3 day Patio Cooler

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Project by mbfunke posted 01-31-2014 07:03 PM 6941 views 34 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi all, I know there are tons of these out there, but mine has some cool features and science.

The Materials
I was out running one day and noticed that an apartment complex nearby was throwing away some pine shelving from a laundry room. I came back and picked up a ton of the stuff, which is good because this thing took lots of lumber. It’s probably thicker and bigger than necessary, but all that lumber helps with the insulation.

The Science
Speaking of insulation, the coleman cooler I had laying around did a lousy job of it. Here in Florida insulation is important when keeping things cold and my old cooler couldn’t handle ice for more that 5-6 summer hours. With added 3/4” foam insulation and 3/4” pine insulation, now it’s a three day cooler! Seriously, I tested it in a shady spot outside, filled with ice, on summer days averaging stinking hot and the ice lasted three full days!

The Build
I built frames for the sides of the cooler first, using butt joints and pocket screws. I built each dimension 3” too large so that I could accommodate the vertical “panels,” solid insulation and the cooler. Once I was sure the cooler would fit I glued and screwed boards inside the frames to conceal the cooler body. These boards have beveled edges on the outside to add decorate appeal. Then I attached the 3/4” foam insulation board to the decorative boards.

Next was the frame around the cooler opening. I am terrible at producing miters, but decided that the top should really be mitered—I think it turned out ok. Also of note is that this top frame is proud of the support structure on three sides, front, left and right. It sits just forward of the back support frame to allow the lid to fall back slightly beyond 90 degrees. I also beveled the top of the rear support frame for this reason. I was worried that at only 90 degrees the lid might fall on someone’s fingers.

The lid is a bit of a punt really. The lid frame is just butt jointed with pocket holes because I’m terrible at mitering and I figured the front wouldn’t show any end-grain either way. There is a rabbet all the way around about 3/8” deep so that the “panel” boards sit proud about 3/8”. They are beveled all the way around and produce a sort of pillowed effect. The cooler lid is attached screws and the entire lid with a piano hinge. It opens and closes perfectly with a very satisfying vacuum noise.

Although the cooler can be removed I wanted to add a fixed drain both because removing the cooler is a pita and because it looked cool on other coolers here. Conveniently, the stock drain comes apart and the inside bit fits with commercially available pvc fittings. I attached the stock fitting to a piece of pvc tubing, bent the tube to a close enough angle using a heat gun and added the brass drain spout to the outside.

The shelf on the bottom is there because I like using available space and it seemed like a handy place for drink storage. Also, the bottom has 3” locking castors.

The Point
Finally, I added a fancy handle and bottle opener. My neighbor loves it. My wife wonders why we can’t just use the refrigerator.

I told her the neighbor has a refrigerator. Some people will just never get it. :)

-- Mike Funke

5 comments so far

View drbyte's profile


848 posts in 5307 days

#1 posted 01-31-2014 07:58 PM

Great cooler!! I made one similar to this last fall out of an old utility sink/laundry tub, old barn wood, and 1” Styrofoam. Everybody loves it! When we have a big picnic and there are multiple coolers sitting around, everybody comes to this one as the laundry tub holds a ton of ice and drinks and is just plain cool!

-- Dennis, WV

View Diwayne's profile


265 posts in 3935 days

#2 posted 01-31-2014 10:13 PM

good job

-- What one man can do, another man can also do.

View Scooter McClain's profile

Scooter McClain

175 posts in 3167 days

#3 posted 02-02-2014 03:39 AM

Very nice job! I just finished building on of these myself and due to being in the military I move a lot of places and most of the places are in warmer environments (like Florida). Great job on the science behind the build! Free wood is always best, especially when its wider stock like what you have! I wish I could score wood like this, maybe I should go running more!

-- I make sawdust. I think thats a fair assessment of my finished products!

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4476 days

#4 posted 02-04-2014 04:20 AM

That’s looks really nice. Sorta like the ones I build.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Gregg M.'s profile

Gregg M.

224 posts in 2927 days

#5 posted 07-21-2015 08:30 PM

Great idea. Something nice to keep outside for drinks.

-- Marvel Woodworking, West Chester, PA -

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