Teak and Cypress Ice Chest

  • Advertise with us
Project by JayG46 posted 09-02-2014 09:26 AM 3574 views 9 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I built two of these chests for the golf course I work at to replace the existing ones which were made of green synthetic material and falling apart. The original idea was to find a couple of pre-made coolers and build the chests around them, but my uncle recently built a platform bed with an insulated cooler drawer and that gave me the idea to fabricate the cooler as well as the chests. It turned out to be a much more expensive and difficult route, but in the end, the chests proved to be both more attractive and efficient as a result.

The first step was to glue up the legs, which were comprised of two pieces of 7/8” cypress laminated around a 5/8” piece of teak. I left the teak extra long so that it would fit into the trestle-style feet that I glued up next with materials of the exact same thicknesses.

Next came the panels. The frames were made from resawn and book matched 8/4 teak while the panels came from locally sawn and air dried 4/4 cypress. The panels were raised and I left an extra gap around the edges which I eventually filled in with black teak decking caulk to prevent moisture from infiltrating the joint. Especially in the beginning, this was an exceedingly tedious process, but probably a necessary one. By the end of all 27 panels, I was finally getting pretty good at it.

Once the carcass was assembled, I started on the top. Since these things are going to be outside year round in southern Florida, I took a lot of precautions to help them survive as long as possible. One major one is that the top slants down at a 10 degree angle to shed any water that might land on it. This makes the overall construction a little more difficult, particularly the tops. Here is a picture prior to one of the glue ups:

It’s hard to see, but the top rail is flat and everything slopes from there. The tenons are angled, the dado in the top rail is angled and for everything to fit together necessitated a little more “encouragement” than usual.

With the box assembly complete, I went on to constructing the cooler. The first line of defense was 2” thick insulation with aluminum lining on one side. Inside of that, I used 1/2” blue foam insulation.

The cooler itself is made from Azek, which is a plastic material sold in 4×8 sheets (among other offerings). At over $130 a sheet, it’s more expensive than most high end plywood, but for this purpose, it was indispensable. It cuts easily on the table saw and takes stainless screws without pre-drilling. Azek has a proprietary glue but the place I bought it from suggested that I used regular PVC adhesive and it seemed to work just fine. To fill in any gaps I used silicone caulk and covered it with a coat of epoxy. Around the top I did a mitered frame with a 1/2” dado filled with weatherstripping for a tight seal. I also added some teak trim on the inside to hide the outer layers of insulation.

The top of the cooler is attached to the lid of the chest and has two layers of metallic coated bubble insulation with one layer of 1/2” blue foam insulation in between. The lid of the chest is attached to the body via a stainless steel piano hinge with a slight offset to that the lid will stay upright when lifted completely.

For drainage, I added two 4” long 1/2” PVC pipes with miniature sink traps in the bottom of the cooler. My idea was that the traps would allow the cooler to drain but at the same time prevent the free exchange of hot air into the cooler.

For a finish, I put down one coat of RAKA epoxy which I sanded even with 320 grit. From there I applied numerous (6 or 7) 50% thinned coats of Epifanes dull rubbed marine varnish with a foam brush, sanding between every other coat. I like the look very much since its much more natural and understated than the traditional high gloss boat finish which probably would have looked tacky on these, in my opinion.

One final preventative measure was to put strips of Azek on the bottom on the feet to prevent direct contract with the ground. Even with a durable finish, I felt this was necessary to prevent premature weathering.

Once they were completed, I gave them a test run with two bags of ice, two jugs of water and two celebration beers should they preform properly. After 48 hours, ice still remained in the chest despite mid 90 degree heat and high humidity and celebratory Yuenglings were in order.

Making an outdoor project like this is a real challenge and is not completely satisfying since the true test comes with time. Hopefully they stand up to the elements!

Thanks for checking them out.

-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi

10 comments so far

View xraydav's profile


218 posts in 3303 days

#1 posted 09-02-2014 09:44 AM

Beautiful work.. great idea with the teak.

-- David, Norwood Mass, [email protected]

View mbfunke's profile


76 posts in 3992 days

#2 posted 09-02-2014 02:14 PM


-- Mike Funke

View hotncold's profile


788 posts in 2877 days

#3 posted 09-02-2014 03:18 PM

very nice – one of the best I’ve seen anywhere!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4927 days

#4 posted 09-02-2014 06:50 PM

Very kwel, great job

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View sepeck's profile


523 posts in 3474 days

#5 posted 09-02-2014 11:01 PM

YAY! An ice chest that is not merely a box in a box. This is along the lines of one of my goals this winter.

Any particular reason you picked Azek or did it just fall under the ‘food safe plastic recommended by the local plastic supplier?

-- -Steven Peck,

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4480 days

#6 posted 09-03-2014 12:36 AM

Well you certainly seem to have covered all the bases! The coolers sure look great, and I’m sure they’ll last a long time!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View JayG46's profile


139 posts in 3191 days

#7 posted 09-03-2014 01:15 AM

Thanks for the comments, folks.

Sepeck – I didn’t have a real reason for picking Azek other than I wasn’t aware of another option – not to say that there isn’t one. I didn’t think too much about the food safe aspect of it since most everything that goes in there will have some sort of a wrapper or cap on it.

-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi

View joshuam39's profile


62 posts in 2715 days

#8 posted 09-03-2014 03:01 AM

So much nicer than the pallet builds you usually see.

-- Let's go Pens!

View hoss12992's profile


4180 posts in 3226 days

#9 posted 09-03-2014 05:01 AM

That is really cool and very informative with all the detail in your post. Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 3753 days

#10 posted 09-04-2014 07:03 PM

That is an over-the-top excellent looking and well made cooler! I like it! I’ve been making some of these for friends using leftover bits and pieces (usually hardwood from jobs we’ve done), but I’m usually on a time crunch and end up skimping on the joinery and end up using pocket screws most of the time. They seem to like them, but if I make one for myself one of these days, it’s going to be over-the-top like that with real joinery and nice wood. Very well executed and beautiful looking cooler!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics