Rustic Cooler: A How-To

I’m smitten with rustic coolers. If you’re in the Southwest region, you’ve probably seen them at HEB or Cabelas, or pretty much any hardware store. They’re just awesome! Sadly, they retail from $100 and up (like this $279 beauty from Cunningham Living) and it wasn’t really in our budget to buy one. Yet when my dad was given a slew of barnwood from a neighbor that was moving and offered it to me, I leapt at the chance to build my own! Read more below to find out how we went from this:

To this!

All for only $30.


85 thoughts on “Rustic Cooler: A How-To

  1. Thank you for posting. I have been thinking about making one of these. You did all the planning work for me. I really appreciate that. Great job. Thanks Theresa

    1. We’ve thought about it, but are holding off on final details until after we move into our new place. I’d still like to decorate it a little bit, and maybe find some really rustic looking castors for it. I love the idea of being able to move it around with ease!

      1. Drill holes in two legs for an axel and use a wheelbarrow wheel or two. Wheels can be removed when in place. I made a large picnic table, fits in a pickup, we take it to the beach, park, lake.
        Going to build one of your coolers with “modifications”, I’ll make it a 12 volt solar reefer, 12 volt solar panel + a battery………

        1. Great tips! The axel is a great idea. We live too far from the beach these days to make it worth toting around, but it would be great for those who are.

  2. This is AMAZING! PINNED just like that! So wanna come over and make me one? 🙂 thanks!

    Pamela @

    1. Well, most coolers come with an attachment built in, so we just applied a little teflon tape around the spigot and coupling for traction, and screwed it on in there. If you only have a smooth plug (not a threaded attachment) you may want to use couplings with pipe cement to keep everything secure

  3. wow. i am so in love with this. you guys did such a beautiful job. my husband and i made our dining table out of reclaimed wood and so i love this look. i can’t wait to show my husband this post tonight… i really think this will be our next project! the spout is so cute and creative too.

  4. Just wanted to let you know …my husband and I are making this now just have to finish the top and cover the legs…this is the cutest thing ever, thank you so much for the idea.

        1. Oh my gosh, it looks FANTASTIC! Love the rough look on the wood, and your handle choice. I hope you love it!

          1. Thank you, one more thing to add, this was our first attempt to do something like this and believe me there are more than a few mistakes…the black rubber washer over the spigot … well my husband cut the hole too big and off center so that was one big hidden mistake…but we do love it…glad I found you when I googled for this. Thanks again.

  5. My son made one of these coolers for his 4-H project this year. It works great and everybody loves it, thanks for the great idea!

  6. Hi there, You have done a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg it and individually recommend to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

  7. i love this….we are going to make one next weekend, this weekend we finished up the garden shed, made it rustic with old worn wood, so this cooler is perfect!! And i love your patio…ours looks just like it cause it is our workshop too!! Thank you so much for the tutitorial!!!

  8. I really like your rustic cooler and thanks for sharing the instructions. I am hope to get my husband to help me build one soon.

  9. We are almost done with out cooler…..hubby took a break to go shooting at the range with our son, we will be attaching the spigot when he gets home, he forgot he promised to go shooting!!! Im so excited about it, decorating it will be fun! Nice to take a break, its 104 degrees here!!

    1. Oh that’s fabulous! We’d love to see a photo if you upload one anywhere 😉 My husband cannot wait until our daughter is old enough for the range. I bet they’re having a blast!

  10. It angers me that here I am “stuck” living in the city, when I should be back on the farm, in my workshop, with all my hand & power tools, designing & building things like you folks do…8 (

    This cooler is absolutely amazingly GORGEOUS!!!
    I have seen some of the other stuff you have built & it too is Gorgeous.

    1. Thank you so much! And if it helps give you hope, most of my initial builds were in my city apartment in Waco. I would get the lumber pre-cut at the hardware store and drive it back in my sedan and assemble it in the living room! Eventually I bought a chop saw to use on my balcony or in the courtyard, I just asked management for permission and when would be a good time to chop some wood. It’s definitely possible to build anywhere! Though I will admit, I love having more space and an entire shop full of tools so I can get more precise cuts than the guys at the hardware store.

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  12. I just wanted to share that now with warmer weather, I will be trying my hand at this very soon! I have an old cooler, it was my husband’s Grandfather’s, that we will be using. I know with the new baby, that your time is scarce, but wanted to add that I miss your postings. Hope all is well!

  13. I realize this is an older post but I just found your awesome site so it’s new to me! I wasn’t familiar with the concept of rustic coolers until it came to my attention that a company called was sometimes using our Fasade backsplash panels to embellish their coolers. (The black cooler on the home page is one example.) Anyway, thanks for sharing your project. It turned out great!

    1. Thanks Dana! I had several of these types of sites email me for permission, which I granted. I appreciate your vigilance though!

  14. When I saw the dog in one of the photos I thought you were building a dog bathtub. It’s great as a cooler or a pet tub. Thank you.

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