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Make your own Cornhole set in just 3 hours & under $100

Posted by Melissa Massello  July 2, 2013 08:56 AM

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Photo: Melissa Massello/Shoestring

Though it sounds more like an insult tossed between Beavis and Butthead than a classic lawn game, "cornhole" (or tailgate toss) has become a requisite part of any summer party or BBQ — even modern weddings.

My first introduction to the game was probably a late spring day on campus at the University of New Hampshire back in the late 1990s (yes, I'm that old), tossing bean bags against a board on a frat house lawn — but nowadays it's startup cafeterias and urban driveways where I find most people playing cornhole. (I even saw local blogger Holly Darling create a chic, custom set for her recent DIY wedding.)

In fact, the New York Times says that the traditional Midwestern game has lately found a haven with hipsters in cities all across the county for its "charming, passive, social" nature. Here in Massachusetts, former Patriots player Matt Light hosted the first annual cornhole tournament fundraiser in May, and there's even a Boston Cornhole association that hosts regular leagues and tournaments around Boston and beyond.

Thanks to my friend Matt Ayers, co-owner of AEDI Construction in Waltham, we pulled together this custom cornhole set in just three hours last Sunday morning — including the trip to Home Depot in Watertown — and just $78 in materials. After a trip to Modell's at Fresh Pond for a box of regulation (6" square) bean bags, we were playing cornhole at our BBQ in Somerville that night. You can, too! Just grab a willing friend to help, and you'll find your July 4th shenanigans just got infinitely more fun.


Photo: Melissa Massello/

If you're having your pieces cut at Home Depot or another local lumber yard, use this list and assemble at home with wood glue, a nail gun or power drill (with sheetrock screws). You'll need two (2) pre-cut 24x48" sheets of plywood in birch, which Ayers says is "a good, inexpensive paint grade material," and four (4) 1"x4"x8' pre-primed pine boards, then take them to the service counter for cuts in the following dimensions.

  • Two (2) sheets of birch plywood: 22.5" x 46.5"
  • Four (4) mitred sides: 1x4" cut 24" to the long points, with mitred ends on the 45
  • Four (4) mitred sides: 1x4" cut 48" to the long points, with mitres on the 45
  • Four (4) legs: 1x4" cut 11.25", mitred on the 45 (so when they rest under the 3/4" plywood it's 12" up from the ground, which is "regulation")
  • Bean bag hole: cut round 6" in diameter, centered 9" from the top and 12" from either side

Wood Glue
Nail gun with 1.5" brads (or power drill w/ 1.25" sheet rock screws)
Sand paper (80 to 120 grit)
Exterior grade paint and primer in one (optional, to your preferences)

Total DIY:
If you're making the cuts in your plywood sheets & 1x4s at home, you'll also need the following power tools:

Chop saw or skill saw
Table saw or skill saw
Drill with 6" keyhole saw (or jigsaw with trace and make a pilot hole with a drill bit)


Photo: Melissa Massello/

Have Home Depot (or your favorite handy person, like Matt) cut plywood, sides, ends, and legs to measure. Also cut out 6" diamter bean bag hole in plywood at 12" mark (centered 9" down from top, 12" from either side) Sand edges. Start on one side, doesn't matter which, and check to make sure everything fits by "dry fitting" your pieces before glueing and nailing/screwing together. Once those are all done and good, run a bead of wood glue along the sides and top of each board to make your frame. Nail to plywood. Attach the legs with a nail gun (and bend the ends in for safety) or with your power drill (the 1.25" sheet rock screws should be flush/invisible).

If you are doing the cuts at home, make the center hole last so it's easiest to cut when it's raised up off the ground. Sand rough the edges and then prime and paint.

For finished examples of unique cornhole sets & painting inspiration, check out my Cornhole design collection on Pinterest!

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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