Winter Project: Go Kart In The Basement – A Fantastic Wood Project for the Whole Family

You may be lamenting the advent of Winter as it lessens the daylight, and correspondingly lessens the temperature, but piles up the snow in some states. Winter can be a less productive time of year, especially those that don’t have a heated shop.Well, that is not quite true, the shop can be the basement. The basement is a great place to start projects and then either finish them in the basement, or take them to the garage when they get too big.I remember hearing stories of people making cars in their basement, or making airplanes in the basement too. They had to cut out the basement wall to get their project outdoors; but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about a fun project, but small enough to get up the stairs. That project is called the “basement gokart.”Basement Go Kart?Yes the basement go kart. There are several varieties of go karts you can develop in the basement. A simple bolt together framed go kart made out of Angle Iron, a pre-welded frame (just bring it in the basement and them work put the final touches on it), a PVC go kart, and my personal favorite: the wood gokart.The wood go kart seems to be the top on the list for doable-ness because of its low cost and the fact that everyone has access to simple wood working tools. A sheet of plywood, a couple of two-by-fours, a couple of bolts and nuts, some rope, PVC pipe, rims/tires, (motor – either gas or electric) and some ingenuity and you have a wood go kart that rips around like nobodies business.You may thinking:”A wood go kart is just not up my ally. If I were to make a go kart it would have to be made out of steel, and steel tubing. Nothing made out of wood can be very safe or even like a metal frame go kart. If anything it is going to fall apart a lot.”Go Karts do not have to be made out of metal. If anything the transition of high performance sports cars like Ferrari, Porsche and even Corvettes from steel to composites such as fiberglass and carbon fiber should tell us that the steel myth is just that…a myth.Wood, like fiberglass is light weight and strong, depending on the types of wood chosen. Additionally wood can be more than adequate for a durable resilient go kart.There are some things to look for in a wood go kart design so that you do not end up having performance and durability issues, they are:-Reliable Breaking System-Supported Steering System-Well Positioned Center of GravityThese are the main design considerations that will make the go kart a performer and able to handle like a metal frame counterpart.A reliable braking system is critical to a go kart design. Once you get going, stopping is vital for safety. The last thing you want is a run away go kart. That is all well and good but actually getting a go kart stop more than just putting your foot down, or jamming a stick into the ground. A brake system needs to be engineered, because the forces to stop a go kart can be upwards to 3 times the weight of the go kart. For example a go kart weighing in at 300 pounds may have a stopping force of close to 1000+ pounds. The trick is getting a foot to press on a pedal and then exert 1000 pounds to the braking surface without having a leg as big as an elephant! A good go kart design will account for the needed engineering design and have it all laid out for you.The biggest challenge for a wood go kart is developing a steering system that actually works. Feeding ropes is the easy part. Don’t think that a wood go kart need to have feet steering it: I would agree that a foot steering system is just confusing and down right dangerous. The steering system I am talking about is intuitive and using steering wheel to operate it. But there is more to it than that.Bogie style steering systems are inherently unstable unless supported. A good wood go kart design will account for the instability and provide stiffeners in the frame work.Most go kart designs have not even heard of Center of Gravity of CG. CG what? Center of gravity is where the line of action for the main mass of the go kart (and rider included) is situated so that there is a 50/50 weight distribution between the front and the rear tires.The 50/50 weight distribution makes the go kart much more responsive in cornering, and less likely to just keep going straight (understeer). An understeer situation is un-nerving especially when you want to turn, and the go kart just keeps going straight. A 50-50 weight distribution keeps the weight on the tires where it is needed so that the turning wheels actually grip and turn the cart.A great winter project is a wood go kart in the basement. Being less than 100 dollars in cost, consider the wood go kart as you fun family project in the basement this coming winter.

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