Outdoor Table Hack: Built-In Cooler

Outdoor Table Hack: Built-In Cooler

Meta Description: It’s nice to sit outside for a meal on a balmy evening, but make it more than nice – make it cool by insetting a cooler to chill your drinks directly into the center of your table.

Teaser: This table is so chill

Tools and Materials

  • Outdoor Table
  • Container
  • Jig saw
  • Drill
  • Protective eyewear
  • Stain
  • Sealer

It’s nice to sit outside for a meal on a balmy evening, but make it more than nice – make it cool by insetting a cooler to chill your drinks directly into the center of your table. You can hack almost any outdoor table with this method, just make sure there are no structural elements in the way, like a cross piece or support.

Step 1 – Measure Your Table and Container

Find the dimensions of the tabletop and select a container that will fit nicely into the available space. Choose a container that already has a lip or flange around the rim to hold it in place. The hole in the table needs to match the inside diameter of the bowl, so measure across the inner edge, not from flange to flange. In this case, the table is 28 inches across and the stainless steel bowl has a 14-inch inside diameter, leaving 7 inches on either side for your elbows.

Step 2 – Mark the Hole

Since you want the inner diameter of the bowl, you can’t just scribe the bowl onto the table. With a diameter of 14 inches the hole needs a 7-inch radius. To get this, make a jig. You can use anything the right shape and size, but a wooden paint stir stick is perfect and usually free. Drill a hole in one end of the stick and another 7 inches away.

Find the center point of the table top. Put a screwdriver in the first hole, right at the center point. Put a pencil in the second hole and pivot the stick around the screwdriver, scribing a perfect 14-inch circle with the pencil.

Step 3 – Cut Out the Hole

On the inside edge of the circle, drill a hole large enough for the blade of your jigsaw to fit through.

[pic 3a]

Slot your saw through the hole and slowly start your cut. This isn’t a tight circle, so it shouldn’t be hard to follow the line, but you still have to pay attention. Jigsaws typically have a mark in the “shoe” enclosing the blade that tells you where the blade will go as you cut. Ignore this mark. It’s only useful if you’re cutting in a straight line.

[pic 3b]

Keep your eye on the blade itself as it cuts, and keep it right on the marked line. This is where good eye protection is a must, to keep the sawdust out. Follow the line all the way around, shifting your position around the table for the best access, until the round drops out of the hole. Make sure the bowl fits.

[pic 3c]

Step 4 – Stain and Seal

Depending on the color of your table you may not need the stain, but you will need the sealer. You just cut through the sealed surface and exposed the inner, raw wood, and about half of that is end grain. Untreated, this exposed wood will drink up water and moisture and shorten the life of your table, so stain the raw edge to match and seal it with 3 coats of polyurethane, following the directions on the container.

Step 5 – Insert the Bowl, the Ice and the Drinks

When the poly’s dry, you’re ready to chill. Set the bowl in place and fill it with ice and drinks. Set the table and relax with a drink after a job well done.