Introduction: Pirate Treasure Chest Cooler

About: Custom Fishing Rod Builder from North Carolina. I love too make things, build things, fix things, etc. Check out my Social Media pages for more information.

Hello all and thank you for visiting my Instructable,

This is Instructable was made to seed, to spark, to pop an idea that you might possibly get. Like a lot of Instructables, it is very hard to duplicate the exact measures and final outcome, because you didn't have the same materials, hardware, tools, etc. Basically, I want to share with you how I made this cooler chest, I am not a carpenter whatsoever and hopeful you will come up with your own idea, even better than mine.

As always, I put this Instructable in a bunch of CONTESTS. PLEASE VOTE!

OK, I have seen many different ideas on the world wide web how to make wood chest coolers. I thought it is an amazing idea and wish I would of came up with this one on my own, but I didn't, so kudos to the creators.

My Parents are big beach, nautical, pirate-theme fans and I knew that they are going to have a pool party for Independence Day (2015) in the theme of a pirate oasis. I thought it would be cool to make them a cooler treasure chest for their party and give it to my wonderful mom for Mother's Day so they can start using it for late Spring.

One more thing, safety first. Leave me comment and follow me.

Step 1: Material/Hardware/Tool Lists

Here is what I used for this Instructable,


2"x2"-Weathered Balusters from my recently refurbished deck

1"x5"- Deck Boards repurposed from Deck

Steel Wool-New

White Vinegar

Outdoor/exterior Varnish- I used Minwax Helmsman Semi-Gloss Varnish
Insulation Foam-comes in 4'X8' Sheets
Burlap Fabric
Manila Rope- of small and large diameter


Nails- I used old nails which I straightened prior to building

Stainless Steel Nuts, Washers, and Bolts- Used for securing cooler lid to top of chest

Finishing Nails-New
Bottle Opener-New
Decoration Furniture Nails Copper Color-New

Screws-Preferable exterior
Cooler-I used a Rubbermaid
Piano Hinges- I used two 12" hinges
Caster Wheels- I picked the 80 pound capacity, small but can hold it



Drill Bits in various sizes


Finish Nailer- I used an 18 gauge, ( its all I got)

Staple Gun

Spray Adhesive


Staining Brushes

Sealable container- Like Tupperware

PVC Pipe Cutter- Used to Cut Rop

Step 2: Its All About the Base, Bout the Base, Not Really

  • See what type of materials you have to build this thing. I had a lot of baluster, so I knew most of the chest will be made out of the balusters. Yes, I knew it was going to be heavy in the end, but I knew I was going to put handles on it, wheels, and the cooler could be removed.

I wanted it to look old and run down so that's why I used the old wood from my recent deck renovation and what wood that I did use that was new(ish) I coated in a vinegar/steel wool solution.

How I made the base:

  1. The cooler was very awkward in the sense that it widened at the opening and narrowed toward its bottom. That's when I decided to just make it square and to add some foam insulation into those spaces later on.
  2. Make base platform wider than cooler, I would say no more than 4 inches because we are going to add the walls and the foam
  3. Support base boards (deck boards)
  4. Look at Diagram 1

Step 3: To the Windows...To the "WALLS"...

Now that we have the base, its time to make the walls. I know this pattern is probably called something, but this is where each layer of balusters are fitting into one another (diagram 3). I measure the length of the front and minus the depth of the baluster to get my front and back board. If working with balusters cut to size and fit to bottom.

Now do some more math, there is probably an easier way, but I'm not a mathematician (clearly). I wanted to find, total balusters to reach the bottom of lid= height of cooler to lid divided by the height of baluster, or cooler height to lid divided by width of the wood used= total wood piece to reach the top for one side. Take the total wood pieces to reach the top of one side X 4 (four sides)= how many piece of wood to cut in total. But two different cuts, take the number of how many pieces to cut divide that by 2 (splitting length and width), and that will tell you how many long ( length) and short (width/depth). (See diagram 2)

Cut how ever many piece you need and lets build. Start by securing the first layer to the base board, Cut 4 vertical supports to be placed in the inside corners of the walls. Secure underneath the base by driving a screw into the vertical supports. Add the next layer of wall by mirroring the next layer to the previous layer (wow that's confusing, look at diagram 3). Always drill pilot holes first to prevent wood from splitting. Screw with screws, making sure not to pilot drive or screw in to the previous layer's screws. Build to the top.

When built to the bottom of the lid, I used my air finish nailer to secure the walls to the vertical supports. If you do not have a nailer, instead drill pilot holes and nail old rusted top nails.

Step 4: So We Have a Box...

Now we have this box and we need to make a lid. Put the cooler inside with the lid closed. Make the supports for the lid. I secured the lid of the cooler with 4 stainless steel nuts, washers, and bolts. First I drilled 4 holes through the lid of the cooler. I got two piece of wood small enough that they wouldn't add too much weight, but big enough to hold the weight of the chest lid. I attached the pieces of wood to the lid of the cooler using the four nuts, bolts, and washers. To the back wall of the cooler I screwed another baluster to attach the two piano hinges ( I used 2 because the big 30 incher wouldn't fit) to it and the two pieces of wood.

I then added three more piece of wood, parallel to the two pieces attached to the cooler lid, with 2 long pieces perpendicular on top of the now 5 pieces on the lid (diagram 6). We should now be some what even to the baluster we attached to the back. What I did next was build a lip to extend out past the body of the chest walls. I used three thin pieces of wood cut at a 45 degree angle.

Just like the layering balusters from before, put one more layer on top of the lid lip matching the last layer from the wall. Secure to lid frame with screws or nails.

Step 5: Come On, Finish the Lid Already!

Cut one piece of burlap and staple it inside and on top of lid frame. Take spray adhesive and spray the burlap. Cut a piece of insulation foam and put it on top of the burlap. The burlap will hide the ugly green foam when the lid is open. Complete the lid by placing baluster half way to the height of the previous layer. I didn't alternate the layering of balusters, because it just looked better keeping the previous pattern. Once I got to my desired height for the lid, I enclosed it by ending short piece of balusters within the gap and one slightly wider piece in the middle.

Step 6: WAIT! an Efficient Pirate Chest?! WHAT?!

I added an eyelet screw to the top of one of the front vertical supports and one to the lid supports to hold a chain.

Cut four pieces of burlap and four pieces of foam insulation. The insulation should fit in-between the vertical supports. I stapled bottom of the burlap down onto the baseboard. Then I sprayed the inside wall with spray adhesive, and slid in the piece of insulation in, then sprayed the insulation and pull the burlap tightly over while stapling it into the vertical supports. I did this for all four sides.

Adding this insulation foam plus the outer wood barrier, turned this junk cooler into as efficient in holding ice as those High Dollar Coolers, (Yeti, Orca, etc.). So far it has held ice for 5 days with 87-92 degree days.

Step 7: Time to Accessorize, YAY

Just like the motive of why I made this instructable, adding or how you add the accessories is up to you. I will share what I have done.

First for all the fresh cuts I have done to all the balusters and other wood pieces, I need to make it look like it was weathered wood. DO NOT BUY ANY "WEATHER" looking stain, instead get an old sealable container, like tupperware. Put two pieces of steel wool inside and pour white vinegar over the steel wool until it is submerged in the solution. Let it sit over night... The next morning you will have an cloudy, off-color solution. Like stain, dip your brush in and cover all new cuts, and exposed fresh pieces of wood wait to dry. When piece is dry and not the weathered color you like, add another coat, repeat if necessary. The chemical reaction of the solution and wood will change it to a nice weathered look.

* You can even cover the manila ropes to get a nice weather look in the ropes. Use apple cider vinegar for different tones, experiment on scrape first.

Only on the front, I added some vertical 1"x2".

All the way around the bottom, I add some big ship rope by nailing it into the base board with the finish nailer.

For the handles, I drilled holes through the walls and secure the small diameter manila rope to the inside walls with screws.

For extra pizzazz, I added the decorative round furniture nails in copper-color all around the chest, alternating placement from layer to layer (see diagram 9). I also added a bottle opener to the front, to me it kinda looked like a lock.

This thing was heavy, but I wanted it to be. Its supposed to be moved very little so I add caster wheels to the bottom so it can be push around.

This chest is for outside use, so I covered it with 2-3 coats of Helmsman Semi-Gloss to protect it from moisture and sun.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable and it inspired you to make something great. Leave me a comment, follow me, and PLEASE VOTE!

Step 8: YouTube Video of Chest Cooler

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