This week has been rough. Have you noticed I’ve been a bit MIA around here?!? Well … apparently my body couldn’t take any more of the long hours I had accidentally (or maybe on purpose?) been keeping lately and forced me to sleep more this week. Like honestly … I could. not. keep my eyes open any later than about 9pm every night this week (and thus … my blogging took a hit). I had all these posts planned for this week that just didn’t get done. Sorry about that. Stay tuned … they’re still coming.
Now that I’m finally feeling back to myself (thank goodness!!) and seem to have my energy back, I thought I’d share this DIY Race Track we made for Charlie’s 3rd Birthday. Now … if you have been following along, or if you know our family, you’ll realize that Charlie turned 3 … oh, about 2 months ago (I’m a bit slow to get this tutorial up, apparently). #whatsnew
For his birthday this year, he asked for a race car party. I had big hopes of keeping his party small and simple this year, and I did manage to do that (more details on our race-car-party-on-a-small-budget to come next week), but I also was able to incorporate his request into the celebration.
He actually loves trains more than anything, and I fully expected him to request a Thomas The Train Birthday Party like last year … again this year. But … to my surprise, he decided race cars would be his thing this year.
Since it was just going to be family coming over to celebrate, I didn’t worry too much about planning activities for the kiddos (they entertain themselves pretty well). They do, however, have about 1200 matchbox cars, and I thought we’d put them to good use for the party entertainment. I wanted a good, smooth, sturdy race track for them to use … and, just maybe, they could determine which of the 1200 was the fastest.
I figured the race track could double as a gift … and as party entertainment (and it did just that!!).
So … we went shopping. All of us (three boys and me, that is). And with nothing but a rough plan in mind. And when I say ‘rough’, I mean I walked into Lowe’s without the slightest clue how we were going to concoct this race track.
So … we browsed the aisles of Lowe’s. And I racked my brain while trying to keep the boys contained, happy, and excited about our ‘project’. And I tried to conjure up all those skills I used to have as a Manufacturing Engineer prior to kiddos. And slowly … a vision started coming to me.
A long piece of wood + a ‘stand’ made of PVC pipes. PVC pipes are kinda like legos for grown ups I’ve decided … so many possibilities!!!
And we left with this …
Approximately a half a second after I took that picture, that large board came crashing out of the cart, hit the van, and caused quite the scene. The boys, however, thought it was hilarious!
Here’s exactly what we ended up with …
- Large piece of wood (1/2″ x 20″ x 72″ piece of pine)
- Three ~30″ Sections of 1 1/2″ PVC Pipe
- Two 90 degree Elbows (for 1 1/2″ Pipe)
- Two End Caps
- Two 1 1/2″ 2-hole Pipe Straps
- 1/2″ Wood Screws
- Balsa wood strips (I actually found these at Michael’s):
- Four 1/2″ square x 36″ long strips
- Ten 1/8″ square x 36″ long strips
- Black Flat Spray Paint
- Yellow Spray Paint
- White Spray Paint
- Drop Cloth
- Wood Glue
- X-acto Knife
- Drill, bit, and 2″ long screws OR PVC glue.
And for the ‘extras’:
- Strip of 1/8″ thick balsa wood x 4″ x 24″
- Red paint or duct tape
- Stick on letters
- 12″ Lollipop Sticks
- Paper Streamer
- Checkered Flag Duct tape
And here’s how we made it …
- First, attach the pipe straps to one side of the board with the 1/2″ screws as shown. We didn’t measure too exactly, but we went in approximately 8″ from the end:
- Next, flip your board over, and assemble the legs as shown below. If you don’t want to be able to disassemble this race track (for storing, etc), here’s where you should use the PVC glue to secure all these pieces together. Since I did want to be able to take the legs off this track for storage in the basement if needed, I opted for long (and removable) screws through either side of each elbow (details in step 5 below) to keep the legs from twisting on coming apart.
- Next … head outside! Spray paint your assembly black (or whatever color roads are in your world!)
- Grab your Balsa strips next. Spray the four 1/2″ squares pieces yellow (these will be for the outside edges). Spray the 10 1/8″ strips white (these will be the inner lane dividers) … apparently, I didn’t get a picture of the white strips being painted.
- Once all the paint is dry, use wood glue to attach the balsa strips to your ‘road’ as shown. Use clamps to help hold the strips in place while the glue dries (hopefully overnight). Also … please excuse the giant mess that is our kitchen.
- Here’s where we secured the legs in place with long screws. If you used PVC glue, you can skip this part. I first just drilled a hole through the junction of each side of the elbow. Make sure you are drilling through both the elbow AND straight piece that is inside the elbow. Using your drill, go all the way through both sides of the pipe. Next, grab your 2″ screws and screw into the pipes using the hole you just drilled as a guide. You’ll need 4 screws total for this step … 1 on either side of each elbow:
- And now you’re basically done! If you want to add some fun ‘extras’, here’s what we came up with. We wanted a starting line that held cars until they were ready to be released … all at the same time. To do this, I grabbed a thin piece of balsa wood I had on hand (approximately 1/8″x4″x24″) and covered it in red duct tape (you could easily just paint it, too, but the boys were impatient and were not about to wait for paint to dry). Next, I stuck on some letter stickers that I also had on hand (because I’m a craft supply hoarder) to spell out ‘START’. Using an X-acto knife, I made notches in each of the balsa wood strips about 6″ down from the top of the track. These notches allow the ‘starting line’ strip to sit securely in place while the boys line up the cars. For some added fun, I also drilled a hole in the top the PVC pipe on either side of the race track and stuck in some 12″ lollipop sticks with some fun flags tied across the starting line. This lasted about 5 minutes, however. On the bottom of the track, we also drilled holes in either side of the track, inserted shorter lollipop sticks, spread a paper streamer across the ‘finish line’ secured with clothes pins to the lollipop sticks. This acted as a finish line that the fastest car would break through. For fun, I also added some checkered flag duct tape at the very bottom.
- And finally, I let them have at it:
Charlie really was so excited! Even 2 months later, they’re still using the track to race all kinds of things … (they even asked if we could send Ben down it … ).
Stay tuned for details on the entire (super inexpensive and simple) Race Car party …
Thanks for stopping by today. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to get some of those posts I had planned up! Have an absolutely amazing long weekend (if you’re here in the US), and let me know if you attempt this race track! I’d love to hear how it goes!