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Four Tips for Turing a Thrift Store Table into a Beer & Wine Cooler

November 14, 2014


If you’re the type of person who loves to have friends and family over for backyard get togethers, no doubt you’ve seen the inspiring “trough table” from California’s Medlock Ames winery, featured in Dwell a few years ago and currently making the rounds on Pinterest. Featuring rustic, reclaimed barn wood and a galvanized metal beer or wine cooler running through the center, it’s the picnic table of an outdoor party planner’s dreams.

When my husband and I came across this coffee table at Goodwill (it was too smoke-saturated to put indoors), we just knew that we had to try upcycling it with a beer and wine cooler for our side deck—a spot where we had lounge chairs lining the fence near our grill, and a favorite hangout when we have people over.

The only problem: when we went to saw a hole in the table large enough to retrofit it with either a length of metal gutter or a planter box, we found out the top was made of composite wood and wasn’t structurally sound with a big hole cut into the center. And creating a custom frame was outside the skill set of two English majors.


But don’t let that dissuade you from trying this DIY!

Here are four trial-by-error things we learned, and tips/tutorials you can use to avoid our mistakes:

If you want to upcycle a thrift store table with a trough, it’s best to go with a picnic table or other table that has horizontal planks of wood running lengthwise in odd numbers, so you can remove the center board with a saw or crowbar and easily place a galvanized trough or metal/plastic gardening planter into the hole left behind. This is definitely the only option if you’re a beginner-to-novice DIY-er. Unless you have carpentry experience, leave the fancy upcycling to the experts — or phone a friend who can lend you a skilled set of hands. 
Domesticated Engineer has a great tutorial for building your own, and Danny Lipford has a great video tutorial for adding a drink trough to a wooden picnic table.

Thousands of amazing DIYs exist for turning an old shipping pallet from a thrift store or salvage yard into 
a piece of modern furniture, but even with the most amateur-friendly tutorial, it’s going to be a lot of work finding a pallet in great condition, removing the nails, puttying the old nail holes, and then sanding and planing the wood to uniform thickness—not to mention staining or painting the boards once you’re done. My advice? Get new lumber from a home improvement store, follow one of the great tutorials for building your own trough table frame (like this DIY beer/wine cooler table from Remodelaholic), and then pair your new custom table with benches, chairs, and décor from Goodwill!

If you want to get the look and utility of the inspirational “trough table” without the heavy-duty DIY expertise, try making a boxed trough that sits on top of your thrifted wooden patio table instead, which only requires a cordless drill and a few other tools! It’s an easy afternoon project, and one you can bring indoors between BBQ seasons to use all year ’round on any buffet or countertop. All you need to do is find an old card catalog drawer to line with a length of galvanized metal gutter, drain pipe, or livestock feeder, or take those liners and build a custom surround out of wood by simply measuring, cutting, and nailing together all four sides.

If you can make a smaller “incision” into the top of your thrift store table, or can use a router to cut circular holes just slightly smaller than the rim of your ice buckets to set them into, then there are some really cool options for DIY-ers of any skill level, like 
this coffee table, this vintage console table, or this industrial wooden spool. My absolute favorite though (and the one I think I’m going to try next) is making a beer/wine cooler table from an old sewing machine table, either by screwing the legs to a Radio Flyer wagon top or by securing a thrift store metal roasting pan into the sewing machine compartment of an old flip-top table.

Genius — and so Goodwill!

Melissa Massello writes about her DIY activities for Home Depot. Living in Texas gives Melissa plenty of time to spend outdoors, as her recent wine cooler outdoor table project attests. Home Depot has a large selection of wine coolers available, if you decide you’d like to try a project similar to Melissa’s.

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