while, I asked if he would like to put some real-looking clock hands on it. Aiden enthusiastically agreed. So we went on-line. Google Images is a wonderful thing: thousands upon thousands of clock hands, right there, isolated, and ready to use. We picked some out that we liked and his "print."

A little glue and a hair dryer later, and the designs were stuck to some small scraps of wood.

Guiding Aiden's hands as we cut out the ornate shapes on the scroll saw.

Once we'd cut out the hand, a few seconds on the sander removed the original paper, leaving us with the scrollwork. A little black spray paint and a dowel finished the look.


We called it "Time Machine."

Next up: Race Day: An Embarrassment of Riches.