After eight years of valiant service, my original third-hand fermentation chamber turned kegerator was still working, but looking worse for wear. The interior was rusty, and mold was growing down where condensation invariably pooled (despite the rechargeable dehumidifier). In addition, shoehorning three kegs and a CO2 tank in there was a pain, and I didn't love serving sour beers from a party/picnic tap. It was time for an upgrade! I opted for a similar design, a larger chest freezer (so technically a keezer) with a wooden collar attached to the body of the freezer.
Woodworking and brewing share a few commonalities, both: require precision, benefit from shiny tools, can be called creative, and you end up with something you could have bought for half the price. While the skills aren’t transferable, my friend Mat (you may remember from the mead pit) was kind enough to spend a few Saturday mornings lending his skills and hands.
2 – 2X6s
1 – Wood glue
20 – 1/4" x 1" lag screws
4 – 2" x 4" 12-gauge L-angle brackets
2 – Spray paint (chalkboard)
12-16 – #8 1 inch wood screws
12 – Washers
1 – Silicone caulk
Drill (with various bits, sockets, etc.)
7/8” Hole saw or spade bit
1. Buy a freezer. I opted for a 10.6 cubic foot chest freezer from GE (Model# FCM11PHWW). It is big enough to comfortably fit five kegs, and a 20 lb CO2 tank (plus a 5 lb beer gas tank on the compressor hump). There is enough room for one more keg if I wanted to squeeze it in.
2. Measure. Use the tape measure to determine the dimensions of the freezer. This will let you know how much wood you’ll need for the collar. The dimensions of my freezer (50.5" by 25.25") were such that we could get a long and a short side from each 96" board, with some scrap leftover.
3. Buy materials. As I learned after my solo trip to Home Depot, buying really straight pieces of lumber is essential (especially for larger freezers). Place the board on a flat surface, turn it, and press down on the ends to judge how warped it is each direction. Also avoid wood with lots of knots, or cracks (unless they are near the ends and can be trimmed). You don't need many boards, so be picky. This is a good opportunity to get the rest of the materials and tools as well.
4. Cut the wood. Use the miter saw to perform a 45 degree cut to remove a few inches from one end. Then measure and mark the wood. You want to cut slightly over on the "waste" side of the line to ensure the result is long enough. If you are getting two sides from each board, wait until after you cut the first to measure the second. Place the pieces together on the lid of the freezer to ensure they fit correctly.
5. Drill holes for the taps. Measure and mark where you want each tap to be located. Use the 7/8" hole saw (or spade) to cut a hole for each shank. Do your best to make these holes as vertical as possible.
6. Assemble. Glue two cut edges, clamp them together, and then drive in the brackets with the lag screws to hold it. Repeat on the remaining three corners. You can pre-drill, but we didn't run into issues skipping this step. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours before proceeding.
7. Sand. Smooth any rough spots, edges, corners, splinters etc.
9. Detach the hinges. Unscrew the hinges from the freezer body (they should remain attached to the lid). Be careful when doing this as they can spring up violently. Have someone hold the hinge down until the last screw is removed, then raise slowly.
10. Apply the weather stripping. Stick the self-adhering weather stripping to the bottom of the collar. This will compensate for any slight warps in the wood.
10. Position the collar. Place the collar between the freezer and lid. Make sure everything sits the way you want it to. Check that the lid's gasket touches the collar all the way around. Attach the hinges to the collar using wood screws and washers. Reinsert the bolts that came out of the hinges into their original holes.
11. Optional, mount the temperature controller and probe. Drill a hole for the temperature probe and add screws to hang the temperature controller. I'm also planning on mounting the CO2 manifold to the back of the collar when I get around to replacing the gas lines.
12. Apply caulk. Caulk the interior seams to provide another seal in addition to the weather stripping. A wet finger does a serviceable (if slightly ugly) job smoothing the caulk. This will prevent moist air from entering the freezer. This reduces condensation, which would eventually lead to rust or mold.
13. Kegerator-ize it! Insert the shanks, kegs, tanks, and connect all of the fittings. I added neoprene gaskets between the collar and the nut to block air from finding its way in around the shank. Another new addition, Velcro zip-ties to tame the 15' of line I'm using for each tap. The tap on the far left is for carbonated water, and the tap on the far right is the beer-gas stout faucet you were introduced to last week. The other two new faucets are flow control Perlicks.
14. Attach drip-trays. I used neodymium magnets rather than screws this time to allow me to mount the drip trays below the collar (a rivet gun would be another option). However, I need a few more magnets to support a glass on the drip tray.
That's it! Not too tough of a beginner's woodworking project, although I was glad to have someone with more experience to help me through it.