My first project... any tips for a newbie?

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Forum topic by lucky4034 posted 08-08-2013 07:44 AM 2060 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1779 days

08-08-2013 07:44 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak router


My name is Mike… I’m from Northern Indiana and this is my first post on lumberjocks and is my first wood working project. I have ZERO experience in woodworking, but I need a hobby and I’m willing to give this a try. The idea of creating something out of nothing using my imagination and hands is very appealing. The only problem is that I don’t know what I’m doing (yet) and have a lot of questions to make sure I’m on the right track.


I want to make a customized Cornhole Set. For those of you who aren’t familiar… Corhole is a game where you throw bean bags at a 2’ x 4’ gameboard with a 6” hole in the center. Its a backyard game that is similar to horse shoes.


The goal is to get accustomed to using my router… a tool I’ve never used before. With that said, I want to avoid using screws and nails at all costs and want to rely on dovetails and dado cuts for the majority of assembly.

A generic board would be very simple to build with plywood, boards, a few screws and a saw… but being my first project, I really want to go above and beyond. This project not only is to produce a customized game for my family to play, but is a chance for me to get my feet wet learning some of the basics of woodworking, therefore I plan on going the extra mile and using a bunch of unnecessary techniques so that I can learn how to use some of the tools I have recently required. (thats where hopefully, you guys will give me a hand).


I plan on using 1/4” oak plywood for the face of the game boards and maybe 1×4 Oak boards for the sides (unless you guys know of some cheaper/better options… I don’t know anything about lumber to be honest).

Here is an image of a generic game board:

My changes:

~For the sides, I plan on using dovetail joints on all 4 corners and using them to frame the face.
~The face will sit inside 1/4” dado cuts nestled along the inside of the frame and will be sunk into the frame 1/4”. My goal is to arrange family photographs on top of the plywood face and then use some kind of clear epoxy to fill the rest of the frame.

Here is a sketch of the inside of one of the frames that I plan to make…


1. This gameboard is heavy and to keep the weight down, I went with 1/4” plywood. I’m afraid that the flex in the board may cause issues for the epoxy. Will the 1/4” epoxy add rigidity to the face? Or will the flex in the board potentially cause to weaken the epoxy?

2. I can add a support beam under the face of the board… will this help with the issue above (if there is one) or should I go with 1/2” and call it a day?

3. Do you foresee problems with the lengthwise 1/4” dado cuts on the inside of the frame on the ends where they intersect some of the dovetails?

4. I have limited tools but will purchase what I need within reason. I have a router table and table saw as well as a drill and 6” hole saw… Is there anything else obvious that I need?

5. Should I purchase a dovetail jig? (or are dovetails easy enough that I won’t need one?)

6. Any suggestions on epoxy?

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Even if they are negative :D I realize that this post was long, so I thank anyone who made it this far. Keep in mind that I am a complete newb, but am eager to learn so please talk slowly… I probably won’t understand the lingo for awhile.

Thanks in advance,


8 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17426 posts in 3032 days

#1 posted 08-08-2013 12:15 PM

Lots going on in this post Mike. First welcome to the gang.

Here’s my htoughts:

1/4 ply is going to flex too much on the top. I would use 1/2” ply and then a sheet of 1/4” laminated over that. 1/2’ for structure and the 1/4” for show. If you get a ton of flex in the top you may “crack” the epoxy finish.

Dovetails – if you can pull it off more power to ya. Nothing easy about them but with some practice you can get em down. A good sharp backsaw / dovetail saw will be required and a few sharp chisels if youre going the hand tool route. Without a jig it would be darn near impossible to pull off with a router IMO.

Dado – you would be best served to stopping that dado before it hits the tail on both sides or itll look funky at the end. I guess you could plug it if youd like but its gonna be a funny plug to cut.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View lucky4034's profile


3 posts in 1779 days

#2 posted 08-08-2013 12:49 PM

Exactly the info I’m looking for! I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew for my first project and your reply was the input I am looking for. Thank you!

I’ll nix the 1/4 plywood and go with 1/2.

The dovetail idea was simply for learning purposes… but it sounds as if it may be a bit beyond me for my first project. I think I’ll miter in some 45s on the ends of the frame and call it a day. That will eliminate the dado overlap problem as well.

Some sharp chisels are on my “things to buy” list so I’ll save the dovetails for a later date.

Once I get the skeleton built (hopefully this weekend), I’ll be back with some pics and more questions on how to jazz it up

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2593 days

#3 posted 08-08-2013 12:58 PM

Welcome to LJs.

All good advice from Stef. I know guys who have been woodworking for years are still araid of dovetails. There are lots of video on making dovetails, by hand and by machine. I make mine by hand, I hate my dovetail machine.

Keep us posted on your progress. You will find lots and lots of help on this site.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View KevinBlair's profile


56 posts in 2351 days

#4 posted 08-08-2013 01:11 PM

My best “newbie” advice is: expect to practice, practice, practice!

Use plywood or mdf to create a sample/experimental version of your project. This is money and time that is well spent if you don’t have the skills down. In addition to practicing the skills of measuring accurately and then turning the measurements into accurately cut parts, you can also get a good idea of how your ideas will play out in reality; usually leading significant improvements and refinements.

Regarding dovetails: After reading posts here at Lumberjocks, I bought the jig from Harbour Freight (about $30.00 after coupons). You’ll also need the dovetail bit and guide bushing (Milescraft from Lowes, about $20 I think). I also read all of the lumberjocks postings on the jigs, especially the Harbour Freight model. Be sure to get the alternate instructions as recommended in the posts from Peachtree (I think, but the posts have links).

After an hour or so of practice I started to get really nice dovetails from this jig. A little more time on some drawer parts of the actual size I planned for the drawers got me to the point of going for the real drawer parts, which turned out exactly as hoped. For a new woodworker, I think this jig offers a nice, low cost entry into making dovetails. For me, this jig is probably all I will need.

I also recommend watching youtube: askthewoodman and woodwhisperer sites. Watching how carefully these guys (Marc and Allan) set up each of their cuts and the way their use their tools provides tremendous help in understanding why their projects turn out well and some of my earlier efforts didn’t.

Best of luck and welcome to Lumberjocks!


View helluvawreck's profile


31393 posts in 2892 days

#5 posted 08-08-2013 01:58 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks, Mike. This is an interesting first project and you seem to have put a lot of thought into and have also received some good advice. I’m sure that it will turn out fine and I would like to see it after you finish it.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View lucky4034's profile


3 posts in 1779 days

#6 posted 08-08-2013 03:23 PM

Thanks for the support guys.

@Kevin… good advice! I definitely will run a few practice peices before I cut into my oak.

View chrisstef's profile


17426 posts in 3032 days

#7 posted 08-08-2013 03:41 PM

Mike – heres a link to a blog that was done detailing the build of a cornhole board.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2644 days

#8 posted 08-08-2013 03:48 PM

Dovetails – do half-blinds and you can avoid stopped dados (they’re no fun). I agree with the 1/2” ply, too. Looks like a cool project, a good one to jump into! Keep us posted, Lucky!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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