Ceallach mac Donal - His Musings

Making a Cooler Cooler

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Things you’ll need (Supplies):

  • Brown butcher paper (Home Depot, Lowes,  etc.)
  • Two packages of furniture nails (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.)
  • White Glue (add to a bowl with plenty of water 2 parts water to one part glue works well - Ceallach)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Stain & Polyurethane in one—I like Minwax Polyshades (Home Depot, Lowes,  etc.  Dark stains such as Antique Walnut work best - Ceallach)
  • Several sponge brushes(Home Depot, Lowes, etc.)
  • Cardboard to cut up
  • Duct tape
  • Disposable gloves (optional) - Ceallach


Preparing your cooler:

  1. Using duct tape cover the textured things on the cooler you don’t want to show.  Basically any sort of text, logo, raised or lowered/indented lines.
  2. Take the black permanent marker and color any portion of the inside of the lid that shows when the closed.  These areas are almost impossible to paper maiche.


Doing the Paper Mache:

Tear hand-sized pieces of butcher paper and dip them into your glue mixture.  You will probably want to squeeze excess off with your fingers and simply cover your cooler.  One layer will suffice.  Use the edges of the paper roll for the edges of your cooler surround the opening.

I recommend tearing about twice as much paper as you think you'll need before you start doing any actual gluing.  Once you're all covered with glue it's a pain to tear more paper.  I also recommend putting 10 or so pieces of paper into the glue at a time, this gives the paper time to soak through and makes it much more moldable. - Ceallach


Add the Decorative "Leather" Straps:

  1. Cut pieces of card board box (about two inches wide  I like making mine of a size that fits the cooler, so far I've used 3 and 4 inch wide straps - Ceallach) and lay them on your cooler where you’d like the straps.  If there are bends (like on the lid) always bend then cut.
  2. After you’ve cut your pieces wrap these in butcher paper mache as well then add to the cooler.  I soak my straps in glue and then paper mache them before adding them to the chest. - Ceallach
  3. Grab a few furniture nails and pound them in as you see fit. Actually this can help  hold your straps on and in place. - Ceallach
  4. You might want to check the length on the nails to make sure they won’t go through all the way. If they do cut them a little with wire cutters.

Finishing steps:

  • Where the strap meets the other strap on the lid I bought a bit of leather and cut it to the width of the strap to make it look like a continuation of the strap. 
  • I got copper buckles for 60 cents at Tandy Leather and made it look like the straps buckled shut.  Poke a hole in the leather for the prong and superglue the prong to the buckle to keep it on. 
  • I like to put a nail at each corner on the bottom as well. Try nailing in patterns for decoration on other parts of the cooler as well. 
  • Slap a coat or two of the polystain mix on, and let it dry for at least a day.


For handles I recommed experimenting with leather wrapping, rope, whatever appeals to you. Either completely replace the handle or wrap it with something. If you have a cooler where the handles are screwed in with visible screws its ver easy to just replace the handles - Ceallach  Let me know of anything you find especially appealing.  I used copper wire and wrapped it, while it looks nice I wouldn’t do it again because of the work involved. I super glued the ends and they’re staying with no problems.  On the second cooler  above I wrapped the handles with leather, on the second I replaced the handles and hinges with cabinet  hardware from the hardware store. - Ceallach


Some coolers have wheels,  I’d like to suggest replacing these wheels with wooden wheels.  It shouldn’t be terribly difficult but I have yet to do this myself.


For the hinges I cut leather into the shape of hinges and pounded them in with the furniture nails.  Shape the leather to where you’ll pound into the straps  and not the hinge itself.   On one of my coolers the hinge was inside so no biggie, on the second I replaced the hinges with nice brass ones as the last step - Ceallach


I hope this inspires you and I’d like to know any feedback you might have.

In Service,

Stephanie Winter von Brandenburg

azaleaviola at hotmail