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How to make a Cooler Stand from Fence Boards

See how you can take 2x4's and fence boards to make a custom patio piece that'll really up your patio game!


  • Redwood 2x4s

  • Redwood 1x4 Fence Boards

  • Redwood 1x6 Fence Boards

  • Pine 1x3 boards

  • Hardware (Handle, Bottle Opener, Hinges, Drain Valve)

  • Spar Urethane

Tools Used:

  • Drill

  • Impact Driver

  • Pocket Hole Jig

  • Brad Nailer

  • Orbital Sander


For those who have kept up with my Instagram feed, you've probably noticed how most of my woodworking projects have been fairly small in nature and are typically made for a client. However, this time around I wanted to try something different. At our house, whenever there's a party or family gathering, we breakout the travel cooler. Now there's nothing really wrong with it, but I can't help feeling like I could build something that looks a liiiiiiittle better. So here we are!

As with any of my projects, I began by doing a little research. I wanted to know how other people went about making a cooler stand and what I could potentially do to change it up. After taking some notes, it was over to Fusion 360 to create the design.

It's fairly straightforward, just an elevated box with a hinged top lid! Now the design called for the legs to be made from 2x4's and the rest from either 1x4 or 1x6 fence boards. Typically most builders will use cedar for their stands, but I personally love working with redwood plus it has a lot of the same characteristics as cedar.

I began by getting all the materials cut to length, which I later realized was a really smart move as it allowed me to get the stand completely constructed a lot quicker! Once all the boards were cut, I began building the sides of the stand.

With my little shop helper looking on, I joined the 2x4s with pocket hole screws to create the legs. Then, I joined the legs together with two side pieces to create the basic side frame. Once both side frames were created, I began paneling them with vertical pieces of redwood placed between the two legs. Decorative trim is added along the top and bottom of the panels, finishing each side. To save myself a headache later on, I began sanding each side while it was on the workbench. This allowed me to get into all of the corners and crevices easier than if I waited till after construction to sand.

The two sides were joined together in the same manner, with two inner cross pieces on the front and back being screwed into the sides to create the basic frame. From here, the front and back was paneled, trimmed and then sanded.

The only things left to do was to add the bottom of the cooler area and place the trim around the top. Six boards were glued and nailed along the inside lower frame pieces to build the bottom of the cooler area. Since I would be filling the interior of the box with foam later, it wasn't necessary to completely build out the bottom of the box.

The last part of the wood construction was the lid. This was made from joining 4 boards together with cross straps, glued and screwed into place on the bottom of the lid. To attach the lid to the base, I used two black door hinges, which I realized was the wrong type to use... Door hinges typically have a feature on them called swaging, where the mounting plates are slightly offset to minimize the gap around the door when shut. However, this means that in order to flush mount the hinge on the top of the stand, I needed to not only rout out an area for the mounting plate, but I had to rout out a deeper area for the hinge itself to sit in. Needless to say, if you build something like this for yourself, look for a hinge that is one leaf swaged. I added a chart below to illustrate what I mean.

Once the hinge issue was taken care of, I added the handle and then began looking at how to insulate the box.

From the research I had done going into this project, I found that a lot of people tended to build these stands then simply plop in a prefabricated cooler. I never really liked this method though as it kind of feels like a cop out for making a custom piece like this. Plus, when you use a prefab cooler, plastic or Styrofoam, you need to account for the lid of that cooler and so most stands end up having a bump out lid to accommodate this, which I'm not a fan of either. So here we are!

For the insulation on my stand, I used 1" pink insulation foam, cut to fit in the area behind the panel boards. These panels are water proof and should offer enough insulation to keep drinks chilled for events. After all of the pieces were cut, I went over all of the seams with silicone to seal them and make the cooler water tight.

The last major challenge was the drain spout. For this I drilled out a 3/4" hole right at the base of the foam and fed in a small piece of 1/2" PVC pipe so that it just poked out past the foam wall. I then added an adapter and threaded on a brass drain valve. After the pipe was sealed with silicone, I added a bottle opener to the front and the stand was ready for finish!

This is where sanding earlier really paid off. The only finish sanding that I had to do was on the lid and top trim pieces. After that, I simply applied 2 coats of spar urethane, sanding with 220 grit sandpaper in between coats, and this bad boy was done!

I am so happy with how this turned out!! The redwood boards just have such a unique character and the spar urethane really brought out the beauty of these boards. With the interior being made of cut-to-fit foam insulation foam boards, it just gives this stand a more custom feel. Should any of the foam be damaged in the future, it should also be fairly easy to replace them as you just peel off the silicone and pop out the damaged board. But, considering this is a possibility I may look at adding a stronger material to at least the base of the cooler. We'll see!

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this build and possibly learned something new from it! Let me know your thoughts in the comments, what you liked or disliked, what you might do differently, I would love to hear them! Until next time!!

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