helping brides create beautiful weddings without breaking the bank

Tim and I aren’t big dancers. Actually, I generally despise dancing at weddings (it makes me anxious–what do I do with my arms??). Because of this, and the fact that we are getting married in a park with lots of flat, grassy space, we plan to have lawn games at our wedding as an alternative to dancing. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll still have music and dancing, but I like to have options :)

We bought $20 sets of bocce, badminton, and croquet from Target, and we already own a horseshoe set and ladder golf. Tim enjoys construction and woodworking, and decided to build two sets of cornhole boards (aka bean bag toss) for the reception.  We spent about $60 on all of the wood for two sets (four boards), so we saw significant savings by making them since a set of two boards retails for between $60 and $200.

Tim adapted information from a couple of sites, including the ACO and this site to create our DIY Cornhole Set, but he didn’t follow either to the letter. There are a lot of steps, so we’ll break this down into a couple posts. Tim wrote this post, since he did all the work and I have no idea how to construct cornhole boards.

1) Buy your supplies. We bought the lumber, screws, and other hardware at Home Depot, and it cost just over $60 for 2 sets (4 boards). Make sure that you choose plywood with no broken edges or chipped corners, and that the 2×4’s are also relatively blemish-free.

Lumber and hardware for all four boards
Lumber and hardware for all four boards

Materials per set (note that making two sets is more economical, e.g. a whole sheet of 4’x8’ is sometimes less than a project panel):

  •         4 * 8ft 2”x4” (studs are only 92” or so, but sometimes more readily available)
  •         2 * ½” thick, 2’x4’ plywood (can have it cut from a 4’x4’ at the home center, or use precut project panels)
  •         4 * 3/8”x4-1/2” carriage bolts
  •         4 * 3/8” washers
  •         4 * 3/8” wing nuts
  •         1 box 2-1/2” wood screws

Tools (note that some are not necessary but produce a cleaner finished product or are faster):

  •         If cutting plywood at home: circular saw, table saw, or hand saw
  •         For frame and legs: miter saw (best) or hand saw with miter box (miter box is not necessary, but you’ll have a tough time getting a perfectly straight cut without it)
  •         Some sort of measuring device (a square comes in handy too)
  •         Clamps (optional but recommended)
  •         Drill and bits (1/8” through 3/8”)
  •         Sandpaper (coarse/60 grit is good for rounding edges, but medium to fine will be better for getting a nice playing surface)
  •         Hammer (Tim only used this to tap the carriage bolts in; more on that later)
  •         To draw pretty 6” circles: Compass, scrap of 6” PVC pipe (I happened to have some), or string and nail
  •         A way to cut pretty circles: Holesaw (fastest, easiest, but ~$30 so probably not worth it for most people), router (can use a jig, or a bearing bit with that scrap piece of 6” PVC), jigsaw (rougher, requires some patience, but turns out just fine with some sanding)

Dimensions:

Finished construction top

The American Cornhole Organization (ACO) has strict dimensions that are fairly close to some standard lumber sizes.  Taking some liberties with rounding makes a set that may not be exactly regulation but will be more convenient.  The deck should be 2’x4’, which conveniently divides evenly into standard plywood sizes.  With 2×4 lumber, the front of the deck will end up about 4” off the ground instead of the regulation 3”.  If it really matters to you, you can look for 2”x3” lumber instead.  As particular as Tim is about getting things just right, he managed to remember that we have plenty of other wedding-related things to worry about without adding “optimizing cornhole board design” to the list. He (somewhat grudgingly) accepted that the front of this board would be an inch too tall and moved on with his life.  After that, he decided to not care about the exact angle of the legs as long as the back of the board was close enough to the 12” regulation height.  The hole itself is 6” in diameter and centered 9” from the top of the board.

Construction:

2x4s cut to length
2x4s cut to length

Once you get your materials home, how do you get your not-quite-regulation cornhole boards?  Start by cutting your 2”x4” lumber for your frames with your saw of choice.  You’ll need 4 pieces each (again, this is for one cornhole set) of lengths 21” and 48”.  Eventually you’ll need legs, so go ahead and cut 4 pieces of length 18”.  The link above suggests 16”, but Tim found that leaving yourself a couple extra inches gives you more leeway in cutting the angel in the legs.  Either way, you should have a few short scrap pieces left over (not pictured).  Those will come in handy later.

After your lumber is cut, start by assembling the frame (2 21” pieces and 2 48” pieces).  Lay out the frame so the two 21” pieces are between the 48” pieces.

Arrange wood for frame

Then put two screws through each corner.  This is where the clamps and square come in handy.  If you do not have a square, you can start by screwing three pieces together, then measure diagonally corner-to-corner both ways and ensure that the measurements are the same before screwing the last piece in.  Now would be a good time to note that Tim predrilled all of the screw holes in this project with a ⅛” drill bit and drove the screws to be flush with the surface of the wood.

Clamp and screw frame

With the frame all screwed up (hopefully in the good way), it’s time to attach the plywood deck.  I’m assuming it’s cut by now because if you bought it in a 4’x4’ or 4’x8’ sheet and decided to cut it at home instead of taking advantage of the panel saw at Home Depot, you probably don’t need most of this tutorial anyway.  If I’m mistaken, go ahead and cut your plywood sheet into 2’x4’ sections with your saw of choice, maybe using a spare piece of lumber as a guide, then get ready to screw one of those things to the frame from the previous step.  Tim got the materials well before he actually got to cutting anything, so the plywood was a little warped from sitting in the garage by the time he fastened it to the frame.  Therefore, he used a couple of clamps and an excessive number of screws to smooth it out as he went.  He started by screwing down one edge then alternately adding screws to the adjacent edges.  Be careful not to position screws too close to the screws in the corners of the frame.  Even if you don’t run the screws into each other, the wood may split, so give them about 1” of clearance.

Be careful to avoid running screws into each other
Be careful to avoid running screws into each other

With the deck attached, it’s a good time to put the 6” hole in it.  Mark the center of the hole 9” from the top of the board and centered between the sides (should be 12” in).  Next, use your compass or pencil-on-a-string to draw a 6” circle around that mark.  The most common way to cut this hole is to drill a large starter hole (in the interior of the circle but near the edge) then cut the perimeter with a jigsaw.  If you choose this method, you might consider drilling multiple holes to allow relief cuts and make things a little bit easier.  If you happen to have a 6” hole saw, it will be a snap, but it’s almost certainly not worth shelling out $30 for something you’ll use once.  Alternatively, a router and jig can be used to make a nice hole.  Tim happens to have a router, a scrap piece of 6” PVC, and the laziness to not make a jig, even though he will likely need to make one at some point in the future anyway.  By pinning the scrap PVC to the back of the board, it can be used with a bearing bit to cut a perfect 6” circle.  Side note: a bearing bit could also be used to trim the edges of the deck flush with the frame.  You can now smooth over some of the edges with coarse sandpaper before tackling the legs.

PVC technique
PVC technique

The legs will be attached with the carriage bolts.  To mark the hole center, set the leg in position with a scrap piece of 2”x4” between the leg and the top of the frame and draw a line corresponding to the center of the leg. [insert picture]  Mark the hole at the center of the frame (not including the deck; about 1-¾” from either side).  Before drilling, you could put another scrap of wood behind the leg to prevent splintering and clamp ‘em if you got ‘em.  Drill the first pilot hole with a small bit (⅛” or so), and use successively larger bits to work your way up to ⅜” (the size of the bolt).  The bolt should slide in fairly easily up to its square shoulder.  Tapping the bolt in with a hammer or other appropriate object will make a square hole that will keep the bolt from spinning when you go to tighten the wing nuts.

Drill bolt hole in stages
Drill bolt hole in stages

Now it’s time to shape up those legs.  Tim sketched a half circle at the end with the bolt hole then pared it down with his miter saw.  This part of the leg will be all but invisible, so you could also just hack of the corners with a hand saw and do some sanding–no one would be the wiser.  When bolted on, the leg should now be able to move from folded stow-away position to extended ready-for-play position.  All that’s left is cutting the angle so the board sits flat at the proper height (close enough to 12”).  To accomplish that, keep one leg folded and one extended and hanging over the edge of a table, while you prop up the board on a box, some scrap wood, or whatever makes the top of the board about 12” high.  Mark the level of the table on the inside of the leg and repeat for the other leg.  Cut the angle with your saw of choice (use a miter saw if you have one).

Prop up the board and mark the leg for cutting.
Prop up the board and mark the leg for cutting.

With that done, it’s all down to finishing touches.  Make sure the completed board sits level.  Some sanding can fix a little bit of wobble, but if it’s too far off you may just need to recut the legs.  After that, do some sanding to round over the edges as you see fit; or if you want to be a fancy-pants, you can use a router with a roundover bit.  Once you’re satisfied, you’ll have a homemade pair of cornhole boards for about $70.

Underside of finished board

If you have any questions, post a comment and we’ll get right back to you. In part 2 we will discuss painting the boards and making the beanbags!

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About Laura

I'm Laura. I'm 27 and I live in Pittsburgh, PA, with my fiance Tim and our two obnoxious cats. Tim proposed in August of 2013 after a little over two years together, and we are getting married on September 27, 2014, in gorgeous Riverview Park in Pittsburgh.

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  • Gift Card Girlfriend

    I’ll tell you my secret to making your own corn hole set. I did a swap with an older gentleman in my congregation at church. He loves to do woodwork and has all the tools and time in the world. But he and his wife both struggle on their computers. So I came over for a couple of hours of computer training (fixing the wifi, getting her on Pinterest, showing him how to back up files, etc.) A couple of days later, two corn hole boards showed up on my porch. We painted them ourselves. Paint I can do…cutting circular holes through plywood, not so much.

    Thanks for sharing all the details and reminding me that I made the better choice!