April 3, 2015

Cedar Ice Chest Tutorial

Summer is my favorite season of the year and I love projects that spruce up the patio. A fellow DIY'er named Paul Broder from Burleson, Texas sent in a photo of an ice chest and said he'd love to see a tutorial on how to build something similar. So, I got to work and ended up coming up with some easy to follow plans and an awesome new ice chest to have out on the deck! It's going to be perfect for summer barbecues and great timing to have for my younger brother's wedding this summer.

It's a fun and practical project that I know you will have fun tackling. Enjoy learning how to build a patio cooler using the video tutorial, post, and plans!

Cedar Ice Chest Tutorial

Click HERE or on the image below for the downloadable Patio Cooler Ice Chest Plans. These plans for your DIY patio outdoor cooler are available for a small fee and you can use them to build as many ice chests as you'd like! Have fun with the build and thank you for your support!


Please note that many of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I'll get a small commission if you purchase any of the tools using them. This is what helps support the website so I can continue making more DIY plans for you. Anything purchased on Amazon using the following link: http://www.DIYPETE.com/AMAZON will help support the site. So thank you for your support!

Dewalt 12” Miter Saw: http://amzn.to/2ESRcZX

Dewalt Orbital Sander: http://amzn.to/2FxsdbV

Kreg Jig – The K4 is what I have.

Table Saw
Air Nailer – I like the Ryobi Airstrike tools
Dewalt 20 volt Drill: http://amzn.to/2CJrLUV
Tape Measure, Ruler, Pencil


Clamps – Clamps are helpful for any project. I love to use JackClamps.
Dewalt Circular Saw: http://amzn.to/2CKWEbE
Kreg Jig Face Clamp – Very handy.
Kreg Jig Right Angle Clamp – A must!
Speed Square
Hand Sander
Hole Saw Set

Supplies Needed

Wood Glue – I'd recommend Gorilla brand wood glue.
Box of 2 1/2 inch Kreg Screws
Driil Bits
120/220/400 Grit Sandpaper
Box of 1 1/4 inch nails for air nailer
Teflon Tape
4 inch Riser, 1/2 inch threaded Piping, 1/2 inch coupler, Red knob spigot/valve
2 1/2 inch or 2 inch locking caster wheels
52 Quart Igloo Contour Cooler (I found mine at Target for $29.00)
2 Hinges
3 Handles
Bottle Opener
Optional: Bottle Cap Catcher
Paint Brush
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
Rubber gloves
Safety glasses
Ear Protection

QTY: 12 – 5/8 thick x 5 1/2 x 6 long cedar fence pickets : $2.59/board
QTY: 8 – 2×4 x 8 cedar boards : $7 / board

Approximate Total Cost: $190

Cedar Wood: $87
Spigot/valve: $6
2 Hinges: $4
Bottle Opener: $5
4 Wheels: $18
1 Qt Sealer: $15
1 box 2 1/2 inch screws: $10
Nails/other screws: $7
Cooler: $29
Glue: $5
Piping: $4
*Approximate Total Cost (Not including tools and supplies you might have like rubber gloves, paint brush, etc.)

You can decrease the cost of this build by using pine 2×4's instead of cedar to save about $36. Use a cooler you already have or pick one up at a garage sale or on craigslist to save about $29. Ditch the wheels to save an additional $18.

Overall Dimensions:

Please note you will need to adjust the measurements a bit to fit your exact patio outdoor cooler. If you have an old outdoor cooler cart laying around go ahead and use it! Don't buy a brand new one if you don't have to.

32 inches wide – 22 inches deep – 36 3/4 inches tall plus 2 1/2 inch wheels 

Step 1:

Start making your cuts for the legs of your cedar ice chest. I'd recommend using a miter saw.

How to make a cedar Ice ChestRemove hardware from the cooler

how-to-make-an-ice-chest-and-coolerStep 2:

Assemble the legs. I used a Kreg Jig to drill 4 pocket holes in one board for each leg. Then connect using wood glue and 2 1/2 inch Kreg screws.

Making a patio coolerStep 3

Assemble the frame for the cooler out of 2×4 boards.  Connect each 2×4 with 2 1/2 inch screws. You can make it as snug as you'd like. I left about a half inch of play on each side to make it easy to remove the cooler if needed. Use the cooler as a template or measure the cooler to determine how long to cut these boards.

Making a Patio CoolerStep 4

Attach the 4 corners to the top frame. Use 2 1/2 inch wood screws and put about 4 for each corner. Drill a pilot hole before putting the screws in so the wood doesn't split.

How to make a drain on a coolerStep 5

Add the apron. Rip fence boards on a table saw and then glue and nail them to the top as shown in the photo. This will create about a half inch overhang on each side. I cut the apron to 3 1/2 inches wide.

Step 6

Create the cooler support out of 2×4's.

Kreg Jig ProjectsStep 7

Place the frame upside down on a flat surface and slide the cooler in place. Next, put the support at the base of the cooler and attach to the legs using screws and pocket holes. If you don't have a kreg jig, you could pre-drill and then run screws in at an angle.

Cooler SupportThis is what the support will look like from the bottom side.

underside-of-cedar-ice-chestStep 8

Add fence pickets around all sides to hide the cooler. I started by attaching a board in the middle of the sections and then moved to the left and right. Use as many full width fence boards as you can. Rip the outer boards on a table saw to get a perfect fit. I'd recommend spacing the boards roughly 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch from each other.

DIY Fence Picket ProjectsStep 9

Add trim horizontally on each side. Rip fence boards into 2 inch strips and then glue and nail the trim in place.

DIY Cedar ProjectsStep 10

Place the cooler in the frame and then mark where the hole will go through the side of the wood surround. Then drill a small hole through the wood from the inside. Next, use a larger bit or hole saw from the outside to finish the full sized hole. This is where the piping will go through.

Cooler-for-cedar-ice-chestHere is a look at the piping. You may need to get various lengths due to the cooler used, but head to the pvc pipe / sprinkler section to get the supplies. I used the plastic hardware that came with the cooler (white pieces and gasket below) to attach to the threaded 1/2 inch threaded nipple to the right in the photo. The 1/2 inch coupling secured the other side of the cooler. I then used a 4 inch long 1/2 inch riser to go from the coupling to the spigot/shutoff valve.

cedar-ice-chest-how-toStep 10

I cut a scrap piece of picket to 3 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches to give the spigot a little extra support. Use 1 inch screws to attach the valve.

Cedar-ice-chest-with-fixtureStep 11

Determine the height and width of your cooler lid. Mine was a little less than 2 inches high and so I ripped a couple 2×4 boards to make them 2 inches tall. Then place the boards around the perimeter and cut to size. The lid should be snug with the wood.

cooler-for-a-cedar-ice-chestStep 12

Attach the plastic cooler lid to the wood using 2 inch screws. Pre-drill and then put in the screw. Make sure the outer part of the lid is flush with the wood. The inner part will protrude from the wood because it is what will allow the cooler to stay in place when the lid goes down. The inner portion will seal the cooler.

cedar-ice-chest-lidStep 13

Cut 4 fence boards down to size and rip them each to the same width on the table saw. Leave about an 1/8 of an inch between each. Use glue and an air nailer to keep them in place. 

Step 14

With the lid in place, attach hinges to the back of the lid. Use the screws provided.

hinges-on-ice-chestStep 15

I decided to add a lower shelf as an after thought which is why the legs have finish on them in this photo. Cut a 2×4 down to 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches on a table saw ( or use a 2×2 board ) and then make the cuts to create the lower shelf supports. Glue and then screw them in place.

ice-chest-with-shelfAttach fence pickets to create the lower shelf. I did not have to rip these boards but do so if you need to.

shelf-for-coolerStep 16

Apply finish to the wood. I love the natural look of cedar and so I used Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane. If you are using pine I'd recommend either painting the project or applying quite a few coats of sealer. I'd recommend removing any hardware you already installed to make the sealing process go faster.

diy-pete-minwax-cedar-ice-chestLet the sealer dry overnight and then lightly sand with a sanding block and 400 grit paper to remove any rough spots on areas where the cooler will be touched. Then wipe up the dust and apply 1 or 2 more thin coats of sealer using a clean rag.

sanding-outdoor-patio-furnitureStep 17

Attach the hardware. I picked up 3 handles from Home Depot that are 5 1/2 inches wide. I also found the bottle opener and spigot/valve at Home Depot as well. Attach wheels to each leg by pre-drilling and then using 2 inch screws. Adding wheels is optional and they are about $4 / wheel at the hardware store. I used 2 1/2 inch locking caster wheels.


Ice ChestEnjoy!

Job well done! Put that new Patio Outdoor Cooler to good use:) This is going to be great for your summer barbecues, events, and parties. Click here to purchase the ice chest plans if you want to get started today!

diy-pete-salmon-fly-montanaGood luck with your project and most importantly have fun with the build. Please post photos of your finished Ice Chest below on on the DIY PETE Facebook Page. Cheers from Bozeman, Montana!


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