Introduction: Pirate Chest Beer Cooler

Picture of Pirate Chest Beer Cooler

Around the first of the year a friend sent me the following link showing how someone turned an ordinary cooler into a Pirate Chest:

I really liked the idea and wanted to give it a try as I host many BBQs and wanted a place to store my 'liquid gold' (beer) that would be both unique and fun.

I got around to giving this a try and am very happy with the results so I wanted to share and hopefully inspire others that are interested to make their own Pirate Chest Beer Cooler.

Step 1: Select the Cooler

Picture of Select the Cooler

First thing I needed to do was to find a cooler I wanted to use for the project. As the size of the cooler will directly impact the size of the chest and how much you can store in it as well as the weight when loaded.

I looked online and in local stores as well as talked to friends about where they got their coolers. I had selected a cooler at a local store (it was cheaper than Amazon) and was going to go get it. Then a friend stepped in and said that they had an old cooler that was sitting in their backyard and I could have it, although it would need some cleaning and a handle was broken.

It ended up that the cooler I got was the exact model I was going to go buy. I guess it was fate!

It was a 70qt Coleman Cooler and was a bit dirty as you can see in the photos.

Step 2: Prep the Cooler

Picture of Prep the Cooler

I needed to remove the lid as well as the handles so that I could start to measure and create the box that the base of the cooler would fit into.

The hinges were attached with screws, and the drain plug was a threaded plastic piece. Both of those were removed with ease.

The handles were molded as a part of the cooler and I used a cutting disc with my Dremel and removed them with ease. It does not look the best, but it does not matter as the cut handles will be covered by the base of the chest.

Step 3: Building the Base Box

Picture of Building the Base Box

I used 5/8" pine plywood for the base box. I made it so that the bottom piece of the box fits inside the sides for aesthetics and better support.

I measured the widest points and created the four sides with measurements directly taken from the cooler for a snug fit.

Step 4: Creating the Lid

Picture of Creating the Lid

Deciding on what profile I wanted to use for the lid was one of the hardest parts of the project.

I ended up making a 7-sided lid to give it a 'rounded' look. There are many options you could do and you just have to sketch them out and then decide on measurements and angles.

  1. Cut the sides of the lid in the profile you have decided.
  2. Cut narrow boards to fit between the sides and enclose the lid (Start with the bottom front/back), then attach them to the sides.
  3. Cut the center top piece and attach it to the sides.
  4. Place the cooler lid on the cooler inside the base box. Set the 4-sided lid that you have over the cooler lid and onto the base box.
  5. With the cooler & lid in the bottom box with the chest lid placed over it, cut pieces to use as cross bracing and others to run to the top for vertical support.
  6. Take the chest lid off and screw the cooler lid to the cross bracing of the chest lid.
  7. Attach the rest of the cross pieces to enclose the rest of the lid.

Step 5: Drainage Hole and Staining the Chest

Picture of Drainage Hole and Staining the Chest

Once the base chest is complete (bottom box and lid) you can drill a hole for cooler drainage and also stain it to the color you like.

I placed the cooler in the bottom box and with the drain parts removed I pushed a marker through the drain hole to mark where it would align with the box. This is where I drilled the hole for the drain to pass through.

I kept the design simple and used a small piece of 5/8" clear flex tubing and a cork to extend the drain through the wall of the chest.

If I did this again I would not add a drain hole and just tip the whole thing over to drain it as I don't like the look of the drain hole in the side of the chest.

I used a Redwood stain for the color of the main box and lid. I stained the inside and the bottom of the chest so there was nothing left un-stained.

Step 6: Decorative Banding

Picture of Decorative Banding

I wanted to make the trunk look like it had banding that helped to hold the trunk together. I didn't want to use plywood as I wanted a different look and found an old pallet in a trash pile that ended up being made of solid oak.

I ripped and sanded the oak boards to the desired sizes with my table saw, then applied them to the chest at each edge/corner and two in the middle.

As I was cutting the boards I ordered decorative chest pieces which help make the chest look very distinct.

Step 7: Handles and More Decoration

Picture of Handles and More Decoration

After I had the chest and banding all assembled I wanted to add handles to the sides as well as more decoration.

I do leather working so I found some leather handle brackets at the same place I oredered the corners and trunk lock from.

I cut and dyed the leather to fit the handle brackets and even added an embossed "D" in the leather (like in 'Dread' pirate).

While the leather was drying I added 'furniture nails' that I got from a local hardware store to the oak banding for extra effect.

Step 8: Engraving the Chest

Picture of Engraving the Chest

After the chest was all assembled and hardware was added, I wanted to give it a unique look and decided I was going to engrave a "D" in the top and front of the chest.

  1. I printed two different sized "D"s using the 'Parchment' font.
  2. I taped the paper to the wood on one side and then traced the lines pressing very hard. This slightly dented the wood and allowed me to transfer a rough image of the graphic to the surface of the wood.
  3. I used my Dremel with an engraving bit and carved out all lines, making sure to go extra deep on the "D" itself.
  4. I then used a permanent fine-point brown marker and colored in all lines and areas that were carved.

Step 9: Fill It With Liquid Gold and Tar

Picture of Fill It With Liquid Gold and Tar

Once you have your Pirate Chest complete, the only thing left to do is fill it with Liquid Gold (beer) and Tar (stout)!

Before you fill it you might want to decide where it will be placed first.

The chest alone is very heavy with the plywood and oak added to it, but once a 70qt cooler wrapped in a Pirate Chest is filled with beer, you are not going to want to move it.

Enjoy your Pirate Brew!


Absinthe Dragon.


alixleckie (author)2014-10-30

Thanks for the instuctable you did! it inspired me to make my own, and I incorporated an additional storage section in the lid with a key to lock it and a tap on the side to drain the melted ice :)

Greetings Alixleckie!

That chest looks amazing! Great job!

I love the extra storage you added in the lid of your Chest. I wish I could have done something like this to mine too. There is a lot of space in there to use.

Now go fill that thing with Beer and have a great Halloween! :D



Captain Verso (author)2017-10-19

is there any link as to where i can find the brass hardware? having trouble finding them?

Greetings Captain Verso,

You can find the hardware on the Ohio Travel Bag site.
As an example, here is a link to the latch I used:


bryans workshop (author)2017-05-17

This is awesome!!

Thank you Bryan

GrandpapaB (author)2016-10-11

This is a very cool "Cooler Pirates Chest". Thanks for the instructions ,I'm going to have a go at it and see it turns out. I'll post pics when I finish.

It is a lot of fun to make and I get a lot of compliments on it at parties.

Please share pix when you are complete.

Jwhitaker7319 made it! (author)2016-08-07

Made mine about 3 years ago. And is been in several camping troops and to several parties. I love all the compliments i get from it. Wish i would of thought about using the space on top as storage. Guess I'll have to make another one lol.

Copperace (author)2015-11-24

I have a tiki bar theme in my garage and you have helped me solve a small problem....thanks for sharing. Now I just need to figure out what I can make my side-by-side beer fridge look like...some how relating to pirates or tiki or bamboo or "islandy" looking something...mmmmm. Thanks for sharing!!!!

Once you get it all made, post some pictures! :D

LaneL2 made it! (author)2015-07-02

Thanks for the inspiration. Finished mine last weekend after working on it off and on for the last couple of months.

Absinthe-Dragon (author)LaneL22015-07-03

Great job Lane!

I actually added that exact same bottle opener to mine as well a few months after finishing it. Great idea to use it as a handle!

MoRoToRiUm (author)2014-12-30

I was thinking what to do with dead space, and thought about a slot and catch for bottle caps (okay idea)... Which led me to the conclusion that there needs to be a bottle opener attached/incorporated (great idea)! Perhaps the lock hasp?

After I made this I attached bolt on Bottle Opener and it works great, I even found a Pirate one on Amazon! :)

DarrinM1 (author)2014-12-30

Fun idea. I do agree that the way you have it I would not lift it by the leather handles. not to say you could do it but if they broke you would lose your bounty! If you secured the leather (extra heavy or two ply) through the plywood it might be ok.

You could make the drain hole go 90°out and down through the bottom if you wanted and then just cork the inside to stop the flow. Then when you want to drain it just dip your hand in and pull the cork.

It may be worth filling the top and sides with some expandable spray foam insulation to secure it all together and give it a more solid feel and insulative barrier from heat/sun. I would do that before staining it to make sure you can remove any foam that leaks out where you don't want it.

Mschreib13 (author)2014-12-30

What a fantastic way to get rid of all the odd size pieces of plywood and oak lath I have in my "scrap" wood pile. Thank you Absinthe-Dragon. For the side to side connections screws are fine because of the added support from the oak trim. I tend to over engineer so I would use screws and Gorilla Glue to adhere the sides to the base. Thanks to all the rest of you for ideas to make it even better.

Glad you liked it!
Once you have it finished, I'd love to see pix of your finished product :)


Absinthe-Dragon (author)2014-12-30

Yes, I thought about this as I was building it. If you look through some of the comments you can see other people that have built this and added storage.


Howder1951 (author)2014-12-30


voltan (author)2014-12-30

Did you consider using the top part of the chest as storage? Like a loose or hinged board that allows storage of bottle openers or can cozies or whatnot?

bgerardi (author)2014-11-06

Made it! Used found pallet wood and plywood to cut costs but it made the top very heavy. Had to install a stop chain for lid, but very sturdy construction overall. Great instructable, thanks!

Absinthe-Dragon (author)bgerardi2014-11-06

Looks amazing!

Great work on the fitment of the cooler as well :)

Now it's time to fill it with Beer!

Bowtie41 (author)2014-10-17

I really,really like this! I just keep thinking of all that dead space in the top and thinking you could use that area to add a battery for LED's,a radio,etc,etc......

Absinthe-Dragon (author)Bowtie412014-10-17

I thought the same thing when I was making it.
I also thought of making one of the panels so it would open, and I could store a bottle opener, etc. in there.

Bowtie41 (author)Absinthe-Dragon2014-10-18

That or get one of those retro metal Coke or similar openers and mount it to the outside of the chest.Congrats again on a great job!

joshwelch9 made it! (author)2014-09-29

Thanks for the awesome instructable! I absolutely loved the pirate chest cooler and had to remix this and build one for myself. Thanks again!

chouf (author)2014-07-02


Thanks for this very nice instructables. I'm going to build one before the end of the month. Could you elaborate a little bit on how you made the box?

Did you simply glues the boards together or did you add scews a bit like what's showed here:

Thanks in advance

Absinthe-Dragon (author)chouf2014-08-15


Did you end up making one of these? I'd love to see pix of how it turned out :)

Absinthe-Dragon (author)chouf2014-07-02

Greetings Chouf,

I'm glad you liked the Instructable!

Once your Chest is complete, please share pictures, as I would love to see it.

For the box, I used a combination of Wood Glue on all joints and 2" nails for my nail gun. (See attached picture where I have circled the nail holes)

When attaching the oak boards, I used glue and 1" nails in the nail gun so they would not go all of the way through.

Let me know if you have any more questions.



C0UTZ (author)2014-06-19

Mother of god I need this. Awesome job sir!

My only question is: with it being rather heavy when filled, is it POSSIBLE to move it (let's say you were the Incredible Hulk and had a buddy who was He-Man for the sake of example) when it is full? I'm just wondering if the leather handle straps will hold or not. I'm thinking about making a steampunk version of this so having some brassy/copper metal parts will look fine, but if the leather will hold I'd rather use that since I've never worked with leather before and would like to get some experience with it.



Absinthe-Dragon (author)C0UTZ2014-06-19

Greetings Matt,

Glad you liked the Chest!

Currently as designed I do not believe the chest could be lifted by the leather handles when it is fully loaded with beer and ice.

The leather handles work fine when empty, but I would need something stronger to lift it loaded. It would be possible to move this with a person on each side if the handles could support it.

Here is where I got the hardware for the latch, corners, hinges, etc:

I do Steampunk Leather-Working and understand what you are going for. For a functional handle, maybe something like a Brass Trunk Handle like the ones here:

Let me know if you have any other questions, and I'd love to see a Steampunk version of this when you are done if you feel like sharing the pix :)



spark master (author)2014-06-09

make a stand with wheels for it and you will have an even nicer roller cooler that sells for a friggen 150-200 bucks and not worth it, this one is way nicer and on wheels would look good at a tiki bar or just in the yard next to a picnic table.

spark master (author)2014-06-09


Willowby (author)2014-06-08

If you wish to make it non removable, spray expanding foam into the corners

theo67 (author)Willowby2014-06-09

Make the clearances a bit larger to add extra spray foam [or sheet polystyrene] around sides and bottom, also around the lid. These chests can always benefit from extra insulation and will keep things cooler for longer.

NeoNeodym (author)Willowby2014-06-09

I'm planning on doing something similar but filling it with dry ice and
using bleach wipes when I go to wipe it down and store it between uses. I
like the expanding foam idea.

Absinthe-Dragon (author)Willowby2014-06-08

That is a good idea if I had not done the drainage plug or had something a bit more durable.

Right now, I'd like to be able to remove the cooler for cleaning and such.

Wingloader (author)2014-06-09

OMG. This is one of those ideas that you think...why didn't I think of that!!! This is so cool! I was just at an antique place and they had a couple old trunks for sale and I have a perfect place for one. Now, I can build one! I won't use it with a cooler, but I might make two!!! One with a cooler and one without. NICE engraving work!!

Thanks for the positive feedback, glad you liked it :)

It was fairly easy to build, just took time as it was made around the cooler.

jdougherty2 (author)2014-06-08

I just had the thought of putting a second "lid" on the chest, within the first lid, to possibly store other things. Say you've got a cooler full of rum and mixers, you could have garnishes stored in the hollow space above the cooler lid and the chest lid. And if you don't want to have to clean up the inevitable mess created by opening the chest lid, suspend the containers on a gravity swivel.

jtmcdole (author)2014-06-07

Nice! Does the cooler have any wiggle room? For a more permanent fit, perhaps some great-stuff in the corners?

Looks like aI have another project in the future :)

Absinthe-Dragon (author)jtmcdole2014-06-08

The cooler fits snug into the bottom box and once in, does not move. It can be removed for cleaning etc...

I don't think I would want it permanently installed just in case I need to do maintenance on the drainage plug or another issue.

jsgraham (author)2014-06-08

I was thinking the same thing about the great stuff. However, another option is to order a two part expandable foam and fill the empty void in the top piece. Expandable foam is closed cell, super light, car cable if the need arises, and once it seals against that cooler lid, it cements it in place permanently. I get mine from giant leap rocketry. But there are other distributors out there who sell in larger quantities.

jsgraham (author)jsgraham2014-06-08

Sorry, I meant to type carve-able. Dang auto correct.

ctx1985 (author)2014-06-08

That is so cool! Great job!!!

doctorkred (author)2014-06-07

Very nice. I Iike it.


Me encanta. Te ha quedado muy bonito.

kevenr17 (author)2014-06-05

Man this is friggin awesome!! Great job man!!

Absinthe-Dragon (author)kevenr172014-06-06

Thank you! It was a lot of fun to make. :)

craftclarity (author)2014-06-05

I absolutely MUST make one of these for my bro-in-law. SO COOL!!!!!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Ever find yourself walking through a store and see something you like and say to yourself; "I could make that" then you think "I could ... More »
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