Building a Cornhole Set

It’s almost Summer Festival Season friends! ACM’s Party for a Cause just happened, we’ve got Country Thunder AZ this weekend, Stagecoach is only three weeks away with Pozo Stampede happening at the same time and OakHeart Country Music Festival is in the beginning of June. To start getting ready for some of the best festival camping and tailgating around, I decided to try my hand at building a cornhole set. You might be reading this and wondering, “What is cornhole?!” Well, for those of you who are out of the loop, I’m just going to shake my head in disgust and have you click here.

I did some super lazy research online and found Corhole-How-To. The site seemed pretty legit and the instructions were clear… so, I had my guide. I’ve always found it pretty easy to figure out most processes when I’m given a step-by-step how-to. But, being a pretty typical guy and despite the fact I’ve never built a cornhole set before, I decided after a cursory examination of the instructions that I was now an expert in the subject matter and could jump around and make modifications. While the project was far from a disaster, I also wouldn’t exactly say that I built the set I was picturing in my mind. Take from this what you will.

 

I had a general idea of how I wanted to “skin” my cornhole set and the added features I wanted to include. I was planning on sanding it down well and staining/lacquering the board then lining the with Realtree Xtra patterned tape to cover up the filled screw holes then adding a large Living Country in the City logo decal in the middle. On top of the standard set detailed in the instructions, I also wanted to add rope handles and clips to the sides of each board. This way, when packing up the set, I would be able to clip it together and carry it as one piece. So, I hopped in the car and headed over to Home Depot to scout out some materials. Because I was planning on staining instead of painting (and due to sheer laziness), I invested in wood with a nicer grain that would require a lot less finishing. But, after all was said and done, I walked out of Home Depot around $75 poorer. If I’d been willing to spend more time finishing the wood or was planning on building multiple sets, I could’ve easily cut that down significantly.

 

Once I got back home, I laid out all my supplies and prepped my “work bench”. By “work bench”, I mean… “old patio lounge chair with the pad removed”. What can I say? I live in a one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles… I’m lucky I have an area to work in whatsoever, let alone set up a work bench. I had all my 2×4’s pre-cut at Home Depot to save time. Unfortunately, as I started laying out the frames to screw together, I realized that the associate had cut them incorrectly. So, I had to take about an inch off of each one with my circular saw.

(“Pro” Tip: Always remember to check the depth of your circular saw. The excitement of getting that perfect straight cut is somewhat diminished when you realize after the fact that you’re about a quarter inch too shallow with your blade.)

 

In an effort to minimize the amount of holes I would have to fill, I decided to angle the screws in from the interior of the frame. As I didn’t have any clamps (an issue which was shortly thereafter remedied), the process was a bit more difficult than expected and resulted in a frame not quite as square and flush as I would’ve liked. When all is said and done, the frame wasn’t too tweaked, especially after I attached it to the deck. But, a cheap set of bar clamps would’ve saved me quite a few headaches and improved the final quality of my board significantly.

 

Attaching the deck to the frame was a pretty simple matter. However, in my excitement to see the project start coming together, I forgot to drill a pilot hole for my first screw and managed to nearly split off a whole corner of the deck. Fortunately, a couple of small finishing nails in the side and a bit of wood filler was able to rescue the piece. One of the very few wise alterations I decided to make on this project was to invest in a mandrel and 6″ hole saw for my drill. I was able to pop out that entire 6″ hole in the board in under the time it would’ve taken me to draw the circle, let alone cut it out with a jig-saw and sand it smooth. All that was required was a bit of sanding to later round down the top edge of the hole.

 

The most complex part of the project, as well as the part that I most needed to read the instructions for, was building the legs. In fairness to myself, I did finally take another look at the instructions… It was just about half-way through the process after I’d already made a fair mess of everything. The complexity lies in there’s fairly precise measurements you have to make for everything to fit and rotate properly. Unfortunately, my measurements were a bit more “eyeballed” than precise and I had to make some rather ugly cuts to get the legs into a functionally folding state. Fortunately, most of those ugly cuts are hidden on the underside of the boards and, as the how-to website says, no one is likely to see them unless they collapse under the boards from exhaustion. All in all, the legs turned out okay and are functional, if not a little sticky. One didn’t quite seat right and folds back just a bit too far, but slightly tightening the wing nut takes care of it well enough.

 

After some generous amounts of wood filler, the cornhole boards really started to look like a finished product. However, looking at the amount of fixes that I had to make and the gaps due to the tweaked frame, I decided that painting the board would be a better option this time around. Additionally, I had a ten gallon bucket of interior/exterior wall paint from when my bathroom was refinished. Unfortunately, being off-white, it wasn’t exactly the most dirt and stain hiding of colors. But, the paint was heavy, durable and, most importantly, free. Therefore, it was without a doubt the most appropriate choice for my needs.

 

While waiting for the paint to dry, I decided to tackle the beanbags. My original idea was to sew them using two separate colors on one side and some heavy Realtree Xtra patterned fabric on the other. But, as I wanted to have these ready for an event I was throwing that following weekend and as the rest of the plans for branding my board, I instead ordered a solid set of beanbags from an online vendor that had a HUGE selection of different color combinations of beanbags. To match my logo, I went with the green and black. Eventually, I’ll make a new set with my ideal beanbags that include an embroidered version of my logo. When that happens, I’ll make sure to post an update here.

 

Once the paint was fully dry, it was time to reassemble the legs and add the finishing touches to my board. I drilled two holes in the sides of each board and ran some nylon rope through to make a handle. Then, I installed four clips (two on each of the long sides) to hold the two boards together so they could be carried as a single unit. I would’ve preferred to install the clips on the short sides of the boards, but due to the tweaked frame, the alignment wasn’t close enough to flush that they would lock together. As it is right now, it’s a bit rough on the clips as when you’re carrying the boards by the handle and you set the boards down on their side as feels natural. Additionally, I’d like to ad some sort of additional padding to the rope handles as they’re a bit thin and dig into your hand pretty heavily under the weight of the board.

 

As I said at the beginning while writing this, the project was far from a disaster. It didn’t turn out quite as nice as I hoped. But, I did manage to learn a lot(particularly about carefully reading instructions) and expect that the next set of cornhole boards I build will be of a significantly higher quality. At the end of the day, though, I have a solid set to drag around to parties, rough up, spill beer on, enjoy the hell out of and eventually pass along to some other country festival goer.

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