Pirate Chest Beer Cooler




About: 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 improve the design to fit my needs better, and make it ch...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

3 People Made This Project!


  • Classroom Science Contest

    Classroom Science Contest
  • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

    Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
  • Backyard Contest

    Backyard Contest

59 Discussions


4 years ago

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 :)

1 reply

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

1 year ago

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

1 reply

2 years ago

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.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

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.


3 years ago

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!!!!

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

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?

1 reply

4 years ago on Step 9

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.


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

4 years ago on Step 4

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.



4 years ago on Step 4

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?


4 years ago

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!

1 reply