I have seen a few people who have made coolers or boxes to contain coolers to make them fit in more with a medieval encampment, being a person who enjoys creating the ambiance and look of such a camp I set out to build a few for myself. In late 2017 I began playing with the idea and working on plans. The one I actually built one was an enclosed existing cooler that allow me to take it out and clean it. I took a day use sized cooler and built a box around it to test my idea. I would love to show a picture of it but it didn’t survive very long due to a few poor design considerations.
In 2018 I dusted off the idea and offered a shop weekend for those that wished to build one for themselves. In mid 2019 I was asked to build several chests and took on the project to build 5 coolers based on 48 quart rubbermaid marine coolers.
Since the cooler itself does the work of insulating the contents my focus is and was to create the right look, keep weight down, keep the cost manageable, all while creating something useful. I chose to build the corners from 2×4 and the body from panels of 1/2″ sanded plywood. The top will be plywood with a layer of fir around it to hide the ply and add a bit of finish to it.
I began by selecting the straightest 2×4’s I could find with as few knots as possible, and as blemish free sheets of plywood as were available.
Finding the right materials proved to require going to 3 different hardware stores, as the quality of what I was finding proved to be less than i liked.
I measured my coolers with the handles on but the hinges off as my intent was to have the coolers removable to be drained and cleaned but the cooler lid attached to the top of the box.
My plan calls for the plywood panels to set into the 2×4 corners to a depth of 3/4″. For that a router table proved to be the perfect tool for the job. If you look in the pictures you will note that the 2x4s have been flattened and thinned down to an over all size of 3.25″x1″.
The panel height was calculated at the height of the cooler with lid plus an inch to allow for an inset bottom.
For the lid I decided to go for a wooden hinge created by drilling a hole into the top of the back legs and a rail attached to the lid. A 3/8″ dowel inserted through both provides the lid the ability to pivot.
Once the pieces were cut, grooved, and sanded, all that was left was to glue it up and clamp. The picture of the bottom shows thin slats in the bottom to support the cooler. In the end I went with two pieces of plywood 6″ wide to support the cooler in the bottom of the chest.
The rails that connect the lid to the body are long enough to go all the way to the back of the box, but only sits in a groove in the front legs. The plywood for the lid is actually cut to size to fit exactly to the size of the box, with the added banding on the edge giving a bit of overhang.
The hinge construction proved to require the most fiddling to get it to rotate smoothly and open to just past vertical.
The basis for the finished look for this project comes from a style of chest seen in a number of manuscripts as well as a surviving piece dated to germany in the late 1390s.