Cornhole: An American lawn game in which players take turns throwing bags of corn (or bean bags) at a raised platform with a hole in the far end.
I grew up in Iowa and I can tell you ... that was NOT what cornhole meant, but I digress .... this is a family show.
Friends of mine have occasional gatherings at their house and since these days that involves several young children, I figured this game would be nice outdoor activity with a fast learning curve.
I searched around on the ole interwebs to see various designs and then incorporated the features I liked ... no need to recreate the wheel here.
Top recessed into the side panels (looked cleaner and will keep the plywood edge from chipping out)
Posts/pegs to hold the boards together (suitecase style) during storage and/or transport. Inspired by Moss Boards.
On-board bag storage
NOTE: I'll explain my process from the perspective of one board since they are identical.
Step 1: Fabricating the Frame
For the frame, I used 2x4s. I found a lot of boards being made from 1x4 and 1x3 stock, but I wanted the top inset into a rabbet, so I needed the extra width.
48" sides and 24" tops/bottoms were cut using the miter saw. The rounded edges were ripped off (leaving me with 1 1/2" x 3" stock) and then a 1/2" x 1/2" rabbet was cut on each board using the table saw. Lastly, I cut rabbets on each end of the 48" side pieces for the tops and bottoms to sit within, using a crosscut sled on the table saw. I personally prefer this look over a butt joint, but it also eliminates the need to cut stopped rabbets. Since the rabbets were 1/2" deep, that left 1" of stock on each side ... so I just needed to trim the tops and bottoms down to 22" in order to have the final 24" dimension.
I could've simply added 1 or 2 cross braces and called it a day, but that would've been way too easy and my brain just can't have that. Nope ... I had to make things more difficult and add a bag storage compartment.
The bag compartment is created by adding two cross braces inside of the overall frame and then dividing the resulting middle bay into halves and adding a sliding lid/cover. Picture 8 & 9 in this section show the layout.
Cross braces: 22" long x 2 1/2" tall (3" minus the 1/2" rabbet)
Middle divider: 15 1/2" long x 2" tall. I inset it into 1/2" deep dadoes on the cross braces to add rigidity and keep the boards from twisting.
One side of each cross brace gets a 1/2" wide x 1/2" deep groove .. 1/2" up from the bottom edge. This is for the 1/2" plywood panel. During mock up, I noticed that he plywood panel was bowing a bit in the middle on the unsupported edge (the 48" long side). The easy fix for this is to extend the 1/2" groove into this side, which isn't hard, but you need to be careful.
I marked the start and stop point for this groove on the 48" side. I then marked the center point (highest point) of the table saw blade on the fence. I slowly lowered the board onto the blade .. using the fence rail as the pivot point, advance the board until I reached the stop mark, turned off the saw, and waited for the blade to stop before removing the board. This creates the stopped groove. Just take your time and be careful. The centered dadoes were cut using a crosscut sled as I did with the rabbets on the long sides.
Lastly, I drilled a 1" hole into one long edge of the plywood panel, to act as a finger pull for opening and closing the sliding lid once it's in place.
Step 2: Fabricating the Integrated Scoreboard
The most exciting BALES feature (IMO) was, and still is, the integrated scoreboard.
I found various designs for stand alone score towers, but that is just another thing to make and then have to carry around. I wanted an integrated method!! That's when I found a few designs using a metal strips and magnets, which is a great idea, but I foresaw lost magnets. My variation on the magnetic strip was to have captive knob, which slides within a groove.
First things first ... one of the 24" sides needs slots. I measured in 1" from each edge and 5/8" up from the bottom to get the end points for the bottom slot. Thanks to the rabbet for the decking, I couldn't perfectly space the grooves within the stock, so the top groove fell at 2" up from the bottom.
Using a 3/8" forster bit, I drilled holes at these four points. These will define the start and stop points of the groove and keep me from cutting too far when I'm unable to see the router bit. The slots were cut using a small router table and fence. I was cautious and took multiple light passes .. raising the bit about 3/8" each time. I cut the slots from each face and met in the middle for several reasons:
1. My bit isn't 1 1/2" long to make the full depth cut from one side.
2. If my bit was long enough, that type of cut would make me nervous for my safety.
3. I didn't want to risk tear out/blow out with the soft pine.
Step 3: Fabricating the Scoreboard Knobs
I thought about using two different sized wooden dowels for the sliding knobs (envision a small wooden barbell), but I decided that could be problematic should any wood expansion occur ... and knowing my luck, they would end up breaking during game play. I decided to use 5/16" hardware with a wooden cap.
I cut 3/4" long sections from a 1" diameter wooden dowel, marked center, and then drilled a 3/4" hole deep enough to counter sink the head of the hex bolts being used. I used two part epoxy to entomb the hex head within the dowel cavity, as well as glue a 1" fender washer in place.
The bolts are 2" in length with the majority of the shank being smooth for optimal sliding action. They will be secured with a washer and lock nut, which will give me the ability to adjust the fit by tightening or loosening the nut.
Step 4: The Glue Up
Prior to glue up, I did a dry fit to determine all of the screw locations on the frame. They were marked and then drilled with a countersink and 1/8" combination bit using the drill press.
Glue up started with the bag compartment assembly. All the parts are upside down to ensure the faces which will support the decking are all flush. I used glue and exterior deck screws for all of the connections.
With this sub-assembly done, I turned my attention to the outside frame. The short board with slots will be the "top" and the short board with no slots will be the "bottom." I started by attaching these to one of the long sides (the side with the stopped groove in my case). I used shop made clamping squares to keep the corners in alignment while I drilled pilot holes into the end grain and then drove in the screws. Pilot holes are key ... the screws will split the pine like it's their job.
I used a 2x4 cut off (13 3/4" long) as a spacer block between the top short rail and the "top cross brace" to ensure both sides would match and there would be no racking. It just happened to work out that adding a cut off of 3/4" plywood was the perfect spacing between the two cross braces. The spacer became VERY important here because I was getting some racking and if these braces aren't parallel to one another, the plywood panel will bind within its groove.
Before attaching the second long side, make sure you insert the 1/2" plywood panel ... I almost forgot. You want the finger hole to be towards the long side groove (opposite of how I have it in picture #6). During transport and storage, the boards will be on their side ... so you want the bag compartment to be in the bottom division so that gravity is working in your favor and keeping the lid closed. With that in mind, you want your second frame assembly to be a mirror image of the first ... so that both bag compartments are in the bottom division.
With all the thinking out of the way, it was just a repeat of the glue, clamping squares, pilot holes, screws, and spacer block.
Once the 1/2" plywood decking was cut to size and then further finessed with the belt sander because I screwed up, It was inset and attached to the frame using glue and brad nails. As you can see in picture #10, the plywood was doing an imitation of a taco, so I had to persuade it with several F clamps.
Step 5: Cutting the 6" Hole
With the board done, it was time to cut the 6" hole. The center point of this hole is 9" down from the top edge and centered between the two sides. I marked this point, set a compass to 3" and drew the circle ... then my OCD kicked in and I decided I need to make a router template so that my circles would "perfectly" match.
The template is made from a 1/2" plywood panel and a 3/4" strip of poplar for the fence which registers against the top edge of the cornhole board. The center point was marked 9" down from the fence, circle drawn, roughly cut out with a jigsaw, and then sanded to the line using the oscillating spindle sander. It was very quick to make and will save time in the long run.
I found the side to side center point on the board and extended that line vertically. My jig has the same vertical line, which is used for positioning. I roughly marked the circle and removed the jig so that the bulk of the material could be cut from the deck with a jig saw. The jig was then re-positioned and clamped so that the circle can be perfectly cut with a router and pattern bit.
Step 6: Fabricating the Legs
Since the deck is recessed into 1/2" rabbets, leaving 2 1/2" depth of frame material beneath, I had to rip the leg stock to a matching 2 1/2" width. Once ripped, I marked in 1 1/4" from one end and the two sides in order to find the center location for the bolt hole. Before drilling the hole, I used a mini compass set to 1 1/4" to mark the arc on the end of the board. .. then drilled the hole using a 5/16" bit. The arc was shaped using the bandsaw and oscillating belt sander. You need the rounded end so that the legs can rotate and fold up into the board.
To determine the proper leg length, I attached one leg, propped the top end of the board up with a scrap 2x4, and adjusted it until the top edge was 12" above my assembly table surface. Once it was dialed in, I used the edge of my table to transfer the line to the leg. I used the miter saw and a stop block to cut all of the legs at the same length and angle. In my case, the angle was 10 degrees.
Some designs leave the legs independent of each other, but I wanted them as one connected assembly and decided to use 1" diameter dowel to make it happen. I marked the desired location on the inside face of each leg (1 1/4" in from each side and 2" from the bottom) and then drilled a 1" hole with a forstner bit to the depth of 3/4".
To determine the proper dowel length, I inserted it the hole on one of the legs and then used the inside face of the opposing leg to make a mark on the dowel. Add 3/4" for the hole depth, cut the dowel to length using the miter saw, and Bob is your Uncle (I actually do have an Uncle named Bob).
Step 7: Plugging Holes and Sanding
Since I countersunk all of the screws, I was able to plug the holes for a cleaner look. I chose to do this with glue and a plugs cut from 5/16" dowel stock. Once the glue was dry, I sanded all of the surfaces with an orbital sander and broke all the edges by hand with a sanding block.
To sand the scoreboard knobs and round over their edges, I just chucked the bolt up in a hand drill and ran it against some 150 grit sandpaper.
Step 8: Scoreboard Numbers and Branding
I thought about drawing the numbers on like I did with my Shut The Box Games, but it seemed like a daunting task, so I decided to use the good ole wood burning iron and toner transfer method (has to be a laser printer). Cornhole scoring goes up 21 the end point holes. The holes drilled before routing the slots were 21" center to center ... I was thinking ahead. Now I just needed to print out a row of consecutive numbers with a perfect 1" on center spacing.
It turns out that this can easily be done in Microsoft word by using center tab stops. Just select the center tab option at the left end of the ruler and then drop marks at every inch.
For a short video of how to set this up, click here.
If you want to use my file, I've attached a Word Docand a PDF to this step (print it in mirrored mode)
I had to do a bit of quick cutting and taping to get the numbers in one continuous row, but it wasn't too bad. The grid on my cutting mat greatly helped align the spacing from page to page. I spent a few minutes getting it aligned to my liking on the actual board, but once I had it taped in place, it was just a matter of running the hot iron over all of the numbers. I had the best luck with high heat as long as I kept the iron constantly moving. If you stay in once place too long, you're going to get some burning.
While I was at it, I transferred my brand onto one of the leg's external face.
Step 9: Finishing
For finish, I started with a coat of de-waxed shellac (sanding sealer) on all of the parts.
For the paint scheme, I decided to go simple with a black pinstripe. I ran masking tape around the 6" hole and used a drum shell cut off to draw the larger circle. This line was cut with a razor knife and tape within that circle removed. I liked the look of exposed pine edges, so I masked them off, measured 2" in from each edge, and ran another line of masking tape. Extra tape in the corners was removed with a razor knife and metal straight edge. The interior field of the deck and sides were all masked off using pages from discarded magazines. 3 light passes of spray paint later and I was able to remove all of the masking.
I let the spray paint dry overnight before applying several coats of water-based polyurethane. I did 3 coats on the inside of the boards, leg assemblies, locking pegs, and scoreboard knobs. 5-6 Coats on the top and sides of the boards. Lightly sanding between each coat. I did not enjoy the process.
For added protection and further smoothing, I applied paste wax to all surfaces and buffed it out.
Step 10: Assembly
After a few days of poly applications, it was finally time for assembly. I started with the locking pegs, which are just blocks cut from 2x4 cut offs. I doubt dimensions are critical, but mine are 3 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 1/2" with all the eges and corners quickly chamfered using the oscillating belt sander. Each peg was attached to the inside of the frame using two stainless steel pan head screws.
Second, I attached the legs. Each side is connected with a 5/16" carriage bolt, fender washer, and lock nut. You'll notice a small screw next to the leg, which was a solution to an unforeseen problem I'll address at the end.
Third, I attached the score keeping knobs. The bolt goes through the slot where it meets a fender washer and lock nut. I tightened the nut so that the slider moved with little effort, but wasn't so loose to cause binding.
For handles, I used some 1/2" paracord I already had in the basement. I found a comfortable length for an average hand (not my small girl hands), slipped it through the holes, and knotted each end.
Step 11: Glamour Shots
Now it's time to toss some bags and declare victory over the young punks! They are age 5 under, but it'll be a great character builder.
Initially, I was going to make my own bags using duck cloth and corn, but it was cheaper and quicker to just buy them. Also, the further I researched, the more I wanted weather resistant/non corn bags - no worry about corn acquiring mildew and no free meals for bugs and/or rodents.
Overall, I'm pleased with the results. We'll see how the 1/2" plywood holds up. Most builders use 3/4" plywood for more rigidity, but I don't foresee any issue with that thanks to the cross braces.
The Unforeseen Scoreboard Issue
I should've caught this, but I didn't. I made the slots 21" center to center for easy math, but I didn't take into account that the groove then extended into the area inhabited by the legs. Thankfully, I did catch it prior to assembly.
I came up with a few options:
1. Widen the slot on the inside face so that washer and lock nut were recessed into the 2x4. This made the wooden strip between the slots rather thin and I feared it would break.
2. Widen the slot on the inside face so that a johnny bolt/toilet bolt was recessed into the 2x4. With this option, I'd have to remake the knobs.
3. Move the legs away from the back edge and add a standoff so that the lock nuts have enough space to side behind them. This became the winner. My standoffs are made from a stainless steel screw with a section of sprinkler pipe acting as a bushing/post.
If I were to do this again, I'd just tweek the design a bit.
1. I'd use 1/4" hardware for the knobs and make the slots narrower.
2. I'd reduce the length of the slider so that it didn't overlap the space inhabited by the legs. That would mean changing the spacing in my numbers template to 3/4" or 7/8" on center, as opposed to 1" on center. That or try the johnny bolt option.
Sides: 48" x 1 1/2" x 3"
Top & Bottom: 22" x 1 1/2" x 3"
Cross Braces: 22" x 1 1/2" x 2 1/2"
Legs: Length Cut To Fit x 1 1/2" x 2 1/2 - 10 degree angled cut
Bag Compartment Divider: 15 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"
Plywood Top/Deck: 45 7/8" x 21 7/8" x 1/2"
Plywood Panel For Lid Storage: 15 3/8" x 13" x 1/2"
Score Keeper Knob: 1" Diameter x 3/4" long + 5/16 x 2" hex bolt, two 1" fender wasers, and a 5/16" lock nut
Locking Pegs: 3 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 1/2"