Building a Fishing Kayak Cooler

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Blog series by DustyMark updated 05-11-2019 02:46 PM 13 parts 10632 reads 18 comments total

Part 1: The Design

04-30-2019 05:07 AM by DustyMark | 3 comments »

Background I plan to make fishing a regular past time this summer. I spent the winter customizing my Grumman Sport Boat as a very comfortable small-lake fishing platform for two people. One of the upgrades I made was a Hummingbird Helix 7 fish finder. This will help me to at least locate some fish! We camp, with our teardrop camper, at Madeline Island, in Lake Superior, twice a year. The past two seasons we hauled our 22.5’ sea kayak with us and did lots of paddling in the Apo...

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Part 2: Sandwiching the Foam

04-30-2019 05:32 AM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

The Approach My plan is to make the cooler as light as possible without losing durability. 1” pink foam is sandwiched between the 1/4” outer shell and the 1/8” inner shell. 1/2” white pine is used to connect the two layers of plywood. I’ve added another layer of 1/4” plywood behind hinges or handles to give screws more material to bit into. Foam is routed out around the areas where the extra plywood is located so that the foam lays flat b...

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Part 3: Prep Work for Interior Fiberglassing

05-01-2019 05:56 AM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

Rounded the Edges I didn’t have enough time to fiberglass tonight, but I did some prep work so I can get right to it tomorrow. All the edges are rounded over and the entire cooler is sanded. The cable tie holes are filled with epoxy putty. This Rot Doctor filler is buttery smooth and easy to work with. It was left over from my teardrop camper build. Hefty Cooler The cooler weighs in at 12 pounds without a top or fiberglass. I’ll likely fiberglass only t...

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Part 4: Fiberglassing the Interior

05-02-2019 02:18 AM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

Tonight I fiberglassed the interior of the cooler. The Method Precut the individual panels to make placing them easier and swifter when working with curing epoxy. Thickened epoxy is put into a 1-quart freezer bag that works like a caulk tube. Laying a bead of epoxy. The bead is smoothed out with a plastic scraper cut to the desired radius. The idea of this bead is for the fiberglass to make it around the corners without a void. Each piece of fiberglass i...

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Part 5: Trimming the Cured Fiberglass

05-02-2019 06:34 PM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

The fiberglass cured for about 8 hours. I use slow cure hardener and it was set, but not at final hardness. It’s much easier to trim and sand at this stage of the cure. Using a razor to trim excess fiberglass from the top edge. Some strands that need to be sanded away. After sanding. The strands are carefully sanded away, but the main fiberglass weave maintains its integrity. It’s easy as a “fussy” woodworker type to sand too much and sand away...

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Part 6: Making the Top

05-02-2019 06:57 PM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

With the interior ready for another coat of resin, I fitted the top pieces. The interior edges were traced directly onto the foam for a custom fit. Nothing beats a track saw for cutting odd angles on projects like this. I use a sacrificial piece of foam for the blade to cut into. I often set this cutting operation up on my three folding shop tables. I’m using the tables at the moment, so I just worked on the floor. 1/2” of foam must be routed away around th...

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Part 7: Fiberglassing a Panel and Taping the Outside Seams

05-03-2019 01:59 AM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

Fiberglassing a Panel Fiberglassing an individual panel is pretty simple. Drape an oversize piece of cloth over the panel. Pour epoxy on it. Spread the epoxy with a scraper to fill the weave, but leave no puddles. The weave of the cloth will remain prominent after the first coat. Once the epoxy reaches green cure, trim edges with a razor and apply another fill coat of epoxy. It may take three coats total if you’re going for a glass smooth finish. The inside...

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Part 8: Installing the Ceiling and Feathering the Fiberglass Tape

05-03-2019 06:00 PM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

Installing the Ceiling I fiberglassed the ceiling before installing it since it’s a small area to work in. The back side of the panel is glued in with foam adhesive. The front edge is epoxied to the wood cross frame piece. The panel is also held in by a bead of thickened epoxy. This maintains the waterproof integrity of the cooler. Using fiberglass tape was not needed for strength and would have been an incredible hassle to sand in this tight area. The bead of epoxy is ...

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Part 9: Why Show a Fiberglass Intensive Project on a Woodworker's Site?

05-05-2019 03:24 AM by DustyMark | 4 comments »

This is a site for woodworkers and it might seem odd that I would post a blog about making a cooler that involves so much fiberglass work. If you look at my projects profile, you’d see that I’ve made a houseful of high-end furniture over the past 33 years. I’ve also built 9 small boats. My boatbuilding experience has taught me techniques that are handy to make something out of wood that can survive prolonged use in a harsh outdoor or marine environment. As I consider ...

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Part 10: Making the Lid

05-06-2019 03:34 AM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

The construction of the lid is much the same as framing up the cooler. Trace the outline of the lid from the cooler itself. I’ve experimented and the lid should compress the 5/16” gasket material down to 3/16”. Here I’ve cut 3/16” off the lid on the hinge end. This allows for the gasket. Fit the 1/2” by 1” frame pieces. I opted to use one screw at each corner of the frame. It’s tricky to line them up perfectly when the ...

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Part 11: Fitting the Lid

05-06-2019 06:57 PM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

I decided to fit the lid before fiberglassing it and coating it with epoxy. I fitted the handles as well. Plane 3/16” spacers to set the hinge gap. The compression of the weatherstripping was perfect for this application. I used these same stainless steel hinges in my teardrop camper build. I installed the hinges closer to the outside edge than I had planned. It seemed this would be sturdier with the force of compressing the weatherstripping along the outside edges. I...

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Part 12: Sanding and Painting the Cooler

05-09-2019 03:13 PM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

How Picky? I’m in the home stretch of the cooler project. I’ve heard that in a quality woodworking project, about a third of the project’s hours are spent on sanding and finishing. Each project warrants a quick analysis of “how good is good enough?” Do you want to simply protect the project from the elements, or do you want it to look “amazing” also? I have quality levels that I refer to as 1’, 5’, or 10’. What distance do I ...

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Part 13: Done!

05-11-2019 02:46 PM by DustyMark | 5 comments »

I cranked this project out in 19 days and it’s ready to use for the opener of fishing up here in Minnesota. We’re planning on fishing in the afternoon after the crowds have dispersed a bit. Final Specifications The cooler came in at 19.2 pounds. This is as light as I could possibly make it and still be sturdy for real-world use and abuse. I substituted in fourth grade this week and in math class we computed the volume at 30 quarts. Mounted on Kayak It’s bi...

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