Power Tool Drag Race

The Troy Mini Maker Faire Power Tool Drag Race (PTDR) is where racing contraptions powered by ordinary power tools are put in head-to-head competition to see who takes it… who REIGNS SUPREME! The history of Power Tool Racing is apocryphal and filled with myths, legends, hyperbole and downright facts. Never let facts get in the way! Needless to say, it’s probably been around since the first hand power tools were available and some genius decided to zip-tie the trigger on a belt-sander and watch it tear across the floor to sounds of mad glee, terror and pure, unadulterated delight. Today power tool races are held all over the world, and almost anybody can build a racer in a few hours with a few items from a thrift store.

And that’s where YOU come in! Do you hear it? Do you hear the sirens maddening call to BUILD AND RACE?!? Then YOU need to come to the Troy Mini Maker Faire on August 27th, 2016 and RACE to the adulation of the throng!


Jill Goodell
Photo by Jill Goodell

Building a Racer

Half the fun of PTDR is building the racer itself. But remember, try not to over think-it too much, the history of PTDR is littered with over-engineered disasters and whimsical-yet-simple champions. Be sure to check out designs from other events as inspiration for your track muncher, and go from there (also check out the TVCOG calendar for build events!).  Here are some basic guidelines:

Materials: While you can add all sorts of flair, basic racers start with:

  • A handheld power tool (typically a grinder, belt sander, or circular saw)
  • Wheels
  • A chassis
The best place to find a race-worthy power tool or appliance is at a junky thrift store, garage sales, or Craigslist. Good working tools can usually be found for $10-$20. Skates can be bought by the cartload at many thrift stores or kiddie-stuff garage sales. For the chassis you can use anything that makes sense, wood, metal, zip ties… Most hardware stores sell perforated angle iron that is easy to cut with a hacksaw and has nicely spaced holes in it, like the metal from an “erector set.”


Here are some inspirational resources for your consideration:

Scott Beale VI
Photo by Scott Beale

Design Considerations and Constraints

We try to keep rules and regulations down to a dull roar, but there are some realities that must be reckoned with:

  • Track Dimensions: The track is made of 2x4s with a plywood base. The 2x4s are stood on edge as guide rails with 12 inches of clearance in between. The distance from start to finish is 60 feet, with an additional 16 feet of runout before the radical kinetic energy dispersion feature at the end of the track.Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 2.24.14 PM
  • Power & Tool: Entries that qualify for races will have a handheld power tool with 110 VAC power as their source of locomotive propulsion. Elaborate drive trains and fantastical decorations are encouraged. Contraptions with battery, cold fusion, hydrinos, solar and other forms of (real or imaginary) power cannot race, since we need a rock-solid shutoff mechanism if something goes Badly Wrong (TM).
  • Safety: Each racer has to be inspected for safe operation. SAFETY IS A TOP PRIORITY. In a sport that started with zip-tied power triggers, it take alot to make us nervous, but ultimately if we’re worried, it’s not going to race. We’ve gleaned the following pointers from other racing events and sages of the ages:
    • High RPM tools like grinders spin very fast, and so you want to consider carefully what you couple to that wheel. Home-built wheels are likely to come apart at high RPM and present a risk to all nearby.
    • Immediate propulsive shutdown is a requirement. Thinking of incorporating a flywheel to provide some on-board energy storage? Have at it, but make sure if power is cut to the racer a clutch will stop that wheel COLD.
    • A radical application of common sense is needed, both when building and racing your precious pixie or brawny beastie. Power tools are dangerous and so is electricity. Be careful and follow proper safety procedures.
    • Look at other racing sites to see what safety considerations they recommend, and when in doubt, send us an e-mail at PTDR@tvcog.net.
Scott Beale
Photo by Scott Beale

Final Thoughts

This event is loosely competitive, and while it is nominally a race, it is actually so much more. Think one part monster truck rally, one part drag race, and one part pure electric mayhem. Speed matters, and so does MOXIE. So if your racer is funnier than LOLcats vs. super soakers, or has the charisma of Quasimodo… if your racer makes engineers cringe and yet unable to look away in awe, mystery and total incomprehension… if the spectacle and adulation of the masses (or their scorn and envy, who are we to say whats your thing) is what you seek through the mechanical hellion scorching its way down the track… then THIS IS YOUR MEAT.