Homemade slot car layouts

Racing slot cars at home is great fun, but building a challenging and realistic racecourse can cost a lot if commercial plastic track is purchased. However, with a little knowledge of tools and lumber, it's much less expensive, and more rewarding, to build a homemade slot car layout from scratch. Also, a lot more variety in curve radius and other track features is possible.

Tools and Materials

The most important tool needed to build a home slot car layout is a good router. The bit diameter and depth of the slot will depend on which scale of cars will be raced on the track. For 1/32 and 1/24 cars, a slot 3/8 inch deep by 1/8 inch wide is most common. Most modern home layouts are built using sheets of 3/4-inch medium density fiberboard (MDF). If the layout plan is larger than 4 by 8 feet, multiple sections of MDF can be carefully joined and glued using a scab board underneath.

Routing Slots for Lanes

An exact plan of the layout must be drawn before routing begins. Lane spacing should be between 3 and 4 inches, depending on car size and the amount of fender-banging action desired. A straightedge should be clamped to the MDF as a guide for routing straight sections. Curves can be routed using a radius guide. One end of a strip of lexan can be anchored to the MDF as a pivot point. Holes for the router bit are then drilled in the lexan for the radius of each lane. If a fence or guardrail is desired outside the curves, an extra slot can be routed to anchor the edge of a thin strip of pine or plastic.

Preparing Surface

Prior to taping and wiring the track, the MDF surface should be carefully prepped and all blemishes, holes and MDF joints filled and sanded. At this time, holes should be drilled on either side of each slot at the point where the power supply will be wired to the track. The track surface can be painted using flat latex wall paint of any colour desired. Copper foil tape, usually 10mm wide, is used as conductor next to the slots. This tape is available inexpensively from suppliers of stained and leaded glass materials. Tape should be carefully applied, with no bubbles or creases present.

Assembling Track

A simple frame with legs can be built out of 2-by-4s to support the MDF. Cross bracing should be used to keep the track as stable as possible. Frame sides, at least 3 inches high should be attached to the edges of the table to contain errant cars.

Wiring and Racing

Once the frame and track surface are complete and set up, each lane can be wired to the power supply and controller stations. And then it's, "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

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