My wife came up with this brilliant idea of combining an ice chest and coffee table to make our back patio party ready. I really loved the idea, so we put our heads together and made this project. It turned out great, so I wanted to provide a set of plans for those of you who would like to make one of their own. One caveat though, this was built around a galvanized trough that we had lying around, so it will require some adaptation to fit whatever bin you choose to use for the ice chest, but I’ve provided enough detail that I think you should be able to modify these plans to fit nearly any table application. To demonstrate this, I drafted up a farm table variant that showcases how this style of building can be adapted to other applications.
I chose to use rough cedar lumber such as is used for fences. I like working with it for a variety reasons. First of all, it’s naturally weather-resistant so I won’t have to worry about bringing it in out of the weather. Next, it’s very straight-grained, so cutting joinery is easy. You can even take some short cuts with cedar joinery, such as in cutting the shoulders of the rabbet joints, because they snap of straight with just a chisel and some leverage if the perpendicular face is cut. This is also an inexpensive and widely available wood that any of my readers can get ahold of without difficulty.
Bill of Materials (qty – length x width x height) :
- 1 – 4″x4″x8′ Cedar Fence Post
- 6 – 2″x4″x8′ Cedar Boards
- 8 – 3 3/8″ wood screw lags (ledgerlok or similar)
- 20 – 2 1/2″ coated deck screws*
- Drill with countersink bit and driver for deck screws
- Circular saw
- Miter saw or 45 degree fence for circular saw
- Table saw or router with edge guide
- Cut 4×4 down to 1′ 6 1/2″ (4)
- Cross-cut 3 1/2″ from one end, 2 1/2″ depth
- Use a sharp, wide chisel and mallet to remove the cheek, starting 1″ in slicing through the endgrain toward your cut.
- Drill two holes diagonal from one another. Spacing is not critical, but should be >3/4″ from shoulder of the joint, edge of the leg, and top of the endgrain. Drill hole the width and height of the head of your lag, then drill a center hole slightly smaller than the shaft (not including the threads) of the lag.
- Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 4’3″ and drill two holes at the ends of the boards, spaced 3/4″ in from the ends, equally spaced apart. I used a #8 countersink so that my countersinking screw heads would be flush with the face.
- Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 1′ 1 1/4″
- Screw the long rails into the short rails to make a box
- Drive the lag bolts into the rail assembly
- Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 9 1/4″ and one at 4′
- Drill two equally spaced holes in the center of both 9 1/4″ pieces
- Screw the short pieces into the endgrain of the 4′ piece to form an “H” or “I” shape
- Toe screw the H-stretcher assembly into the legs, making sure that they are spaced equally in:
- height from the bottom of leg
- distance from the sides of the legs
- Make certain that all faces are parallel the adjoining faces. A bar clamp or pipe clamp can help hold the stretcher in place while you make find adjustments with a mallet.
- Top Frame
- Set up your table saw:
- blade height at 3/4″
- fence to the right of the blade at 1″ from the left side of the blade
- Run two 2x4x8’s through this set up to cut the shoulder of your rabbets
- While the saw is set up, run your top slats through on both ends and two pieces on 3 sides.
- Set up your table saw for the next cut:
- blade height at 1″
- fence to the right of the blade at 3/4″ from the left side of the blade
- Cut the perpendicular face of your first cuts. The waste may ride against the blade. Clear it with a long scrap. Don’t touch the blade. Keep your fingers; you’ll need them.
- Cut the miters on your top frame assembly. Remember that the short points of your miters face the rabbets.
- Pin nail the slats into place
- Optional: if you want the top to be removable, add a 3/4″ cleat to the underside of the lid. To permanently mount it, add a larger cleat and screw it to both faces.
Slats that make up the top have the reverse rabbet of the frame so that they sit flush and move independently of the frame to account for expansion and contraction. I just pin nailed these in.
Top frame components dimensioned
Leg and rail parts labeled and dimensioned
Leg and rail assembly parts, labeled
Dimensioned isometric view
Exploded view of all the table components.
Closed table in perspective
The cooler / coffee table with the lid raised. If you just want to use this as a coffee table, you can stop here and call it done.
Farm Table variant, drawn to scale but not dimensioned. Included in the sketchup file
Download the SketchUp File Here: cooler.skp