Pinewood Derby Speed Axles - Axle Polish Grit Level. Which is best for you?

March 19th, 2012

Pinewood derby speed axles are far from the offical pinewood derby axle that comes in the kit. It takes time and skill to turn remove those imperfections that come on the official axles into speed axles. There are many how-to's and books that show you how to do it. It just takes time and practice. Let us take that headache away. We can do it right the first time and free up that extra time needed to spend making your car body and tuning. Visit our online store

We have taken all the hassle out of figuring out this complicated process. Save time and money and check out our axle line. If you only have a few hours to dedicate to your derby build, think about maximizing that time and purchasing a set of prepped axles and wheel. Know that the job is done right. Our prepped axles have been deburred, shaped, straightened and sanded down to a 1000/2000 grit finish. From that point, each axle goes through a buffing process up to 60,000 grit. We use separate buffing wheels to ensure no cross contamination.

For dry-lube users, we offer axles that have been polished to what we believe is the perfect level for dry lube. This is the easiest way to explain it. Take a pencil. Try to write on a surface that is super shiny. See how much (graphite) sticks to the metal. Now take the same pencil and write on a surface that is a little more coarse. See how the pencil (graphite) sticks. We started from the highest level of polish we offered (60,000 grit) and worked our way down. We found that 2000 grit is that level that offers maximum speed and maximum lube retention. Although the higher grits "sound" faster, we find that after a few races, the deviation in time increases quickly and greatly.

Why is this an important thing to understand? Graphite such as Derby Dust™ Dry Lube is an effective lubricant due to its unique blends of plate like structures known as lamellae. These lamellas lay parallel to the direction of motion built during the "break in" process. The unique characteristics of Derby Dust™ Dry Lube allow the layers or lamellas to easily shear over each other resulting in low friction.

Basically explained. The coarse surface allows the graphite to stick or bond to the surface of the metal. From there, with proper break-in technique, layers of lube can be built on top of each other to ensure a friction-free surface. Check out the coefficient of friction of metal on plastic, then check out the coefficient of friction of graphite on graphite. See which is lower which means which is faster. Give yourself the best possible chance! Get the right lube for your build.

For oil lubed cars: We have found that higher the grit, the faster the car. This is why we offer 60,000 grit if you want it. Coming PWD season 2012-2013 we will offer 100,000 optical polish level! Don't waste any more time that you have to. Order yours now!


Pinewood Derby Rail Riding Axles 3000 Grit

November 6th, 2016


Pinewood Derby rail rider speed axles


Fast winning pinewood derby car designs utilize polished speed axles.

Take a look at our pictures of our quality work of pinewood derby axle close up pictures. They say it all!  Utilizing proprietary straightening, cnc machining, and polishing techniques, we produce consistent quality speed axles time after time.   Our feedback speaks for itself.

There are 4 parts to making a CHAMPION. 

  • AXLES  - Reduce friction through polishing
  • WHEELS - The lighter the wheels, the faster a car can travel
  • COG - Proper weight placement to maximize Potential energy and car travel
  • TUNING - Proper tuned car runs straight down the track!  Not side to side.



Two axles are bent at 2.5 deg (for rear wheels), one axle is bent at 1.5 deg (for front dominant wheel), and one axle is straight (for raised wheel).

or.... you can go with Blair's Favorite Pick


Three axles are bent at 2.5 deg (2x for rear wheels), one axle is bent at 1.5 deg 

You can choose which steer is better for your Build 2.5 deg or the 1.5 deg and use the other axle for the high wheel.  


What is rail riding?

If a pinewood derby car is aligned to run straight, but the track is not consistently level (very common), the car will contact the center guide rail both with the left wheels and the right wheels. it will basically wobble back and forth all the way down the track. robbing you of all your speed. If a raised wheel is used, then the raised wheel will likely contact the guide rail and start spinning. This will cancel any benefit attained from the raised wheel.

Derby Worx came up with the idea of riding the center rail. Riding the center rail keeps only one wheel touching the track and keeps a consistent travel down the track. If you are not moving back and forth, then you must be moving forward! Faster!
To compensate for the unknown condition of the track, the car can be intentionally steered such that the raised wheel does not contact the guide rail. For this discussion, we will assume that the left-front wheel is raised (if the right-front wheel is raised, then everything discussed below is reversed).

Adjust the right-front wheel so that the car drifts to the left - this keeps the left-front wheel from contacting the guide rail. With this drift, and if the rear wheels are aligned to run straight, then only the right-front wheel will contact the guide rail. To ensure that the right-rear wheel stays off the rail, the right-front of the car can be narrowed by 1/16 inch.

Tests show that when this Rail-rider technique is implemented, car performance is consistently faster than straight alignment.
We have done the work for you.

We have saved you both time and costs because you do not have to purchase the tooling.

Your choice of polish level depending on your desire. Our technique is perfected and you can see the results. Quality and Repeatability time after time.



Minimum surface removal to ensure consistent diameters throughout the shaft.  Tapered axle heads to reduce surface friction.  No cheating with polished waxes that could easily become brittle and break off! This is a real metal polish job.  We use a few fancy machines and then good old hands on skilled AMERICAN labor.  Each axle is individually inspected by two separate personnel to ensure the HIGHEST QUALITY.  Be confident we get it RIGHT the FIRST time.



Works with ALL DRY LUBES!


  • You are going to spend THE BIG BUCKS on a set of axles, then protect them.  BUY a #44 drill bit so that your axles will be installed the direction you need them to go. STRAIGHT!  Have you ever hammered a nail and it goes in STRAIGHT and not BENT?  Why would these nails be any different?  Drill a guide hole, the axle will follow!

These axles are not only FAST, they sound FAST.  How do you know?  Because they are nearly quiet when the wheel is spinning! 

 pinewood derby graphite lube


Our process makes graphite pop right on!

100K Polished Pinewood Derby Axles. Settings New Records

October 22nd, 2014


100,000 grit Optical Finish

Fast winning pinewood derby car designs utilize polished speed axles.  

Take a look at our pictures of our quality work of pinewood derby axle close up pictures.   They say it all!  


Lexx from Derby Dust has mastered the 100K  OPTICAL POLISH!  And man he has been setting track records since then.  

Even better!!!! LISTEN!!!!

Our prepped have been deburred, shaped, straightened and sanded down to a 2000 grit finish. From that point, each axle goes through a buffing process up to 100,000 grit OPTICAL FINISH!  We use separate buffing wheels to ensure no cross contamination. Then we seal the prepped axle with a Krytox sealing agent. Through our professional, industry leading, lubrication resources, we have found a substance that binds Krytox to metal. That's right a metal sealing agent that has one of the most friction less substances known to pinewood derby racing. This is NOT putting a drop krytox oil on it. This is binding Krytox to the surface of the metal.  

You can't even buy 2 of the tools needed to do this for under $25. Much less the files sandpaper, sealer, and buffing materials.

We are getting average speeds of 12.45+ feet per second out of these sets or 2.47's or less on a 30.75 foot metal track with DRY LUBE!

Get even FASTER speeds with lighter wheels.


With speeds of 15+ fps on the last 10 feet of the track.  WITH OUR GRAPHITE DRY LUBE 

No reason you can't do the same. 

Axles are wrapped in tissue paper to ship to ensure that your axles are not scratched up during shipping process.  

Best place for weight for Pinewood derby car

June 17th, 2013

Free Pinewood Derby Tips Courtesy of Derby Dust

Placing Weights in a Pinewood Derby Car

Because there are MANY more factors involved making a pinewood derby car, there are many more articles to read.  This article is only going to address WEIGHT.

  • Completed Painted car with wheels and axles to a weight of about 4.3oz
  • Tungsten Putty (1oz)
  • Ruler (attached to a base so that it is standing on its edge)
  • Digital scale measuring in .001 oz (these are rather inexpensive these days.  Less than $10 shipped from Ebay)

This is no secret to seasoned builders.  Weight placement plays an important role in how well a PWD car will perform.  There are numerous scientific equations that will explain the science behind this.   Simply put the more weight you can shit towards the rear of the car, the more "potential" energy it will have.  The key important term his is POTENTIAL.   It is believed that the more stored energy you have, the faster your car can travel.   However, the PWD world has been proven that COG (center of gravity) is the more important than shoving all the weight in the rear of the car. 

What is COG?  It is an important function in building a pinewood derby car.  COG is the balance point of your car.  This will be measured by using the ruler.  There is a COG tool on the market for those that like to spend a few extra $$$.  I'll update this once I find it again.  WHY is COG important? Putting weight randomly on your PWD car is not the key to getting the most out of your build.  Center of gravity placement should be between 1/2-1" IN FRONT of REAR axle.  This is true for all wheel base types.  Whether you are using a standard wheel base or an extended wheel base.  This has been determined not by mathematical formula, but by the PWD junkies with thousands of builds underneath their belts. I have tried to prove them different, and just came to the same conclusions as they have.

Take notice on one particular detail.  TYPE of WEIGHT.  It will not matter if your weight is lead or tungsten to achieve a fast car. Do listen to the hype.  Tungsten does not make a car faster.  Weight is Weight.  The maximum weight is 5oz.  COG does not care whether it is wood, steel, lead, or tungsten.  Before spending all your available funds on just weight, please understand this statement.   FOR all my builds, I use lead as primary weight.   Weight pocket (meaning how big a hole is drilled for lead) depends on car design.  Small profiles will need larger pockets to offset their reduction in wood weight.   For final weight,  I drill a single 3/4" forstner hole about 3/16 " deep just in front of the rear axle.  I add the remaining tungsten putty throughout this hole to properly distribute the weight according to its balance point. 

This balancing point (COG) will differ from car to car due to design, type of weight, type of wood, etc.   The first thought that comes to mind is that the most potential energy would be a weighted rear bumper.  This will not give you the fastest car.  (Actually this type of weight placement will give the car too much "push" and will cause your car to fishtail don the flat of  the track. )  Putting the weight on the front, although gets you a slightly quicker start down the curve, does not prove to be the best weight placement for the remaining flat portion of the track. The closer to a 1/2" COG (in front of rear axle), the more potential for a faster car.  From my experience, the closer the COG to the rear of the car, the more time it will take to tune it to its fastest speeds

For your first build, I suggest a 1" COG.  It will be the easiest to obtain.  It will give you a more stable ride, will require less tuning time.   Unless you have built the same design over and over, it might take some time tuning the COG.  For a preliminary run at things, cut out your body.  Sand it to near final sanding.  Drill out the holes for you weight.  If you are using the solid "plate" lead weights, it will be more difficult to distribute weight to obtain the proper COG.  I'm not a real fan of these as they have a lot of ZINC in them to make things shiny and it takes up a lot of surface area to use.  I am a big fan of 1x 3/8" hole drilled behind the rear axle, with 2x 3/8" holes in front of the rear axle as close as you can get them.  Then adding 1/4" weights.  If your build can accommodate 5/8" holes, that would only require a hole in front of and behind the rear axle using 1/2" weights.   Once you have the balancing act close, then finish the car, add the wheels, and then fine tune your COG with tungsten putty.

I suggest to bring you car (painted with wheels and axles) to a total weight of 4.3oz.  I suggest using tungsten putty for the remaing last ounce of weight.  It will be a trail and error prcoess.  Take a ruler, attach it to some sort of base so that it can rest on edge side up.  Mark the range of 1/2-1" in front of rear axle of your completed car, then start the balancing game.   Depending on your design, most builders drill holes on the bottom of the car to pocket the putty.  Use your best judgement.  You will use nearly all of the of the putty to bring it to proper weight.  By leaving the extra ounce of "ballast" you can easily move the COG to the proper location.  If you bring your car up to a higher weight, the less ballast material you have to adjust your COG.  The extra few dollars for the tungsten putty is worth the win. 

Once your COG is obtained, then the next step would be tuning your car.  Click here for the NEWEST method that is making winners out of first time builders.   Simple to see, simple to understand.  No track needed. 


How or Why do I Tune a Pinewood Derby Car?

June 1st, 2013

Free Pinewood Derby Tips curtosy of Derby Dust

Don't waste cash on packaged tips and tricks until you read all of ours for free!  Video of this is posted on YouTube.  Its posted at the very end of this article.

Without getting into all the fancy sceintific answers, the plain and simple reason to tune a pinewood derby car is for speed!  There are many different ways and theories out there.  From wax paper to set screws.  We like our method the best which shows your car traveling at its near top speed in a static setting.  Utilizing a treadmill, you can see your car at its top speed while making all the necessary real-time adjustments.  NO NEED for a PLASTIC test track! 

Don't own a treadmil?  I bet you know someone that does.  Buy them dinner, use it for an hour or two.  Beg, Borrow, Barter.  Do what it takes to get your win! 

Because a pinewood derby car is only powered by its stored gravity at the top of the track, you must tune your car so that it will use that stored energy to get the car to move down the track.  If this is your first derby, or your last derby, take a few minutes to educate your self about TUNING a pinewood derby car.

Tuning your car keeps the car moving forward.  That is the ideal direction.  A car that travels side to side, bumping each side of the car will not get you in the winner's circle.  A car that fish tails will not get you in the winners circle.  Grandpa's car wins becuase he puts the time in making sure the car does not do this.  There is NO aftermarket part that will replace this step in building a car.



Setup: Install the wheels and axles on the car, use the gap gauge to properly gap wheels. Mark the 12 o'clock position on all wheels with sharpie, depending on setup.

Tape the string on the center of forward kick plate of your treeadmill, and tape it to center on the front of the car.

Dust the wheels and axles with Derby Dust Dry Lube.

Turn the treadmill on. 1-2mph at first. If incline is available, 1 degree would be great.
Note the characteristics of the car. If it is swerving all over the place, there is a lot of work to be done. If it pulls to one direction or the other, directional tuning needs to be done to get to a slight deviation off center for a center rail rider (3 wheels) or center (4 wheels).

The goal is to get your car to deviate just slight off center to make a center rail rider or straight down the middle if you have one of those type of races.

Using pinewood derby tuning pliers, make an adjustment on a single axle turning 1/8th of a turn or less until you have made up to one complete rotation. If no change in deviation, then move to another axle on the car, and repeat process. Continue this process until you get the car to be off center or straight down the middle, depending on your car and race scenario.

If no change is noted after adjusting all axles, then you will need to bend one axle. 1.5 degree would be best. I would install that axle on the front. Repeat tuning process until deviation is obtained. If no change, make sure the bent axle is touching the ground. If so, then the bent axle needs to be moved to the rear side of the direction of deviation and then tuned. If no change is noted, move axle to opposite side of car. Bending more than one axle is counterproductive. If you car does not respond to tuning with just the bend of one axle, think about making a new car.

Point being, if your inspections requires pulling of axles, and you have more than one axle that has to be bent, there is a greater chance that all of the tuning work will be ruined.

Break in:
Once tuning is complete, turn the treadmill up to as fast as it will go. Your wheels are not going to burn up! Now observe characteristics. Note if wheels are running the way you want them to i.e. rubbing on the outer wheel hub, running in the middle of your axle, rubbing against the body. Adjustments will need to be made if not satisfied. A wheel that rubs on the body needs to be bent upward. A wheel that rubs on the axle head, needs to be bent downward. At top speed on treadmill, you will be able to visualize the performance of the car. This method is better than any "tuning board" every day of the week.

Once you are happy with the wheel play, then it is time to start building up layers of dry lube.

Add a LIBERAL amount of dry lube to all running wheels as it is traveling every 45-60 seconds. Continue this process for 10 minutes. 10 minutes at top speed should yield the equivalent of approximately 400-500 races.

This process will also yield the 20-30 second spin benchmark theory! If you have a wheel that is not performing this well, it could possibly be that it is out of balance or has a warped inner hub due to cooling during manufacturing. Replace it and start process over from beginning (SORRY!)

Using rubbing alcohol applied to a rag, remove the marks on axles without getting alcohol into the hub, then reapply new marks back in the 12 o'clock position. If you had to bend an axle, then be sure to make a mental note which one it was or mark it on the bottom of the car, and BEG your inspectors not to pull it.

After the 10 minutes and the final marking. PACK your car up, and do nothing with it until race day. If you have to pull an axle, be sure to return it to the exact spot.

No other lubing is necessary. We have not seen any data that shows any additional lube after this point helps.

What you have done by doing this process is used the cars weight under load to "roll" multiple layers of lube on the axle and wheel. You have also tuned your car to eliminate fish-tailing and gain greater speeds for your derby car way beyond a simple dust/ finger roll job. We have decided to share our research with you. This technique does not require a "drift" board, it does not require a test track, and it does not require a great knowledge regarding polishing techniques. It does build layers of near frictionless surface on both the axles and inner wheel hubs that is good for many races.

This process is very hard to describe with words, and our video will show you how simple it really is.

Why graphite coated axles are Smoke and Mirror

September 15th, 2012
I am more than positive that we will get tons of "fan mail" from this post. Just to clarify, we can make graphite coated pinewood derby axles if that is what we intended to do. However, we believe they are just a gimmick with short term gain. Therefore, we have chosen not to offer this type of product.

For the DYI, it is a simple process same as coating bullets with moly. You FIRST have to prep the axle to the level of polish you desire. The next step is basically impacting the graphite into the pwd axle with steel tumbling media. It will require more costs to invest in getting the right equipment than the average DIY will want to spend. In this sense it will be cheaper to buy the product outright if you choose to go this route. We do not believe it is the best bang for your buck.

Are the graphite coated pinewood derby axles faster than stock? Yes. How long will the graphite applied in this matter last? Usually less than 5 or 6 races. You will run through just by spinning the wheels at home. The graphite is never applied in rotational layers needed for your car to perform at its top potential. You can review many comments on multiple sites that will tell you they are good for a few races, but loose their edge after a few runs. Since most pinewood derby cars will race at least 6 times or more to compete to the finals, think about a different way to make those axles faster than buying a gimmick. We have had great results with our treadmill tuning/break in technique. It's FREE! Costs you NO money and is the best and easiest way to tune your car without a track or tuning board. Watch your car run in real time at its top speed!

The impact graphite application for pinewood derby axles does not yield the same results as applying the graphite to the plastic wheel. Most believe since the pinewood derby speed axles are "coated" with graphite, no additional work is needed. How wrong they are! We have tested many different methods from burnishing, to high levels of polish. We have tried many different lube coatings from firearm lubes to state of the art nano-lube applications. There is really not too many applications of spray on graphite, that really work to your PWD car advantage.

Our final conclusion is we believe that a graphite coated wheel will yield better results than a graphite coated axle for the simple reason that the graphite does not apply well to metal surfaces. We feel that graphite sticks or applies better to the plastic wheels than the metal axles.

Finding a sealant or wax that will reduce the co-efficient of friction of the metal axle is the key to axle lubricant. You need to find a product that will bond to the surface of the metal, not just coat it with