I have seen so many of these patio coolers on Pinterest An I always loved them. They were made using an old esky/cooler box and I wanted to try and make my own.
I did not want to use a cooler box because I did not think it would be big enough. My next thought was a small fridge, but the bottle space in the door would take up too much room. So a small freezer was my final choice for my Patio Cooler.
How to make a themed patio cooler
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Find a freezer
There is now a marketplace on Facebook where you can buy and sell items you no longer want. I put up a post asking for an old broken freezer and got one offered to me straight away, I just had to collect it. I had originally planned to just have a plain wooden box, but because I call my site Unique Creations I felt I had to add something unique to my box. Even though Ned Kelly was seen by some as a villain, he was also seen by many as a hero. I chose Ned Kelly as the theme to my Patio Cooler.
Strip down the freezer
My first step was to remove the compressor from the back of the freezer. It was as simple as cutting a few copper pipes.
I also removed all the elements, baskets and shelves from the inside so I was left with an empty shell.
Once I had pulled out the shelves and the supports I was left with a few holes on the inside of the freezer.
I sealed all the holes using Silicone sealer. There were some flat plastic clips on the shelves which I cut smaller and used super glue to glue the plastic over the holes (as per the image below). I cleaned the inside of the freezer using bleach and it came up spotless.
Building the frame
I used mainly recycled materials to make this project. The wood I used were old bed slats that I cut in half lengthwise using a table saw. To make sure all my slats were the same thickness I put them all through a Thickness Planer which cleaned all my wood up at the same time. I kept some thick pieces for my frame (You can skip this step if you are using new wood).
I turned my freezer upside down and made a frame using the thicker wood I had put aside. You need thick wood to support the weight of the box when it is full of ice and drinks. I measured out my lengths and cut them to size using the table saw. I join them all together by drilling pocket holes into my wood using a pocket hole jig. To add extra support I also glued the wood using wood glue.
Assembling the frame
This is where I made my first mistake. I always make up my projects as I go along so as you can image it does not always work out. I recycled some old table legs as leg supports for the base but I screwed them together wrong. The legs need to be on the outside of the frame at the top and bottom and not at the sides. I drilled pilot holes into my wood first to prevent any splitting and used a countersink drill bit to sink the heads of my wood screws. The heads need to be flush for when you add the side slats.
When you attach the legs leave a gap at the top the thickness of the wood you will be using to make the apron. Mine was 2cm. The image below is the image you need to use to see the correct way to attach the legs. It is a good idea at this time to do a test fit to make sure your freezer fits in before to carry on.
Add leg supports to the patio cooler
My next step was to add wood supports between the legs to keep them in place. I just used scrap wood from my scrap heap for this step because you will not see the wood. I followed the same process of countersinking the holes so the screw heads were flush with the wood surface. This is a better view of the gap you need to leave for the apron. Do not take the lid into account when leaving your gap.
To keep the sides in proportion when adding the supports. I cut a block of wood half the thickness of the legs and screwed and glued them to the inside of the posts. Next, I cut more scrap wood to the thickness of the remaining gap and screwed the support into the block. (As per the picture below)
Box in the patio cooler frame
I cut all the slats to the size that I needed for the sides, I am not giving any sizes because the size will all depend on the freezer you use. I cut mine to fit in between the top and bottom supports. To attach the slats I used a nail gun attached to a Compressor. If you do not have a nail gun you can use nails. I started with the front first and left an overhang on both sides the thickness of the wood I was using. Repeat this for the back as well. I did have to cut one of the middle slats smaller to fit in the remaining gap. I did the sides last and because I left the overhang the sides sat flush with the front which gives a better look.
Making the apron
To make my apron for the top I cut 4 pieces of wood 2cm thick which with was the gap I had left. I made a frame and used a pocket hole jig and wood glue to hold them together. I made my fame a little wider than to box for a nicer look. To attach the apron to the box, I pre-drilled holes into the apron and the base. And used long wood screws to screw it in place. all the screws were countersunk so the heads were not sticking out. I filled the holes with wood filler to hide the screw heads This was my next mistake I thought it would work better keeping the old fridge hinges on. But the lid would not open properly because it was catching on the apron. So, It is a good idea to remove all the hinges.
With the lid in the correct position, I made a frame around it. My wood was thinner for the lid so I glued the sides together and secured them with the nail gun. For the slats on the top, I cut them all to the correct size using a table saw. I lined up the wood to the outer sides first so they were flush and worked my way in. I used wood glue and a nail gun to secure the top slats to the frame. To attach the box to the lid I used large screws that went through the wood and into the frame of the freezer door. I sanded the box using a random orbital sander I started with 180 grit sanding discs and finished with 240 grit.
Add the plumbing for the patio cooler
I had to come up with a way to drain the water from the melted ice in the box. This was the set up that I used. I went to the hardware store and put it together as I went along. I used PVC Pipe for the elbow joint and some clear tubing that I clamped to the PVC pipe on one end and the tap to the other end using ring clamps. In the end, I had to use clear flexible tubing because I could not come up with a way to attach the tap to the PVC pipe.
To attach my plumbing set up I used a hole saw the size of my PVC pipe and drilled through the base of the freezer. I fit the pipe in place and used a silicone sealer around the top to make sure there were no leaks. You can use a U hinge to secure the tap to the box. Once you have completed the patio cooler it is a good idea to test for leaks. You can fill the cooler with water and leave it on a concrete surface so you can see and leaking water. To give the box a better cosmetic look I used a wood router and removed all the edges with a round over Router Bit.
To attach the lid to the base I used heavy duty hinges which were fitted to the outside of the lid. Because the box would be heavy when filled so I added swivel casters so it would be easy to move around. It can be rolled to the grass and the tap opened to drain the water. I added a handle to help lift up the lid.
Adding the images
The Ned Kelly images took me longer to do than it took to build the whole box. I used the method of image transfer using gel medium but I made so many mistakes and had to redo it so many times. But it did turn out great in the end. I have since done a few image transfer projects and wrote a post on the pros and cons of each. Once my images were done I added 2 coats of outdoor varnish to protect the wood and as a finishing touch, I added a bottle opener to the front.
Side View of Box
Looking for your next DIY project for outdoor entertainment check out this cool outdoor table with ice trough.
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Michelle LanyonDecember 16, 2016 at 5:21 am
Anita HollandDecember 27, 2016 at 7:47 am
Very kind of you, Thanks
MikeJanuary 11, 2017 at 3:11 am
What a great idea. Awesome job
JackieJune 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm
The only thing I would add, is some heavy duty wheels! Other than that what an awesome clever idea.
Mary CalderJune 3, 2017 at 5:47 pm
I’m thinking of using a large ice chest that has a broken lid hinge. It is one with deep insulation to last for a week on trips. Pictures and descriptions are easily adapted to any size. Thanks
Anita HollandJune 23, 2017 at 6:20 am
Your very welcome, would like to see it when you are finished. Was thinking about doing a big one.
melanieNovember 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm
OMG I need to make one of these asap! such a good idea!
Anita HollandNovember 11, 2017 at 2:54 am
Thank you Melanie, a great project made from mainly all recycled materials. I was so popular it sold with in minutes of posting it. Good luch and would love to see your finished product if you do make one.
NinaJanuary 17, 2018 at 6:28 am
This is a cool idea!
Anita HollandJanuary 18, 2018 at 12:48 am
Thank you, turned out better than I thought.
StaceeFebruary 1, 2018 at 5:31 pm
Fun and Fantastic! you should make more and sell them!
Anita HollandFebruary 2, 2018 at 12:18 am
Thank you, I have been asked to make a Harley Davidson one just waiting to find a broken freezer.
VanessaJuly 12, 2019 at 12:34 pm
Your patio cooler is really, ahem, cool!
Anita HollandJuly 13, 2019 at 2:29 am
Thank you so much.
AnnJuly 20, 2019 at 6:27 pm
Fabulous way to repurpose an old appliance. Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ’s!
ErleneJuly 24, 2019 at 4:50 am
This is so cool and a great way to reuse an broken mini freezer.
Anita HollandJuly 25, 2019 at 1:27 am
Thank you, It was all I could find. lol
MariaApril 9, 2020 at 3:42 am
Fantastic cooler upcycle
Anita HollandApril 13, 2020 at 10:39 am
Thank you so much.
Matt SaundersJuly 12, 2021 at 11:53 am
Very nice work. Main thing I would change is the plumbing. You can get threaded pvc adapters that will allow you to attach your faucet or valve (I like to use ball valves in this situation) directly to your pvc pipes. Cleaner look & less chances of any leaks. BTW, with the faucet or ball valve there’s no need to move the cooler to drain it.. Just hook up a garden hose & you can.let gravity water any part of your yard or garden that’s lower. Also I agree that heavier wheels should be used. Even with a freezer this size if it’s filled 80-90% with drinks & ice the wt will be far more than most regular casters can handle.
Anita HollandJuly 12, 2021 at 1:35 pm
Thank you so much for the info Matt.