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How to paint a pinewood derby racer

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Sandpaper and paint can turn a pinewood block into the sleek body of a pinewood derby racer. The trick is knowing how to use your supplies and your skills.


  • Coarse, medium-grit and fine sandpaper
  • Liquid Sanding Sealer
  • Enamel paint
  • Decals or self-stick numbers
  • Testor’s Glosscote clear gloss paint
  • Floor wax paste


Support Your Sandpaper

Begin by wrapping sandpaper in a block of wood 1 inch by 3 inches. Without a block of wood for support, sandpaper can leave dips and gullies in the pinewood body.

Round the corners of the pinewood with coarse sandpaper. For the squared-off look of an antique car or a modern Indy 500 car, sand the edges lightly. If you want the shape of Sprint or older Grand Prix cars, sand until the pinewood has an oval or elliptical shape.

Change to medium-grit paper for smoothing rough edges. Finish with fine sandpaper to remove any sanding marks.

Hide the Grain

Just painting the pinewood won’t hide the wood’s grain. Apply two coats of liquid Sanding Sealer (sold at hobby shops). Let the sealer dry overnight before sanding it lightly with fine-grit paper.

If the grain still shows, apply two more coats of sealer. Let it dry overnight and sand again. Repeat the process until the grain disappears.

Choose a color for your racer. Then apply two to three coats of enamel paint to the pinewood body. Spraying the model with paint from an aerosol can is easier than using a brush.

If you use a brush, dip only the lower third of the brush into the paint. Use single, smooth strokes instead of dabbing the paint on the model. Blend the strokes so they can’t be seen.

Pick a Number

Place a race number on the car. Buy self-stick numbers at stationery stores or decals at a hobby shop.

Seal and protect the race number by spraying the entire model with Testor’s Glosscote clear gloss paint. Other clear paints may make the numbers curl. Test the clear paint on a decal or number stuck to scrap plastic before spraying your racer.

Let the clear paint dry for at least a week. Then cover the model with floor wax paste and buff to a high gloss. The wax will protect the car and give your pinewood derby racer the look of shining steel.

More pinewood derby fun:

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5 Comments on How to paint a pinewood derby racer

  1. How many ~oz. will this paint job add to your car

  2. awesome I love it

  3. Thanks a million! This was helpful.

  4. mom of twin scouts // January 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm // Reply

    Although it might seem obvious to some-we do all of the painting and sealing before putting on the wheels and axels. Otherwise you risk gunking up both.

  5. As a single mom, I can say THANK YOU, this really helped me out

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