Cooler bench
This Old House Magazine|Fall 2021
TOH general contractor Tom Silva and TOH host Kevin O’Connor create an insulated ice chest that will keep cold beverages on tap and serve as an extra seat on a deck or patio
THOMAS BAKER

DOUBLE DUTY

Kevin and Tom toast the completion of their copper-lined cooler bench. Wrapped in durable western red cedar, it’s a handsome addition to an outdoor living space.

Nothing spoils an outdoor gathering faster than mosquitoes and warm drinks. While Tom Silva hasn’t solved the first problem, he designed and built a handsome solution to the second one: an insulated, seat-height cedar chest that’s big enough to hold 100 pounds of ice cubes and keep dozens of bottles and cans refreshingly cold for hours. A custom copper liner with a built-in drain protects the wood from moisture damage and saves you from fishing through icy meltwater to pick out your favorite beverage. The chunky legs that support its weight —and that of anyone perched on the benchtop — are thick enough to be fitted with locking casters, so the cooler can be rolled around with ease.

Tom and Kevin O’Connor cut the pieces to size and assembled them in about 6 hours, using about $250 worth of materials, beyond the cost of the liner. They could have used less expensive wood and metal, but Tom was in no mood to compromise. “I wanted to build something that would hold up against the weather and look good for a long time,” he says. Mission accomplished.

TOOLS

table saw

miter saw

thickness planer

loose-tenon joiner

rubber mallet

bar clamps

pneumatic stapler

pocket-hole jig, bit, and stop

caulk gun

MATERIALS

4×4 clear cedar, 8 linear feet

1×10 clear cedar, 18 linear feet

1×3 clear cedar, 6 linear feet

2×4 clear cedar, 12 linear feet

120-, 180-grit sandpaper

1⁄2-inch medium-density overlay (MDO), 7 square feet

wood glue

loose wood tenons, 10×30mm and 5×20mm

¾- and 1¼-inch stainless steel screws

¾-inch foil-faced foam, 13 square feet

copper basin

silicone sealant and weatherstripping

36-inch stainless-steel piano hinge

20-ounce copper sheet, 21½ by 39½ inches

STEP-BY-STEP

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