How to Build or Buy Cornhole Boards

One of the most common things people think when they first discover the great game of cornhole is “This is great…and I could build my own set!” and it’s true! I’ve built dozens of sets by hand myself, bought a handful from a variety of builders, helped friends repair/upgrade boards they built or bought, and worked with our own supplier to optimize the construction and design of the cornhole boards we sell, which I’ll put up against any boards you can buy at any price. I’m also an active member of an amazing Facebook group called Cornhole Designers and Builders.

With this article I want to share the sum total of that experience.

Deciding Whether to Build or Buy a Set of Cornhole Boards

Building the Cheap and Easy Way

Building your own cornhole board can be a fun and rewarding project that you can involve your whole family in, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you’re handy around the house you might be able to throw together a set with some random plywood and 2x4s you have laying around the garage! Such a set can give you and your friends and family hours of fun in your backyard or before tailgating the big game. Even if you that’s what you want to do, and that’s the right approach for a lot of people, I think there’s some information below will help you get the most out of those materials.

Building the Best Cornhole Boards You Can

If you take the game more seriously and want a tournament-level playing experience, or are the type to say “If you want something done right, ya gotta do it yourself!” then you’ll also find here everything you need to know to build a set of cornhole boards that’s on par with the best boards money can buy. The recommendations fall in line with the official specs necessary to meet the requirements of virtually all leagues and tournaments.

Saving your Time and Energy for Playing Cornhole!

Most people realize that it costs more, takes more time, and requires more specialized tool to build a really nice set than they thought. If you embrace the challenge and the info below helps you with your building, great. If you disagree with some of our recommendations, that’s fine too!

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Specifications and Recommendations

  • How wide and long should the cornhole board be? 24″ x 48″
    The specs allow a 1/4″ variance, (which is nice because it accommodate the thickness of saw blades and router bits so you can get 4 decks out of a single sheet of 4×8 plywood.
  • How high should the back edge of the cornhole board be? 12″
    The back edge needs to be 12″ high.
  • How high should the front edge of the cornhole board be? 3″
    The front edge should be 3″ high.
  • How big is the cornhole board’s hole? 6″
    The hole must be 6″ diameter, with its center 9″ from the back of the board. That means the back of the hole is 6″ from the back of the board.
  • How thick should the cornhole board be? 3/4″
    Most leagues allow the use of 1/2″ plywood with cross-bracing with wood that thin. In my experience even with cross-bracing 1/2″ is not thick enough to provide a quality playing experience. I recommend at least 5/8″ plywood and ideally 3/4″ (or the metric equivalents of 15mm and 18mm) plywood if you’re building boards for leagues or tournaments or the serious players who are used to competition-grade boards. If you’re building a set for casual players and want to save a little weight, 5/8″ or 15mm is fine.
  • What is the best wood to use for a cornhole board? Baltic Birch plywood
    If you’ve ever worked with plywood you probably have a certain picture in your head: a handful of thick layers (some of them kinda foamy-looking and lame), there’s gaps and voids along the edges that you need to sand, and each side has a thin outer layer that you can sand through on accident, and peels up at the edge over time, even if you round over your edges. Baltic Birch is totally different. It’s made of way more layers, or plies, than even the top-end stuff you’ll find at the big box stores. Baltic Birch plywood is made up of 11 or 13 layers of the same wood glued together in alternating direction, so it won’t warp over time. And the outer layers are full thickness instead of veneer. All that adds up to a dense, heavy product that gives your decks the weight and rigidity they need to not bounce, and you get gorgeous edges that you can sand, round over, etc. without ever having to fill voids. In fact, the edges take a stain very nicely, and look fantastic. You won’t find Baltic Birch, also sometimes called Russian Birch, at hardware stores, but a good lumberyard will have it. It’s sold in 5×5 sheets, which I gather is a European thing) which conveniently gives you both decks and enough wood to use for your frames and legs too. Because…
  • What kind of wood is best for the frame of a cornhole board? Baltic Birch plywood
    Save the 2x4s for framing. Yes, the same material. From the same sheet. One sheet of plywood gives you enough material for the deck and frame, so why not use it? Many people use 2x4s or 1x3s, mistakenly thinking that “real wood” is better than plywood. Dimensional lumber is prone to warping over time, whereas quality plywood is made from layers that alternate direction so it just can’t/doesn’t warp.

How to Build a Cornhole Board

Tools You’ll Need to Build a Cornhole Board

  • A table saw or circular saw (ideally with a track attachment) to cut the plywood down to size for the tops and if you use the same material (which I recommend) rip it into the frames and legs.
  • A miter saw to cut frame pieces and legs to length.
  • A router with a 1/4″ bit to round over the edges and corners so they don’t give people splinters or catch/rip bags.
  • You’ll need sandpaper to smoooth the surfaces, ideally a palm sander or even better a random orbital sander.
  • You’ll need a drill/driver to attach the frame to the deck with screws.

Construction Recommendations

Inset Your  Frame

I recommend insetting the frame bout half an inch. Looks better, and makes it easier to pick the boards up.

Getting Your Leg Height/Angle Just Right

To get the height just right attach the legs to your frame with a carriage bolt, then set your board up on a table with the leg swinging past the edge. Prop the board up so the back edge is exactly 12″ from the surface of the table, and draw a line along the inside of the leg where it meets the table. Then cut it along that line.

The Right Way to Attach Frame to Deck

Get yourself a Kreg jig so you can attach the frame from underneath to avoid having screwheads on the surface of your boards. The $40 base model works fine, but if you’re going to build more than a couple sets or have other uses for it I’d spend $99 on the higher end K4.

You should also glue the frame pieces together, and the frame to the top, with wood glue. The bond of the wood glue will actually be stronger than that of the screws — whatever hardware you use kinda just holds everything together while the glue dries!

Cutting a Perfect Circle

I also highly recommend you use your router (with the help of a circle jig) to cut the holes out, because it’s easier and safer than a 6″ hole saw, which will set you back $50 and isn’t useful for much else. but you can also use a 6″ hole saw.

How to Customize/Decorate a Cornhole Board

Paint/Stain

The most obvious way you can decorate your cornhole board is to paint or stain it.

Pros

  • Painting or staining your board is cost-effective and satisfying.

Cons

  • It does take some patience and skill to do a good job. Taping things off, applying via brush or spray, sanding between coats, etc.
  • It can be tricky to reproduce artwork, like your favorite teams logo, and letters like your family name.

Vinyl Wrap

Another alternative is to apply a 24″ x 48″ vinyl wrap that covers the entire surface of the board.

Pros:

  • They offer great representation of any artwork or image, since it’s basically like printing on paper.
  • They’re easy to apply, and if you get laminated wrap, with the one step you are done finishing your board.
  • If you want to change the look of your board, you can remove the wrap and apply a new one.

Cons:

  • While exterior-grade vinyl is very robust, it is possible to scratch or rip it if you’re very rough on it. Also, many wrap makers won’t print trademarked images like sports team logos.

UV Printing

In recent years a technology called UV printing has come along that lets you print directly onto hard surfaces including plywood. Many consider direct UV printing the gold standard for decorating because it applies ink directly to the wood. Direct UV printing is how we decorate all of our boards.

Pros

  • Absolutely fantastic representation of any artwork or image. It’s basically like printing on paper, so you get sharp edges, any number of colors, any shapes or images.

Cons

  • The equipment is very expensive. If you find a local print shop that has one, they’ll probably charge you $5-10 per square foot to print on your boards, which at 16 square feet total amounts to $80-$160. Also, most of them won’t print trademarked images like sports team logos.

How to Coat/Finish a Cornhole Board

After your board is decorated you’ll want to apply a clear coating to provide a smooth, slippery surface and protect the wood from the elements.

Product

Any polycrylic or polyurethan should do the trick, but most experienced builders I’ve talked to use one of two products: Minwax Polycrylic and PRO Finish Polyurethane. I’ve used both and in my experience there isn’t much difference in terms of application or result. Minwax Polycrylic comes in quart-size cans for $18. If you’re building a set or two for yourself, this will be plenty. If you plan to build a lot of boards, PRO Finish comes by the gallon and is cheaper by the ounce at $40/gallon.

Process

First you’ll want to apply one coat so that the moisture in the product can raise the grain, which you’ll sand down to smooth, and establish a base for additional layers. Then you’ll apply, let thoroughly dry, and repeat. Most people use something like 220, 320 or 400 grit sandpaper between coats, and finer grit for a final sanding of the last coat.