Jockey Box 2.0

>> Saturday, February 03, 2018

About two years ago I posted about my first jockey box build using a vintage Coleman Steel-Belted cooler. I really dig it, it works awesome, and it has so much more character than plastic cooler-based jockey boxes.

Earlier this year, I stumbled across some brand new Steel-Belted Coleman coolers on clearance at Sam's Club. I figured maybe I could resell them on ebay and/or locally and make a few bucks. I had lots of interest in them, but unfortunately nobody actually showed up to buy them. My original build used a Coleman cooler from the early 70's, and much like the cars of the day, it has straighter, more angular lines. The shape of the new coolers is closer to that of the vintage Coleman coolers from the 50's, nice rounded lines. The paintjob is somewhere between matte and satin black with a slight orange peel texture. Combined with the stainless steel trim and the addition of some shiny faucets, I began to realize it would be a cool candidate for a jockey box build.

It got me to thinking...I have some spare parts laying around from previous kegerator and jockey box builds...maybe I should build another jockey box. It wasn't long before I stumbled across a really good deal on another 7-circuit cold plate and I decided to move forward.

Construction on this box is similar to the original with a few minor changes/improvements. 

  1. Like the original, three lines make a double pass through the cold plate, and the fourth makes a single pass. 
  2. Instead of having all liquid supply lines on one side of the cooler, I have two on each side. That's not a huge change, but it should make arranging kegs a little easier.
  3. The biggest change between this one and the first one is I added plastic inserts for the liquid line bulkheads. I fabricated these out of Airborne Immune Support vials. These make it so I can really snug down the bulkheads for a secure fit. They're caulked which should help keep any moisture from entering the space between the outer metal skin and the inner plastic lining of the they give it a nice clean look. I'm probably going to go back and retrofit the original jockey box with similar fittings.
  4. Lastly, I changed the design of the cold plate stand slightly. This version has extensions that center the stand in the middle of the cooler and keep the cold plate from sliding around during transport.

Tips, Tricks, and Comments

This is a fairly simple project, but you'll definitely need some tools. Measure carefully before doing any cutting/drilling. Masking tape, a Sharpie, a tape measure, and an adjustable combination square can be helpful when laying out your design. I tend to drill small pilot holes first, protecting the metal skin with masking tape. The tape keeps the drill bit from slipping and protects the paint. Drill the pilot hole all the way through the metal skin and the inner plastic liner. I use my Harbor Freight step bits (you can probably buy almost all your tools at Harbor Freight for this job) to open up the holes in the metal skin. This includes for the stainless bulkheads on the liquid lines, and the initial drilling for the tap holes. I use hole-saws to cut the inner plastic lining of the cooler. Run hole-saws in reverse (counter-clockwise) so that the teeth don't grab and gouge the plastic. The final hole for the taps is done using a 7/8" Greenlee chassis punch. The order for drilling should be:
  1. Drill pilot hole.
  2. Enlarge the pilot holes using a drill bit the same size as the bit in your hole-saw.
  3. Align hole-saw bit to your pilot holes and cut appropriate sized hole in plastic liner. DO NOT cut through the metal skin with your hole-saw. Remember to run drill in reverse when using hole-saw on plastic.
  4. Use step bit to open up the holes in metal skin. Holes should be big enough for bulkhead to fit through on the liquid line holes, and big enough for the punch's bolt on the tap shank holes.
I used a little bit of epoxy appliance paint to touch up the bare metal around the holes. This will help reduce the risk or rusting.

Below are some pictures and a parts list. I've included prices where applicable to show that you can build these fairly affordably if you shop around and aren't in a huge rush. I say "fairly affordably" because...well, these things aren't cheap. A lot of the expense is in the stainless fittings and they can add up quickly. Plated fittings and faucets are much cheaper, but they're still not cheap. I'm the type that prefers to buy once and spend a little more money up front than have to replace parts later. That said, I got a pretty good deal on some chrome faucets so I skipped the stainless versions there. My total price was right about $250. Compare that to some of these pre-built examples and you can see that they can be quite a bit cheaper to build yourself.

Pre-built Examples

Parts List

Qty - Desc - Price - Supplier
  • 1 - New vintage-style Coleman cooler - $42 - Sam's Club
  • 1 - Used 7-circuit cold plate - $52 ($37+$15 for shipping) -ebay
  • 3 - 3" stainless steel beer shanks (needed four, had a spare) - $32.85 - ebay
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless steel bulkheads - $10.28 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 8 - 1/4" x 5/16" barb x flare fittings (some were missing from the cold plate) - $13.28 - - Installation Parts Supply
  • 14 - 5/16" gaskets for cold plate - $1.40 - Installation Parts Supply 
  • 4 - 1/4" Stainless shank tailpiece - $5.80 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Neoprene tailpiece washers - $0.52 - Installation Parts Supply
  • 4 - Tailpiece wingnuts - $0.00 - unknown, spare parts
  • 4 - Liquid ball-lock disconnects - $27.96 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 7 - 1/4 flare swivel nuts (needed 8, had a spare)- $13.93 - Salt City Brew Supply
  • 4 - Standard chrome faucets - $20 - local classifieds
  • 4 - Stainless tap handles - $32 - eBay
  • Misc parts - ~$20.00
  • Misc shipping - $9.71
Liquid line bulkhead, exterior

Liquid line bulkhead, interior


Another shot of the Airborn fitting

Bulkheads for taps 3 and 4

Four taps, waiting for something to pour