A family friend reached out looking for a set of cornhole boards for her husband's birthday and, since I'm always looking for excuses to get in the shop, I was happy to help out. Due to the strange situation with the price of lumber right now where pine is more expensive than a lot of the more premium materials available, It didn't make sense to go with construction grade materials for the business end of these when for the same money I could play with some cherry and poplar ply and make them look great.
Part of the decision to use poplar ply was the paper white veneer takes stain incredibly well and provides a great contrast to darker hardwoods. The cherry used to edge the boards was part of a truckload saved from the attic of my grandparents old house where it had been collecting dust since the 1890s, now it's collecting dust in my garage loft until I find excuses to use it. For the frames I did use construction grade 2x4 jointed and planed down to 1 1/4" x 3" to get the twist and hook out of them. I like how the knotty wood contrasts the clear faces. To avoid the frames pulling apart in the future, I reinforced the corners with 3 inch deck screws countersunk and hidden with plugs cut from some of the leftover cherry edgeing from the faces.
I'm not usually up for taking on paying projects. Partly because I have a volatile work schedule and can't promise to make deadlines and partly because I can always find flaws in my work that I don't feel comfortable making someone else pay for. The reason I decided to take this project on was because I was given some creative freedom on the design and finish and the deadline was almost 2 months out so I had plenty of time to procrastinate. I had also been looking for an excuse to try using gel stains with vinyl stickers as a stencil and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Glad I did too, the stencil and stain technique worked great and the results really stand out. Varathane Cherrywood Gel Stain on the poplar ply looks incredible and the edges had almost no bleed. I'll definitely be using this method on other projects in the future.
With the fun parts completed, it was time for the arduous task of finishing. Over the course of 3 evenings I alternated between sanding with 320 grit and applying Minwax Helmsman Clear Satin Oil Based Spar Urethane. In all, I applied 5 coats to make sure I had a good waterproof finish. I found that thinning the spar urethane with mineral spirits at about 5:1 really helped in keeping the coat smooth and free of bubbles and that the very slight yellow hue to the oil based finish made the cherry really pop. I'm almost sad that I have to give these up to the customer after seeing how good they look.
After adding my mark to the backs with my new found staining technique and bolting on the legs on, these boards were wrapped up. Overall I'm very happy with how these turned out and, most importantly, the customer thinks they look great. There are a few minor flaws in the finish that would really drive me nuts if I charged labor and, since I'll be storing these a few more weeks until pick up, I may try to work out those issues if I can find time but my feelings are slightly less hurt about it knowing that these will spend their lives stored in a shed and having bags of corn thrown at them.