Box Food Dehydrator





Introduction: Box Food Dehydrator

Inspired by the Food Jammers, these are plans for a food dehydrator based on the one they used to dehydrate a turkey.  Mine will mostly be used for fruits and jerky but you can literally dehydrate anything with it and if you have access to a junkyard and thrift stores you can find a lot of the major supplies for cheap making the whole project less than $30. 

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Circular/ table saw - not really needed if you have a lumber yard that will cut to size for you
Power drill
Wire cutter

Plywood- preferably 3/4 in thick. I used 1/2 in and it worked fine though
metal racks- For the shelves, I went to a local recycling center. They were nice enough to let me dig through their pile of appliances and random metal. There I found 5 racks out of old ovens and had them cut down so they were all similar sizes. they sold me all five for a $1 so I couldn't complain with that.
light sockets
wall plug in
wire- i used 12 guage, probably could use something smaller
cabinet hinges
some type of closing mechanism- I took a metal clamp off an old grill that works great to hold the door closed
small fan - You can usually fine these for cheap at any thrift store
light bulbs

wire mesh- I live in an area where there are a lot of bugs, therefore I put mesh on the air holes to keep them out

Step 2: Cut Wood Panels

Figure our the size you want your dehydrator to be and cut the panels to size.  Mine ended up being 19" by 16" because that was the size that fit my shelves.  I left the height a 4' so I wouldn't have to cut down the plywood from it's original size.  The leftover wood I used to cut feet and holders for the shelves.

Step 3: Assemble Box

In hindsight, I should have placed the shelf holders on the panels before assembling.  Use screws to assemble the box. and use the hinges to attach the front door panel.  It might be easier to drill you air holes before assembling as well.  The largest drill bit I had on hand was 1/2" so I drilled five 1/2" holes in the top panel and 5 holes on a bottom corner of the back panel for circulation.

Step 4: Wire Light Sockets

The only experience I had with wiring was from high school when I took home maintenance, which is basically none.  I asked my local hardware stores if they had any tips and they all said they couldn't tell me anything for liability purposes.  After looking around for tips online, I figured that would try using a daisy chain pattern.

This is a pretty basic wiring set up.  Having little to no experience in this I will describe it the best I can.  Starting from the wall plug in, connect the black and white wires from the plug in to short pieces of black and white wires respectively.  For the rest of this I'll just talk about one wire but it's the same for both the white and black.  To the short wire you connected to the plug in, using a twist on wire connector connect two short wires.  One of these will go to your first light socket, the other use another twist on wire connector to connect 2 more wires.  One of these goes to your second light socket and the other goes to the third.

I'm not good at describing this kind of thing but I hope the pictures help.

Step 5: Put It All Together

Place the lights and fan in the base of the box.  I use 100W light bulbs and when I did a test run without the shelves the box held at 125 degrees Fahrenheit .  I placed shelved 6" apart but you could do closer for more shelves.  Right now I have watermelon and pears in mine.  most fruits from what I have heard will take 24+ hours but I'm still experimenting.  Good luck and enjoy!



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    42 Discussions

    They made it illegal to make incandescent bulbs in Canada so I would recommend a halogen lamp as they give off a lot of heat.

    Good artcile :)

    Love this project. It's a giant Easy Bake Oven.
    My question is what happens when they stop making incandescent bulbs?
    No more dried food :(

    5 replies

    Go to a farm supply store and buy one heating bulb that they use for keeping baby chicks warm.

    They are NOT going to stop making incandescent light bulbs. They have already developed incandescent bulbs that meet the efficiency standards. Yes we will pay more for them like we already pay more for cars that meet fuel economy, emission, and safety standards.  Many dry food without using electrical power at all, with using dryers that have a screen enclosure that allows natural air circulation.

    From what I read, they are eliminating them for the general public. Companies can still get them.

    Get a FIN, and your set.

    Instead of the light bulbs you could use Halogen Lamps they have a lower efficiency when it comes to heating but those are not banned yet.

    where the heck do you live where a white wire in a home is a ground? Green is ground and white is hot

    1 reply

    Wrong again. Black = Hot | White=Neutral | Green=Ground

    1. I question the use of plywood (just a little) but this is an easy fix. Just line it with foil and you should be good (be sure to seal all gaps).

    2. They may be getting rid of these bulbs, but this eis simply the way to create heat. You can simply put an electric griddle in place of the bulbs... Or a heating element, or a hair dryer... Anything that creates heat. Simple fixes for the doubters in the comment section here.

    3. Not a handy-man kind of person? Get yourself an old, non-working fridge and hook it up in the same manner as you would this box. Hook that up to a fire pit and you have a smoker too.

    This is a fantastic instructable, thank you so much for posting!!!

    This giant version of an Excalibur is far less food-safe than its competitor. Heating a giant formaldehyde-plywood container up with Grid-based electricity, with food on aluminum screens may not be the best option. For the past 30+ years we've used a radiant solar dryer we designed back in 1985. It uses stainless steel screen, doesn't off-gas into the food, and uses only sunlight for heat. The design has been used both for household and commercial drying, and has been modified for various climates and foods, worldwide, since then. It was even featured in a United Nations alternative energy publication in the late 80's. If you are interested you can see our version of it here:

    Use a 600 watt come element (just one) instead of light bulbs - these will never be banned, probably. You may need a thermostat to control it if it gets too hot - a lower element water heater thermostat is a good one for this.

    The steps you are telling is simple and humble to set compost screen stainless steel wire mesh. The racks should be chosen with the high quality to extend durability.

    To use this unit correctly you need the following temps, Herbs= 105F, Fruit n veg =135F and Fish n Meat=150F to 155F.
    12v fans easy found in old pcs and there power pack are easy to wire, put a few in to move the heat around even.
    Bulbs are the best way to heat this unit cheap but remember its the heat you need heating the food not the light.
    If your going to use mains power and you only want it for lets say fruit n veg you could fit a basic thermal switch that opens contacts at 135F this way you should get the perfect drying temp for them type of produce.
    Its also a good idea to check the temp in each tray bay some movement of the fans will be need to get the heat just rite. A unit of the above size will need 4 one inch vent holes top and near the bottom if you make the vents on diffrent sides this will help promote air flow in your cabinet...One last point you should use pot light fittings as this units get rather hot around the bulbs and the fitting will burn and go brown, it may even give of some gases that may affect your food over time, good luck with your project and happy drying;-)

    I did watermelon but it turned out kinda weird. Some people I work with said that the melon tasted over ripe so that may have been the case. I lost some that fell through the grates. I have used my cooling racks that stack easily to dry bananas which turned out amazing. Gordrh, I didn't think about using a metal mesh for shelves. I do have some leftover metal mesh used for window screens. I haven't noticed the plywood affecting the taste but the watermelon had a strange smell that may have been from the plywood.

    In a house plug, the black wire is the Hot wire. The White is a neutral/ground. Whites can be hooked from one item to another item's hot black putting them in series. The downside is that when in series, the things further down the line depend on the power to go through the first things. The best is to have the small prong (hot/black) hooked to all black hots(tip of the bulb), then have the large prong (white/neutral)hooked to all the white wires(outer edge of the bulb).

    Black wire
    /  |  \
    \  |  /
    White wire

    2 replies

    yep this would be the way I would do it. this way when one light bulb died it would not effect the other bulbs only time of drying and heat

    oops. i responded to step four, didnt know this was already covered.

    THNX, good info XD

    I'm going to have to try the hanging food with toothpicks idea. I've lost some of the watermelon I have in right now from it shrinking and falling off the racks. I've had someone else say the same about temp with jerky but the way I make it the brine I soak it in actually cooks it. I've dried it multiple times before with just a box fan and no heat but with no issues.

    1 reply

    In the one I have built, I use stainless steel window screen on a wooden frame, this allows me to dry out just about anything, especially jalapeno peppers and herbs from the garden