The Maker: Yard Games

Photos by Sarah Jump

Sometimes it takes a while to connect the dots. For most of his life, Celestine-based woodworker Derrick Schaefer never had much interest in backyard games. But when his brother went to college and came back raving about a new game called Cornhole, Schaefer began making custom Cornhole boards for friends. “My ex pushed me to put them on Etsy,” he says. “I sold hundreds of sets that year.”

Soon, he added what would become his signature product: Four in a Row—a giant homage to the 1970s classic Connect Four. Unlike Cornhole boards, Four in a Row is not an easy game to make. Using computer-assisted routers and saws, Schaefer is able to cut the boards more precisely than he could with traditional tools. He decided on birch plywood for the frame because it’s so strong and lightweight. “But they have so many different parts and thicknesses of material,” he says. “It takes at least two days to build 20 sets of them, which is a lot longer than the other things I sell.”

[sidenote position=”left” credit=”Buy It”]Four in a Row game made from birch, featuring a custom paint job and laser engraving. $400.[/sidenote]An unvarnished version of the game sells for $140, but customers often ask Schaefer to add custom paint and laser engraving. “I do a lot for weddings,” he says. “I can engrave the wedding date and their names on the circles.” That can increase the price by more than $300—a lot for the average backyard party host, but well within reason for Barneys New York, which has sold his work.

Now that he has cornered the market on Connect Four, Schaefer has his sights set on another oversized game that has been popular on patios lately. “I’m hoping to start making a giant Jenga game soon,” he says. Expect that to drop next spring.