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DIY projects

DIY table with built-in ice trough

How to make your own outdoor table with integrated drinks chiller.

The walk from our decking to the fridge is about 20 metres and a genuinely serious first world problem. To tackle this pressing issue, I’ve made a table that has an ice trough built into it.

It’s not particularly tricky and perfect for boozy BBQs, so if you fancy having a go here are the steps. Materials and equipment are at the bottom of the post.


The trough

Before planning the build, I shopped around for a trough. The two key features I was looking for were for there to be a lip all the way round the top (so it can be supported) and for a material that wouldn’t rust. This trough from Garden Trading is perfect.

To avoid having to awkwardly lift up a trough full of ice water once it’s all melted, I wanted to add a tap to the bottom of the trough. I borrowed my Pa’s drill press and cut an inch hole.

I then whapped on a water butt tap and that was job done. Here’s a photo of the tap when the table was finished. The table is only coffee table height (45cm) so the tap isn’t visible unless you’re far away or very short.

Pocket holes

This was the first project I’ve used pocket hole screws on and I’m officially in love. The whole thing could be built with normal screwing, but pocket holes allow all the screws to be concealed, leaving a really tidy finish. In case pocket holes are new to you too, here’s a very quick summary of how they work.

Essentially, you use a pocket hole jig and a special drill bit to create a diagonal ‘pocket’ into the wood.

The below photo shows a piece of the table’s framework with pocket holes pre-drilled in preparation for screwing the table top in place.

Pocket hole screws are slightly different from a standard woodscrew in that they have a large, round pan head. This allows the head to squeeze against the shoulder pocket hole (created by the pocket hole drill bit) and so pull the two bits of timber together.

They’re also self-tapping, which means they create their own pilot hole.

The final difference is that they are tightened with square drive bits. Pretty sure this is just a brand thing to tie you in.

With the two bits of timber that you intend on joining positioned, you then screw into the pocket hole and voila.

Framework

I wanted the table to look pretty chunky so all the framework is made out of pressure treated 2x4s. After cutting all the timber to length with my mitre saw, cut ends were generously doused with end grain preserver.

The first stage of the build was to make the frame that sits around the ice trough. There are two key measurements for this stage. The first is that you want the trough to only just fit in this space, with just a mm or two to spare all the way round. The second is that if you’re covering the trough when not in use, the width of the boards you use will need to tidily cover the hole and sit on the frame. This will be more clear later on.

You can see some of the pocket holes that I pre-drilled in the below photo. It’s worth spending some time planning out exactly where you’ll need pocket holes before you start fixing things in place. I used them for all the framework as well as to fix the table top in place.

Here’s the trough sat in the frame.

Next, I screwed some battens inside the trough frame, being careful to ensure they were positioned low enough so the trough sits just below the top of the frame.

With the central section done, I fixed 2 ends of the outer frame in place.

The legs (3×3 treated posts) could then be fixed to the outer frame using, you guessed it, pocket hole screws. I was careful to make sure the legs were square before screwing.

I then added the second two lengths of outer frame.

I fixed a couple of noggins in place to add some strength but their main purpose is to provide fixing points for the table top.

Table top

The table top is made out of rough sawn, pressure treated 4x1s. I designed the table to be 118cm long so that I could halve 2.4m boards with my mitre saw, leaving a little allowance for damaged ends.

These don’t look too pretty when you get them, but a tickle with the sander and a round over of the edges with a router makes a massive difference. It took me a while to get all through all 10 lengths but it was time well-spent.

With the boards cut, sanded and routed, I laid them out on the table frame so I could select the more handsome sides to face upwards. I also spent some time working out the table overhang and the spacing between each board. I’d planned this all in SketchUp (brilliant free design software that I use for most projects now) but each board varying in width by just 1mm from the 100mm I’d planned for would affect positioning quite significantly. Nobody wants a wonky table, particularly as I’ve made two of these and one is for sale.

3mm spacers worked well. It’s important to leave gaps between the boards to allow for expansion and for water to run off, just as you would with decking.

The boards are screwed down through the pocket holes which I pre-drilled into the framework. For the two outer boards, I also slapped on some glue to add extra strength for when the table is being lifted (it’s pretty heavy).

Here’s what the table looks like from underneath.

With all the full length boards in place, I turned my attention to the middle boards.

The two central boards were cut to the same overall length as the other boards but then I cut off small sections at either end. My mitre saw blade is 3mm and so the material removed by the blade (also called the kerf) worked out to be consistent with the gaps between the boards that had already been screwed down.

Before joining the two boards that made the lid, I used a jigsaw and then router to cut out a hand hole. This was pretty fiddly and required a good sand afterwards to remove the burns caused by my blunt router bit. BUT, I think it looks much better than just cutting out a finger hole.

With the hand hole cut out, I screwed some treated lengths of batten into to bottom of the lids to keep the two sections together. Again, a quick sand and sesh with the router made these look pretty.

And that was that!


I’m really chuffed with how this table turned out and hope to get to use it loads over the summer. Now just need to buy an outdoor projector to watch England crash out of the Euros on!

The total cost for this project was just over £100, including the trough, which I thought was quite good given the price of wood at the moment.

Materials

  • Pressure treated 2x4s (framework)
  • Pressure treated 3×3 posts (legs)
  • Pressure treated rough sawn 4x1s (table top)
  • Pressure treated 22x38mm batten (for trough lid supports and re-sawn in half to support the trough)
  • End grain preserver
  • 30mm pocket hole screws
  • 40mm decking screws
  • Wood glue
  • Ice trough
  • Water butt tap

Equipment

  • Mitre saw
  • Speed square
  • Measuring tape
  • Orbital sander with various grit sandpapers
  • Clamps
  • Router with straight bit and round over bit
  • Drill press (could use standard combi drill)
  • Combi drill
  • Impact driver
  • Pocket hole jig kit including jig and drill bits
  • 3mm packers
  • Paintbrush

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