Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two! The Truth About Steel

Why build things with steel? Let me count the ways! As we continue our exploration of backyard roller coaster construction and enjoyment, exciting lessons abound. Said differently, we’ve all got a lot to learn. The whole good-fast-cheap-pick-two idea isn’t new. I first learned this at a printing shop in San Rafael, California.

Yes. Once upon a time, people had to travel to businesses just to get things printed in color. Imagine the inconvenience and hardship. But, I digress…

Anyway, there was a sign which read, “Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick Two.” It was hilarious, and expressed one of life’s rigidly unflinching truths. We can’t have it all. If you want it good and fast, it’s not going to be cheap. If you want it fast and you don’t have a lot to spend, it’s not going to be very good. And finally, if you want it to be good and you still don’t have a lot to pay, you’re going to have to wait a while.

This lesson applies to backyard roller coasters in a big way. For most of us, we don’t have big budgets to make our projects come true. So, we work to find affordable materials like lumber and PVC for tracks, and usually, backyard roller coaster carts are made of wood. For Abraham’s project, we stepped it up a bit, building the cart with welded steel. It’s super strong and smooth, and it’ll be lighter than a wood cart. In other words, it’ll be Good. I’ve done a bit of scrounging for materials, and I borrowed a high quality welding machine in order to control costs. So, we can also check the “Cheap” box on our list. This means, however, that it’s taking a little time to get it done.
Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick two.

The video accompanying this article shows a bit of how it’s designed and hopefully gives some insight into the thinking that went into creating the wheel assembly. What I’ve found more than anything else is that it’s incredibly hard to resist the urge to start over with some new improvement that occurs halfway through the project. I’ve already come up with at least ten refinements we’ll incorporate into the next cart design.

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