How to Build a Wooden Cooler Box

Written by ariel phillips
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How to Build a Wooden Cooler Box
A sample wooden box. (wooden box image by ril from

Although wooden coolers are bulkier and less practical than contemporary coolers made from plastic and polystyrene, their appeal rests not in their functionality but rather their rustic style and classic feel. Making a wooden cooler box is a relatively straightforward project that hearkens back to the days before refrigerators were common, when ice chests were used for chilled storage. With basic workshop tools you can make a good sized wooden cooler box. The directions below are for a rectangular box three feet long and one foot high.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wooden boards
  • Top-mounting hinges
  • Hammer
  • Finish nails or screws
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Fine sandpaper
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • Drill
  • Stain (optional)
  • Paintbrush
  • half-inch rope (optional)
  • Heavy duty bin liners (trash bags)
  • * Thumbtacks
  • * Foam core insulation (optional)

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  1. 1

    Select the wood you want to use for the cooler box. Pine is a good choice because it sands easily and stains well. Choosing a wood with some grain showing can add a nice texture.

  2. 2

    Cut four 36-inch long boards, each 12 inches wide.

  3. 3

    Cut two 12-inch square boards for the ends of the cooler. Drill two 3/8-inch holes into the boards if you want to add rope handles. Drill the holes into the centre of the board about five inches apart.

  4. 4

    Sand the boards, first with coarse sandpaper and then with fine sandpaper. This should remove any rough edges and smooth out all the wood.

  5. 5

    Attach the square end boards to the long side boards by nailing or screwing them together. Make sure all the board edges are flush together before you attach them. If they don't fit snugly sand them more until they do.

  6. 6

    Secure the long boards to each other by nailing two or three nails along the edges of the boards. Once you've completed this you should have a three-sided box with an open top.

  7. 7

    Put the final long board on top of the cooler, making sure it fits well. Attach one hinge about a foot from the left edge by nailing or screwing it into the top of the side board. Repeat the same thing with the second hinge about a foot from the right end.

  8. 8

    Test the lid to make sure it opens and closes without any trouble. Adjust the hinges until it works smoothly.

  9. 9

    Add the optional rope handles by cutting two one-foot pieces of rope. Knot one rope and pull it through one holes in the end board. Then pull it back through the second hole and tie knot at the other end. Repeat this process on the other end with another piece of rope.

  10. 10

    Line the interior of the box with three or four layers of heavy-duty trash bags. Attach the bin liners (trash bags) with thumbtacks, making sure to leave extra slack at the bottom so the bags won't pull off the tacks. The bin liners provide water protection for the cooler. Replace the bin liners whenever they become damaged or worn.

Tips and warnings

  • Add more insulation to the cooler by lining the inside with foam core or another insulting material, such as old clothing or blankets, before installing the bin liners.

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