DIY Cornhole Boards Tutorial

If you and your partner aren’t big dancers, you may not want to focus your reception around a dance floor. How else will your guests be entertained? Lawn games are a great 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. Learn how to make your own cornhole set below!

DIY Cornhole Set

Lumber and hardware for all four boards

MATERIALS

Step 2 is to 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.

List of materials needed 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
  • 1 box 2-1/2” wood screws
  • 4 * 3/8” washers
  • 4 * 3/8” wing nuts

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

DIY Cornhole Set

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

DIY Cornhole Set

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”.  Tim found that leaving yourself a couple extra inches gives you more leeway in cutting 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.

DIY Cornhole Set

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.

DIY Cornhole Set

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. You might use 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.

DIY Cornhole Set

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.

DIY Cornhole Set

PVC technique

ATTACHING THE LEGS

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.  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 will make a square hole. This will help to keep the bolt from spinning when you go to tighten the wing nuts.

DIY Cornhole Set

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).

DIY Cornhole Set

Prop up the board and mark the leg for cutting.

FINISHING TOUCHES

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, so don't worry. However, if it’s too far off you may 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.

DIY Cornhole Set

Painting Your Cornhole Boards

DIY Cornhole Set Tutorial

MATERIALS

For painting your cornhole boards, you’ll need:

INSTRUCTIONS

How to do it: Paint the entire cornhole board with the white primer and let it dry. Tape off the four edges of the cornhole board with the 1” painter’s tape to leave a nice white border. If you want a dark silhouette on a light background, paint the exposed surface starting with your lighter color. (We used light yellow because we already had it–free!).

Allow your paint to dry completely before applying any tape. Once it is dry, tape over the area where you want the silhouette and about 3” more on each side. This allows room for mistakes with the roller, ensuring there is no exposed paint in between the strips of tape. Print out your chosen design and trace an outline of it onto your block of painter’s tape. Mark your outline clearly in pen. Use the X-acto knife to cut out your silhouette shape and gently pull away the painter’s tape from the part you plan on painting. Use your darker paint color to fill in your silhouette, smoothing with the roller as you go. It’s an easy way to make a really clean, attractive design.

DIY Cornhole Set Tutorial

Pulling away the tape

Note:  If you want a light silhouette on a dark background, you should still start with the lighter color after priming the entire surface and taping the border.  Instead of taping the area around the silhouette, paint the area with your light color.  Then follow the masking process but leave the silhouette covered in painter’s tape and peel the tape around it.  With the border and light-colored silhouette still covered, you’re free to paint the rest of the surface with the darker color. If you have any questions or tips from your own crafting, leave them in the comments!

DIY Cornhole Set Tutorial

Best of luck!

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