|Project by JayG46||posted 09-02-2014 09:26 AM||790 views||9 times favorited||10 comments|
I built two of these chests for the golf course I work at to replace the existing ones which were made of green synthetic material and falling apart. The original idea was to find a couple of pre-made coolers and build the chests around them, but my uncle recently built a platform bed with an insulated cooler drawer and that gave me the idea to fabricate the cooler as well as the chests. It turned out to be a much more expensive and difficult route, but in the end, the chests proved to be both more attractive and efficient as a result.
The first step was to glue up the legs, which were comprised of two pieces of 7/8” cypress laminated around a 5/8” piece of teak. I left the teak extra long so that it would fit into the trestle-style feet that I glued up next with materials of the exact same thicknesses.
Next came the panels. The frames were made from resawn and book matched 8/4 teak while the panels came from locally sawn and air dried 4/4 cypress. The panels were raised and I left an extra gap around the edges which I eventually filled in with black teak decking caulk to prevent moisture from infiltrating the joint. Especially in the beginning, this was an exceedingly tedious process, but probably a necessary one. By the end of all 27 panels, I was finally getting pretty good at it.
Once the carcass was assembled, I started on the top. Since these things are going to be outside year round in southern Florida, I took a lot of precautions to help them survive as long as possible. One major one is that the top slants down at a 10 degree angle to shed any water that might land on it. This makes the overall construction a little more difficult, particularly the tops. Here is a picture prior to one of the glue ups:
It’s hard to see, but the top rail is flat and everything slopes from there. The tenons are angled, the dado in the top rail is angled and for everything to fit together necessitated a little more “encouragement” than usual.
With the box assembly complete, I went on to constructing the cooler. The first line of defense was 2” thick insulation with aluminum lining on one side. Inside of that, I used 1/2” blue foam insulation.
The cooler itself is made from Azek, which is a plastic material sold in 4×8 sheets (among other offerings). At over $130 a sheet, it’s more expensive than most high end plywood, but for this purpose, it was indispensable. It cuts easily on the table saw and takes stainless screws without pre-drilling. Azek has a proprietary glue but the place I bought it from suggested that I used regular PVC adhesive and it seemed to work just fine. To fill in any gaps I used silicone caulk and covered it with a coat of epoxy. Around the top I did a mitered frame with a 1/2” dado filled with weatherstripping for a tight seal. I also added some teak trim on the inside to hide the outer layers of insulation.
The top of the cooler is attached to the lid of the chest and has two layers of metallic coated bubble insulation with one layer of 1/2” blue foam insulation in between. The lid of the chest is attached to the body via a stainless steel piano hinge with a slight offset to that the lid will stay upright when lifted completely.
For drainage, I added two 4” long 1/2” PVC pipes with miniature sink traps in the bottom of the cooler. My idea was that the traps would allow the cooler to drain but at the same time prevent the free exchange of hot air into the cooler.
For a finish, I put down one coat of RAKA epoxy which I sanded even with 320 grit. From there I applied numerous (6 or 7) 50% thinned coats of Epifanes dull rubbed marine varnish with a foam brush, sanding between every other coat. I like the look very much since its much more natural and understated than the traditional high gloss boat finish which probably would have looked tacky on these, in my opinion.
One final preventative measure was to put strips of Azek on the bottom on the feet to prevent direct contract with the ground. Even with a durable finish, I felt this was necessary to prevent premature weathering.
Once they were completed, I gave them a test run with two bags of ice, two jugs of water and two celebration beers should they preform properly. After 48 hours, ice still remained in the chest despite mid 90 degree heat and high humidity and celebratory Yuenglings were in order.
Making an outdoor project like this is a real challenge and is not completely satisfying since the true test comes with time. Hopefully they stand up to the elements!
Thanks for checking them out.
-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL www.swallowtailwoodcraft.com "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi