Making a Cooler Coleman Cooler

I picked up this Coleman Steelbelted this summer for five bucks. I think it had done a lot of duty on a fishing boat, it was heavily worn, but not as rusty as I would have expected it to be. Someone had replaced the original plastic hinges with brass cabinet hinges and drilled new holes for the screws.

After a complete disassembly. nearly all of the ‘hardware’ on this model is replaceable except for the faded handle pivots, as those are structural. All the plastic is intact and only needed a good scrub with Barkeeper’s Friend which contains among other things Oxalic acid which is excellent on rust stains.

The Coleman logo comes off with a little elbow grease and plastic razor blades, the sort they use to remove pinstriping. The cabinet hinges went into the trash of course, and the extra holes were filled with two part metal epoxy putty, and sanded smooth.

Many of the scratches and wear on the top went through all the paint layers, those on the sides were not as bad. Since I wasn’t shooting for completely new appearance, I didn’t strip the entire thing, and merely sanded everything as smooth as possible.

My go to spray paint these days is Rustoleum’s 2X Ultra Cover Paint and Primer, I’ve yet to be disappointed with it. I went with the Cranberry which is quite close to the original color, and came in gloss finish. The two keys to a satisfactory rattlecan finish is taping and layering. It may take an hour to properly tape up a project, and then go in with the tip of a knife and make sure the tape goes into all the grooves tightly. After sanding and wiping a project down, I put on a light base coat, it can even be light enough to see the underlayer. Rustoleum 2x dries pretty fast so in a few minutes I can put on the 2nd coat. Then give it a few hours to dry before I light sand it again and then put on the third coat, which is usually the final color coat, it depends. sometimes I will put on a 4th coat if I don’t like the results.

I always replace the plastic hinges with the stainless steel hinges, the handles and the drain are inexpensive. I painted the faded hinge pivots and was quite surprised with the results. But my favorite customization were the vinyl decals. Before removing all the painters tape, I put on a few thin coats of Rustoleum’s Triple Thick Clear Lacquer which is self leveling and dries quickly and protects the decals and the paint finish from casual scratches.

So far this was my favorite project this summer. I wasn’t shooting to ‘restore’ it to mint condition. The few dents that it had didn’t bother me. If the dents were larger I would have filled with body filler and sanded them smooth. The object was to give it a bit of facelift to give it another thirty years of service.