Cornhole boards – DIY

Hello again camping friends, as you know we love camping, we love the outdoors, we love just getting away, traveling to new places, but at the end of the day we just want to unwind, sit around the fire, maybe play a few games, and just enjoy each other company. That said one of the games we like to play is cornhole, and when you start playing cornhole, other campers are enticed to join in, chat, and you just have a lot of fun.

Now a set of decent cornhole boards will typically run you around $200.00, sometimes more depending on how fancy you want to get, but they are typically made out of cheap material and don’t last very long. Today we are going to make a set of cornhole boards for around 80 bucks, a little more if you start adding lights and decals, but the basic setup is cost efficient. The best part is that it’s very easy to do, takes just a couple of hours to put together, and again, they are cheap. Even cheaper if you already have some of these materials laying around like I did.

The Tools!

With that said lets first talk tools, below is a list of tools that you will need to have handy to complete this project. I listed a few extra options just in case you did not have certain items available.

  • Measuring Tape
  • Jigsaw
  • Compass
  • Drill with screw bits
  • 1/2″ Drill Bit
  • Hand Saw or Circular Saw or Miter Saw
  • Orbital Sander or just plain old sand paper
  • Paint Brush
  • Small 1″-2″ putty knife

Most people have some, if not all, of these tools laying around in their garage but if you don’t that’s ok, borrow them from a friend if you can, you won’t have them long. If you want to buy them that’s ok too, then you always have them for your next project. I would suggest, however, that you don’t get too fancy when purchasing tools if you know you aren’t going to use them a lot. Typically your local hardware store will run deals every now and again on things like jigsaws, or measuring tape, wait for the opportune time to buy, we aren’t building a house with them so you wont need anything powerful.

One last thing, if you aren’t used to operating these tools, or only have done so a few times, I strongly recommend you read the safety part of the owners manual before operation. A lot of the instructions will be about simply paying attention to what you are doing but please read it anyway. A finger is a lot harder to glue back together than a mismeasured board…. I’m guessing, I mean I’m no doctor but…

Materials!

So with the tools out of the way lets move on to the building materials, here is what you will need.

  • (2) 3/8 inch plywood cut 24″ x 48″
  • (4) 2″ x 4″ boards (8′ long)
  • (4) 1/2″ x 4″ Carriage Bolts
  • (4) Washers
  • (4) Wing Nuts
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Putty
  • (16) 3″ Deck Screws
  • 1-lb box of 1-1/2″ Deck Screws
  • Exterior Paint or Stain

I tried to make this list fairly straight forward, Home Depot sells the 24″ x 48″ pieces of plywood, pre-cut and sanded, at a reasonable price compared to whole sheets. It’s also tempting to buy pressure treated wood but I would recommend against it for a couple of reasons. Firstly pressure treated lumber is much heavier, this game is going to be heavy enough, when assembled, so there is no sense in adding all of that extra weight. Second, pressure treated wood is soaked with a toxic chemical which helps it resist the elements. These boards will not only be painted/stained but like any other game you pick it up and put it away when you are done so they probably won’t see much moisture. Lastly pressure treated wood is going to be much more expensive than kiln dried wood so there is an extra cost associated with going that rout.

Let’s cut our lumber.

So… lets get to it, first we are going to cut our 2″ x 4″ boards and get them out of the way. Remember, these 2″ boards are sanded so they may have started out as 2″ thick but they are really only 1-1/2″ thick. That’s why we only cut our cross boards at 21″, with the added 1-1/2″ board on each side that makes the overall width 24″ like our plywood, clever huh? Now, I used a miter saw and was able to get these out of the way in just a couple of minutes, you can use a circular saw, table saw, hand saw, even a jigsaw, whatever you have at your disposal. So, out of the (4) 8-foot 2″ x 4″ boards, listed above, you will want to cut:

  • (4) at 21″ long
  • (4) at 48″ long
  • (4) at 11-1/2″ long

Frame it up!

That’s it, from here, it’s just a simple matter of assembling the boards to form a box. Just a note, each piece of 2 x 4 has black print on one side, try to make sure that print stays on the inside of the box if you are planning on a transparent stain. That print can sometimes be painstaking to remove, if you are just using an exterior paint then it doesn’t really matter. Also it’s a good idea to drill pilot holes with kiln dried lumber to help keep it from splitting but it shouldn’t be necessary unless you are running into a problem.

With that, we are going to take each one of the 2″ x 4″ x 48″ planks, we cut, and place (2) 3″ decking screws on each end about half way in. On a flat surface we are going to take our 2″ x 4″ x 21″ planks we cut, put some wood glue on each end, then place those planks in between the 48″ planks, at the top and bottom, where the screws are. Make sure the corners are lined up, hold firmly, and screw the boards together to make two rectangles. You’ll probably need to keep an old rag on hand to wipe up any excess glue that may drip.

Once that step is complete let’s take our wood glue and make a thin bead around the entire top where the plywood is going to sit. Now take your plywood, choose the best side, and place the plywood on the glued box with the good side facing up. Finally, make the corners as even as possible, the box will bend slightly don’t be afraid to force it, and use your 1-1/2″ decking screws to fasten it. Don’t be stingy with these screws, I would put no less than 20 on each box, then use a rag to clean up any glue drips.

Cut the Cornhole!

With that done lets make the hole, you will need the jigsaw, compass, drill with the 1/2″ bit, and measuring tape. You could use a hole saw, if you have one that big, but those are expensive if you are looking to buy one.

First you will want to draw a dot 9 inches down from the top, and 12″ across. From that dot measure 3 inches out and draw another dot, I drew another dot 4 inches out but this is purely for my own design and is not necessary. Now, using your compass set the needle point on your first dot then adjust the pencil to the second, 3 inch, dot and draw a circle. Now adjust your pencil to the 4 inch dot, if you drew one, and drawn another circle. Again, we are only going to cut out the 3 inch circle, the 4 inch circle is for my own artistic purposes. I intend on painting a black circle around the hole, later on, to make it easier to see.

Inside the 3 inch circle we are going to drill a couple of pilot holes with our 1/2″ drill bit, just so we can get the jigsaw blade through the wood. Once the holes are drilled we are going to slowly, and going slow is key because we don’t want to splinter our wood, cut out our circle making sure to stay just inside the line.

Time for Putty!

Next, using your putty knife and wood putty lets fill in all of the screw holes along with any other holes, or imperfections, that you don’t want. I’m doing this now because the wood putty takes awhile to dry and we need to apply this compound before we sand. Ideally you will want this to dry overnight, especially the way I did it. I went around the entire edge, where the plywood meets the 2″ x 4″ boards to help hide the seams. Be forewarned, the more putty you add to this board the better it will look, but you will pay for it with the time you spend sanding afterwards. Also, larger gaps may require another coat after sanding due to hidden air bubbles, or from the putty simply losing mass after it dries. If you are using the old elbow grease method, using a sanding block, you could end up looking ever impressive by the end.

Give me a leg up!

While the putty is drying lets move on to the legs. The legs are relatively easy to make, to begin lets place a mark 1-3/4″ down the face of each leg lengthwise. Now lets make another mark half way across the face which should also be about 1-3/4″. Place your compass point on that dot and adjust the pencil so that it is just under the top-center of the 2″ x 4″ leg. From there draw a half circle, stopping at each side and, using your jigsaw, make your cut. Your leg should look like the picture below with the one end rounded. This is done so we can tuck the legs under the board, neatly, when we put the game away. Finally take your drill with the 1/2″ drill bit, and drill a hole in each leg where you placed the point of your compass.

Once your box is finally dry it’s time to place the legs on it, we should do this before sanding for best results. What you are going to do is flip the game board upside down so the underneath is exposed. Place the legs, one at a time, flush against the top of each corner of the game board, at a 90 degree angle, with the rounded side of the leg touching the deck. Now, move your leg 1/16″ from the deck of the game board, and using a pencil, draw a mark through the hole of the leg on the side of the board. Using your 1/2″ drill bit, drill a hole through the side of your game board using the pencil mark as a guide. Attach your legs using the 1/2″ x 4″ carriage bolts, washers, and wingnuts. If the legs get stuck while folding them under the board don’t worry, they should loosen up after sanding.

Feat of strength or strength of feet!

Now that the legs are attached we are going to cut the feet so they are flush to the ground. I accomplished this by setting the game board upright with the legs unfolded. I then took a book, just thick enough to reach the top corner of the base of the leg when placed on the floor, and I drew a straight line across the side of the leg. From here I unattached the leg and using a saw cut the bottom of the leg, at the line. Now reattach the legs and measure from the ground to the top of the deck with your measuring tape. You should be looking at a height of 12″ but if it measures just over don’t panic. We still have to sand everything, just focus a little more of your time on sanding the feet and you should be right where you want to be.

Sand and Decorate.

Finally we are going to sand everything, top and bottom, take your time and sand everything. Take the legs off sand them, sand any excess wood putty, sand any imperfections, sand, sand, sand until everything is smooth. If you have any spots that need a second coat of putty now is the time, let dry, and sand some more. Remember this wood is already sanded so if you made your cuts correctly, and made the corners flush, didn’t use a lot of putty, you shouldn’t have a lot of sanding to do, but you will have enough.

That’s it, time to decorate with paint, stain, decals, whatever, there is literally a million ways you can decorate this. As you can see I painted the circle black, as I said I would, along with the outer edges. I drew our logo on the deck with a thick sharpie using a projector attached to a laptop to trace my image. I stained and sealed the deck several times and I attached a handle, along with some buckles, so we could pack everything up neatly when done. Additionally I placed battery led lights underneath to help us see better when it gets dusk. We even started placing stickers from the different States we have visited with these boards so everyone can see just how far they’ve traveled. With that, there you have it, a finished set of cornhole boards.

Additionally, we ordered the bags online but you can just as easily make your own if you’re handy with a needle and thread. If you do make these boards send us a picture of your final product so we can add it at the bottom of our page to help inspire others. So, until next time my friends remember to dance to the beat of your own drum, let joy, love and honesty shadow you on your journey, and as always, happy camping!

-Spencer

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