October 17, 2017

DIY Cornhole Boards

Here at the Tailgate Society we talk about a lot of things. We talk sports, we talk entertainment, we talk politics, and so on. But the one thing we don’t talk much about is tailgating itself. Don’t get us wrong, we are well versed in this pastime of kings and have spent innumerable hours honing our tailgating greatness, but we’ve got lots of important things to say and sometimes we overlook the thing that brought us together.

Still, we want to share what we know with our readers, and by god we know tailgating! Thus, we here at TGS want to spend some time talking about tailgating and helping our reader prepare for greatness in the coming tailgating season. Specifically, we want to help you with those projects that will make your tailgating experience all that much better when the call of football entices you back to your favorite parking lot or backyard to spend time with your absolute favorite friends.

Therefore, The Tailgate Society is proud to introduce its own Do-It-Yourself series. This series will present a fairly eclectic variety of projects for our readers, but they will all focus on making your tailgates and gatherings that much better.

DIY Screw-less Corn Hole boards

There seems no better place to start a tailgate DIY series than with perhaps the most iconic and Do-It-Yourself-Able game out there: Cornhole Boards (or bags, or bean bag toss, or whatever you call it). Now, Cornhole boards are not exactly the easiest things to make, but with the right tools and some good instructions it is certainly within most people’s ability to make a set of their own. And I’m here to walk you through the process.

Cornhole boards are pretty straightforward in their design and need only meet a few standard requirements to be considered “official.” Each board must be made from a 4’ x 2’ piece of ½ inch thick plywood, have a frame made from 2”x 4” boards, have legs that make the back stand 12″ off the ground, and have a 6” hole centered and cut 9” from the back edge (9” from center of hole). Even so, there is some room for variation in how the boards are constructed to achieve these specs. Today, I will go over a technique that uses no screws or bolts and creates a sleek looking, practical board that will be the envy of your next tailgate gathering. So let get started.

Materials

Two – 4’ x 2’ sheets of ½ inch plywood

Five – 2” x “4 x 96” wooden boards

Wood glue (I recommend using a premium would glue, see below)

Four 1 1/2’ door hinges

Two 12” bungie cords

Four eye socket screws

Tools

Three (at least) clamps, 4 ½ inch capacity or higher (see below for more details)

Drill w/ small drill bit and Phillips-head attachments

Jigsaw OR 6” hole saw drill attachment (see below)

Circular saw OR Hand saw

Pliers

Measuring tape

Hammer or rubber mallet (optional)

2 Sawhorses (optional)

Step 1: Getting Your Supplies

The first step in any project is, of course, getting all your supplies together. After all, nothing can make a DIY project more tedious than constant trips to the hardware store for that thing you forgot. You can find a list of all the supplies you will need above but I want to highlight a few things.

1. The primary material you will need is two 4 foot by 2 foot ½ inch thick pieces of plywood. These will serve as the platform for the cornhole boards so it’s important you get the right pieces. Most of your big box store hardware suppliers (Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) will carry precut 2’ x 4’ plywood sheets in their lumber section, so there is not much to finding them. And if for some reason you have trouble, don’t be afraid to ask one of the associates for help. The key is to make sure you get ½ inch plywood (as opposed to say ¼ or ¾ inch plywood). Official cornhole board regulations (yes those are a thing) require the top board be at least ½ inch thick, and anything thicker is too bulky and will make your set too heavy. Also, make sure you get a medium to high quality plywood that is smooth and defect free (see image).

Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

(Tip: These plywood boards will be your biggest material cost and getting the right one will depend on your plans for decorating. If you are looking to stain your boards and leave a wood finish, it’s best to spring for the highest quality plywood. If you are planning on painting them I recommend getting the cheapest boards with a smooth finish.)

(Tip: Plywood is also sold in larger 8’ x’ 4’ sheets, and the cost to buy 2 pre-cut 2’ x 4’ sheets is often about the same as one 8’ x 4’. If you are planning on making multiple sets it will be more cost effective to buy the larger sheet and get it cut into four 2’ x 4’ pieces. Most stores will gladly cut these larger sheets for you, just make sure that their saw is working first.)

2. The second material you will need is five 8 foot 2” x 4”s that will serve as the frame and legs for your boards. Most lumber yards sell these 8 foot “studs” pretty cheaply (around $3 a pop), and just do your best to find 5 that are fairly strait and are free of defects. (Note: if you plan on just staining your boards you should spring for higher quality 2″ x 4″s)

(Tip: Make sure these boards are the full 96 inches. Some stores will sell “8 foot studs” that measure a few inches shorter, and that can cause problems come assembly)

(Tip: Two of these boards will need to be cut in half to serve as the 4 foot side boards of the frame. If you want to get them cut into these 4 foot pieces at the store, it can save you some hassle later. However, those are the only cuts I recommend you get made on these boards in the store [see below].)

3. The frame and the plywood will be attached to each other using wood glue. This glue is extremely strong and will let you keep you boards free of unsightly screws or nails heads. There are a variety of brands to choose from and they all work well, so I simply recommend you buy at least a medium grade, water resistant wood glue, which should run you $5-$8 for a bottle.

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5. You will also need four 1 ½“ hinges to attach the legs to the frame (see below). These hinges are usually sold in two-packs with the attaching screws for about $2.50 a pack and can be found with door knobs and drawer handles. This method is a bit different than how most other cornhole boards are constructed, which usually bolt the legs to the frame, but I have found it to be easier to construct and just as effective.

6. Since we will be using hinges, we will need a way to secure to the legs when not in use. For that we will need two 12” bungie cords with metal hooks. These usually come in a 6 to 8 pack that will cost $2-$4. These cords will be attached using four eye socket screws (see image). A ten pack of these eye socket screws can be found in the hardware section for $1-$2.

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7. Since we will be doing some sawing, we will need some sandpaper to clean up our edges. One sheet of fine grain 220 grit will be plenty.

8. There are two other things you might want to pick up while collecting your supplies. First, if you don’t have any clamps, you should pick some up now. Since we will be using wood glue, we will need a way to secure and apply pressure to our pieces as the glue dries to ensure a strong bond. There are different sizes and varieties of clamps with the larger, fancier ones running about $40+, but you can find some small, simple one that will work for our purposes for about $5 apiece (see image). Just make sure they have at least a 4 ½” capacity and that you have at least three. The other thing is a 6” hole dozer (see image). This piece will attach to a drill and allow you to create a perfectly round scoring hole in your board. The downside: this attachment will run you $40. If this price is too steep for you, you can use a jigsaw to cut a 6” hole in each board, but this can be pretty tricky. If you want to make sure you get a perfect hole or you plan on making multiple cornhole sets, I recommend you invest in the hole dozer.

Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

Step 2: Attaching the Frame

Attaching the frame is a fairly straightforward step in this project, but it is one that requires some precision and care.

  1. Cut one of the 8-ft 2”x4”s in half (if you did not have it done at the hardware store), giving you two 4-ft boards which will serve as your long-side frame.

(Note: Take great care to make sure you get two evenly sized boards. I, for instance, measure from both sides to try to find the true center.)

(Note: Minor variation in your board lengths are to be expected and won’t be a major deal. Also, the act of cutting will shave a few millimeters off the total length of the board so it is likely your two 4-ft boards will not sit totally flush on both ends of the platform).

  1. Place 4-ft boards on the plywood platform flush with outer edge.

(Note: The playing surface will be on the opposite side of where you attach the frame. If there are defects on the plywood or you want a certain side to be on the top make sure that side is facing down. Also, if there are defects on the 2”x4”s make sure they are on the side you will glue down or are facing inward.)

  1. Add wood glue in a zigzag motion to bottom edge of one board and re-position on platform. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  2. Use clamps to secure board in place (I recommend using at least 3) and tighten. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  3. Wipe off any excess glue and let dry. The set time will vary based on the wood glue you use, so follow the directions on the package.
  4. Once glue has set, remove clamps and follow steps 3-5 to attach opposite frame. (I have several clamps so I am able to attach both sides at the same time).  (See Image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  5. Closely measure the space between the two outer frame pieces on one end of the platform.
  6. Cut piece from another 8-ft board to that measurement.

(Note: This is a very important step. Cut the piece too short and you will have a gap in your frame, too long and it won’t fit. Ideally, it should be a little snug and may require a hammer or rubber mallet to help get into position. Also, don’t fret if it’s not perfect, a small gap won’t be noticeable when it’s all said and done.)

  1. Apply glue to bottom and sides of board that touch the outer frame (zigzagging as you did with the longer boards) and re-position on platform.
  2. Secure with clamps (two are recommended) and tighten. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  3. Wipe off any excess glue and let glue set.
  4. Repeat steps 7-11 on opposite side.  (Set aside remainder of this 8-ft board for use later)

Step 3: Cutting the Scoring Hole

Now that we have the basic scoring table complete it’s time to cut the scoring hole (lest our boards be all corn and no hole).

To get the proper specifications, the scoring hole should be 6 inches in diameter and the center of the hole should be 9 inches from the top of the board. The easiest way to find this center point is to measure 12 inches from each side and then 9 inches from the top and pinpoint where they all intersect.

(Note: while the boards should be 2 feet across it is possible there will be some variation. It is best to measure from both sides, and if the two marks do not overlap exactly, marking the point in between these two spots will give you the true center.)

Once you have found the center point 9 inches from the top it’s time to get cutting. As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way to cut this hole (and the way I recommend) is investing in a 6 inch hole dozer. This is the simplest and surest way to get a perfectly round scoring hole, but it will set you back about $40 bucks. (If this dozer method is not for you, I discuss an alternate method below).

  1. Attach the hole dozer to the drill.
  2. Position the guide drill bit on the centered spot (on the playing platform side) and slowly drill through the board.
  3. Once through, make sure drill is level and begin cutting the hole. (The dozer can be a bit unwieldy, do go slow until you get the hang of it).

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  4. When you have cut half way through, turn the board over, slide the drill guide into the drilled hole, and begin cutting from the other side. (This will prevent tearing when you finish the cut and ensure a smooth scoring hole.)
  5. Once the hole is cut, sand edges of the hole for a smooth finish.

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

(Cutting Scoring hole Option B: If you decide the hole dozer is not for you, the other option at your disposal is to cut the hole manually with a jigsaw. (See image) This is pretty tricky and there is no guarantee you will get a perfectly round hole.

Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  1. Find the center point 9 inches from the top as described above.
  2. Place a nail or tack in this spot and tie a piece of string to it.
  3. Tie a pencil to the other side of the sting 3 inches from the nail and trace a circle around this center point.
  4. Drill a large hole (large enough that the jigsaw blade will fit through it) at some point on the inside edge of the circle. (This will be where you insert the blade of the jigsaw and will serve as the starting point for cutting the hole).
  5. Insert jigsaw blade into hole and cut along the circle line.
  6. Sand edges for a smooth finish.

(Again, this is not the route I recommend, but if you feel confident in your cutting skills or have no other options, it can work too.)

Step 4: Attaching the Legs

Once again, I do something a little different when it comes to attaching the legs to the board. For most cornhole boards, the legs are attached to the outside frame using large bolts. I find this to be a bit cumbersome and I am not a fan of the bolt ends sticking out of the frame. Instead, I prefer to attach the legs to the bottom of the platform using hinges keeping a slick, clean look to the boards.

  1. Cut two 6 inch pieces from the remainder of the 8-ft piece you cut for the ends of the frame.
  2. Cut the remainder of this piece into four approximately even sections. (This piece should be just under 40 inches long so you should get four, approx. <10 inch pieces, though there specific length is not particularly important.)

(Note: If you are making you second board, skip this step and reuse these pieces from the first board.)

  1. Position these pieces along the interior of the frame at the top of the board (where the hole is). These will serve as a guide for positioning the base for the legs. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  2. Place 6 inch pieces cut in step 1 snug to these guides with the long end parallel to the long section of the frame.
  3. Glue 6 inch pieces in place and place something heavy on them to ensure a good set and wipe off any excess. (See Image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

(Note: Be cautious in the amount of glue you use here. Make sure it is enough to get a good hold but not so much that it seeps out much. You don’t want to accidentally glue your guide pieces to the board itself).

  1. Once glue has set, remove guide pieces.
  2. Cut two 9 ½ inch pieces from the third 8-ft board for the legs.

(Note: Again, be very precise in your measurements to ensure you get two boards of the same length. You don’t want a lopsided or wobbly board.)

  1. Position the 10 inch legs vertical on the 6 inch bases, flush at the end toward the top of the board. (See image).

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  2. Position hinges on each base next to the legs, centered on the leg. (See image above)

(Note: Make sure the hinges are facing the correct direction so that the leg will fold down flat once hinges are attached.)

  1. Mark the holes for the screws on the legs and the base. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  2. Using a small drill bit, drill a shallow hole on each marked spot.
  3. Attach hinges to base and legs using screws provided.
  4. Check to make sure hinges are secure and legs fold down flat.

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

Step 5: Securing Legs for Transport

The one down side to attaching the legs with hinges is that they tend to want to flop around when transporting your board so you will need to have a method to secure them when not in use.

  1. Screw an eye socket screw into the inside of the frame approx. 12 inches from the top frame board (Just inside the end of the folded down leg). (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

(Note: The easiest method for attaching the eye socket screw is to hammer it into position first and then screw it in by hand as far as you can go. Use pliers to finish tightening.)

  1. Repeat on opposite side.
  2. Attach 12 inch bungee cord to one side and stretch across to attach to other side. It will be pretty tight but it will go all the way. (See image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
  3. Use pliers to close hooks on bungee cords.
  4. Secure legs under bungee cords. (See Image)

    Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society

Step 6: Build the Second Board

Now that you have completed one board it is time to start on the other. Simply follow all the steps provided for the first board and make a second board just like it. The second one will be much easier as you will have a clearer idea of what you are doing and the steps you will be following.

(Tip: If you want to save time and have the space, you can begin working on attaching the frame of the second board once you have completed the frame of the first board. This will allow you to continue work on first board as you let the glue set on the second board.)

And that does it! You now have two functional cornhole boards. However, they will look a little plain. But they also offer you the opportunity to decorate them however you see fit. I will be writing about some techniques for dressing up your newly completed boards in the coming weeks so be on the lookout for that. Happy cornholing!

Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
Kings Cowboy Hat | The Tailgate Society
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