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Inexpensive Food Dehydrator with Recycled Parts

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This instructable is designed to save you money and be friendly to the environment by reusing parts and scraps you already have laying around. Food dehydrators can save you money because you can preserve the food so that it lasts longer. You can use it to dry your own herbs or fruit for trail mixes, granola or for long term storage. You can even use them to make fruit rollups. And think how much money you can save by making your own beef jerky!

If you grow a garden, you know that what you grow tastes much better than what you can buy in the store. But you also know that sometimes you can't eat all that you produce. So why not use a dehydrator to preserve that valuable food you put so much time and effort to grow? And you can enjoy your garden produce year round!

So let's get started.
 
 
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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Here is a list of the tools that I used for this project:

Table Saw
Nail gun
Air Compressor
Scroll Saw
Measuring tape
Utility Knife
Drill
Drill Bits
Clamps
Glue
Ruler

A lot of the supplies I already had on hand. You can probably also find enough parts from what you have lying around, or from what most people are just willing to give away.

Supplies:
1 80mm computer fan
12 volt AC Adapter
1 Lava lamp base (substitute night-light(s) or Christmas lights)
4 BBQ wire trays (Measured 8 1/2" x 14")
1-2 Cedar fence planks
White Bead Board
Small clear acrylic sheet (Measured 12" x 8 1/2")
18 Gauge 5/8" Brad Nails
18 Gauge 1" Brad Nails
2 Small door hinges
1 Small knob
Aluminum Foil
Screws
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amohammed14 made it!6 months ago

sdasd

poorjohnn1 year ago
Interesting, I make jerky every year at Christmas ans spend too much time with my store bought model and cant find the proper size trays. Using some of your plans I think I will make a larger unit. You did not mention a drip tray to collect drips and of course clean up
shmacky265 years ago
How do you regulate the temperature? Meat should be dried at 165 F, but veggies and herbs are much less? Also, if you're meat doesn't dehydrate fast enough, it can spoil? I have many designs for a home dehydrator, but I just can't seem to come up with a simple one that will regulate the temp.
See one above using a light dimmer.
miser (author)  shmacky265 years ago
Good question. I agree that when drying meat it is important to make sure the meat doesn't spoil. My solution is to use a simple thermometer to monitor the temperature and then add or subtract lights as necessary. This can be done easily with a string of Christmas lights or night-lights on a power strip. However, I think it is important to remember that drying food using the sun and wind to prevent spoilage has been known since ancient times. The process has been around much longer than there has been technology to regulate temperature. I've read that fruit should be dried at about 135 F. I don't think that drying fruit in ancient times was only accomplished on days where the temperature reached that high. As anybody who has been exposed to a period of constant wind can attest, the airflow alone plays an important role in removing moisture content. The fan on this box provides constant air flow. It would be easy to add more if needed. I posted a photo below of some apples and bananas that I dried that turned out great and I know that the temperature did not reach 135 F. Thanks for your comment!
I've read that the sun has an anti-bacterial effect, would this be why meat could be dried in old times without spoiling? Also, if dry your fruits and veg at temperatures below 140 farenheit or 60 degrees C, the vitamin and enzyme content in them is preserved... great health tip!
shmacky26 miser5 years ago
I'm highly aware of the history of dehydration, however, the life span of modern man far exceeds that of our ancient brethren, due to basic knowledge of things such as this. I'm sure your banana's didn't spoil, but then again, you can't let meat sit in a basket on your counter for 4 days either. I would make it a point to note that 165 degrees is mandatory for the successful dehydration of meat. I'd hate to see a 13 year old build one of these and then die of ecoli. Any factory bought dehydrator strictly says that all meats should be dried at 165 degrees which the FDA mandates they display that. Airflow alone is not enough successfully kill off bacteria.
I'm going to roast a whole pig in a pit wanna come? In all sincerity, I've done some research lately and there is a product called "Sodium Natured" Has a few Brand names Quick Cure and Fast Cure also but it's purpose is to in some way cure the meat something like salting was used for hundreds of years to cure the meat. Only this is supposed to do it real fast,and not have to salt it for several weeks. You only use a small portion and mix with water. If your interested I could send you some more into. I'm not trying to stir something up here shmacky just thought you might be interested. Ken
Ken, (AKA old timer), I actually use Morton Tenderquick, I bought a huge bag a couple years ago that seems will last me a lifetime. You may want to post links for our instructable friends, but I'm kewl as far as that goes. Good luck with the pig. May I suggest digging a 3 foot hole in the ground and build a fire until you get about 12 inches of hot coals. Then put 6 inches of packed dirt over the coals. Then wrap that pig in layers of grape leaves, drop it in the hole, then bury the rest of that will dirt level to the surface. Did it up 24 hours later for an amazing treat. Children will look up to you, women will want you, and men will want to be you.
I lived almost 50 years in Alaska and I have eaten the Natives dried salmon, I will guarantee is is not "Cooked" at 165F and it will last a lot more than 4 days on the counter too. I appreciate what the Gov't does for us but sometimes I think they are so smart that they ignore what people have done and lived on for centuries. I'm not trying to pick a fight but have we become so sanitary that we can't pick a piece of food off the floor, dust it off and then eat it or must we throw it away. What a waste, Go to a country that hasn't enough food and see if they will eat jerky that was only 100F. I might also add that our ancient brother did not have modern medicine to extend their life spans.
Fish and meat are not the same thing. Also, salmon can be eaten raw. And I would have thought that in your late age that there is no such thing as waste when you recycle...
I have good news for you kid. Fire was discovered some time after the first mammal was eaten. I used to pick a piece of hamburger off before it went into the pan and eat it raw.I learned that from my mom who learned it from her dad who had many restaurants. Many Many people eat their steaks or prime rear very rear. You know less than 165F. People have become so sterlized merely by watching TV.. How many people would have begun turning their steaks and hamburgers into charcoal before Jack in the Box made some one sick? Even then the meat was bad or it would never have happened. PS do you consider 62 old. If you do, you have something even more to learn. Isn't finally learning something great?
Old Timer, I have great news for you, Fire was discovered long after the first mammal was eaten, in the appendix is where raw meat was once digested, over time we have evolved to not need it. I don't speak opinionated, I speak enducated. Raw meat can be eaten and digested, I do it all the time, however, raw meat sitting in a 100 degree box for ten hours is ideal conditions for starting a bacteria farm. It's basically a petre dish with a catalyst. Again, this is not my opinion. In conclusion, I'm done arguing with you, that was not my objective, I just don't like to play the meat lottery. And yes, I do consider you an old, old man.
Kid lol I just thought of something neither of us discussed and that is how thick the meat/jerky is sliced. Obviously a thick piece of meat would decay just as in the petre dish you mentioned. However a thin piece with lots of air moving across it will dry fast enough to not allow spoilage. We both know that because that's how dehydrators work. Just as a point of interest,if you are interested the way Alaska natives dry their fish is they make diagonal slices on the meat then slice it into strips probably three quarter of an inch square but not all the way off at the tail but leaving it attached at the tail. They then hang it across an bunch of small horizontal tree's tied to a couple of upright vertical trees. They make 4 or 5 of these "H" arrangements in a row about 18" apart, then cover it with plastic sheeting on top. They then build a small fire under it and continually feed wet wood on the fire. Not much heat is generated as the sides are all open. It does however add a smoke flavor. But the primary job of the smoke is keeping the fly off of the meat. Jerky is made the same way. Some time later I'll tell you about a Village that decided to make an age old dish known as "Stink Head" with disastrous results because they used a modern utensil instead of the age old utensil. Till Later "Headache" PS whata ya say we call a truce?
Kid, That cracks me up, I make 75K a year and have 2 children, but I like the spin on that. However, I will end with this. I am going to make my own large dehydrator/smoker. It will have a fan, a heat source, a thermometer, and a regulator. That is the proper way to ensure safety. I don't like to take chances, especially in the days of hormone fed animals, food recalls, and mexican fruits and vegetables, and that is the advice that I pass on to the younger, inexperienced generations. After all, experience is just a fancy term for the fact that you've made mistakes and learned from them. Tis smarter to learn from someone elses mistakes than to repeat them. Because as a wise man once said, if you don't learn history, it is destined to repeat itself. Shmacktastick.
Ok I've tried to be nice but you don't seem to be interested. I wish you the best. Old Timer and proud of it.
Good for you.
All I am saying is people are and have eaten raw or meerly dried salted/meat for centuries. I see we both agree that fire was discovered after men had begun eating meat. It is not my desire to argue either guess we will just have to agree to disagree. My friend you will be my age sooner than you think, then see if 62 is old. I wish you the best and am sure you will actually learn a few things by experience rather than what a book say. Good day.
miser (author)  headache20005 years ago
Good point. Thank you!
how about adding a dimmer switch to the bulb and wire it separately from the fan??
miser (author)  headache20005 years ago
Good idea! Thanks for commenting!
Mindmapper13 years ago
Interesting design: however I assume that the fan is sucking air up from the bottom which will be cooler but the heater (the bulb) is also at the top and thus this design will be very very inefficient even if it does work. the heat source would be better at the base with the fan blowing air up or sucking air up through the chamber.
I inserted a light bulb 600W dimmer in (series) with one leg of the lamp and it works wonderful. Before the dimmer my rig ran 140 deg..cooking all...but now witrh the dimmer i reduce the temp to 115-119 deg..which seems to be about just right....for apples bananas. ...i am new at this. btw...my rig is an old 12V travel refrigerator striped of its hardware with 4...1/2 inch holes in the near top and a 4 by 4 inch hole in the bottom where the refrig hardware once was with a 60 W lamp. It is well insulated with a door setting upright. It already had the shelf brackets and one vinyl tray. I am constructing trays out of cypress witrh fiberglass fly screen. JJ 
PKTraceur5 years ago
Can we see some dehydrated foods, please?
miser (author)  PKTraceur5 years ago
Sure! I will post some pictures later. Thanks for looking!
miser (author)  miser5 years ago
Here is a photo of some fruit I dried (Apples and Bananas). The apples were the best! And they are a nice, healthy, take-anywhere snack.
driedfruit.jpg
fireguard miser2 years ago
Apples and bananas are great to dry, and I've wanted one for a while, but didn't have the stones to use a light bulb, so I got a Nesco model that works quite well, and is still pretty easy on the 'lectric bill. One thing I thought to pass on, I found a Youtube vid that suggested after peeling the banana, instead of cutting across the fruit, peeling from the end. - it breaks into three sections this way (long way), and, IMHO dries better. I call it "banana sticks," and like how they turn out! Also, tomatoes do take a little longer, especially if they're the juicy variety, but very worth it! If you've a garden, by all means: harvest and DRY, DRY, DRY!
AstralQueen3 years ago
I remembering reading amongst the commenters about what temperature the dehydrator should be for certain products.

If I recall, the one on my electric one is 35 degrees C for herbs and veg that are thin, 55 degrees C for thicker veg or fruit (tomaotes, carrots...) and 75 degrees C for meat products.

I hope this helps!
PyroMonger5 years ago
How exactly is the fan connected to the power source...surely the lamp and fan take different amounts of power?
How exactly is the fan connected to the power source...surely the lamp and fan take different amounts of power? <---replying well its a computer fan' so about 3.2volts would be powered from any cell phone charger a small fan that is' or you Could order a resister to resist 120v down to 12v or 5v's and please if your wanteding to build one use Glass.
Old comment but still, a resistor cannot do that, they dont drop voltage down, they stop current, and its also AC it will fry the litle Dc fan. A cellphone charger is a better Idea but it may need more power than that. I would say a wall phone powersupply or some type of DC 12V powersupply . they run on 12V from the board not 3.2
Goron Zero5 years ago
i was just curious as to what the highest temperature you can get this up to. because if it didnt get up to 165, i was going to buy a heat light and hook it up to a dimmer.
Hey From his design he used pvc plastic and Glue' Not a safe combo if your wanting to add higher heat' The woodend box is fine but a peace of glass is what should be used with heat tape to seal any openings.
lets see the Indians used the sun to dry meat and at 165 degrees the meat would cook not dry.
hausi5 years ago
Really nice idea and instructable. I've never used a dehydrator in my life but I might build one myself (with a few modifications :D). Does the vent blow air into the box or out of the box?
ReCreate hausi5 years ago
I think it blows air out,according to the picture.
Very nice instructable!! keep up the good work! As for Mr. negetive! take your 75k a year job and go buy a commercial dehydrator. For the rest of us we will use god given common sence, and have some fun making our own! BTW bactirea thives in a compost pile at 160 deg. The native americans didnt use any heat other than the sun and the wind to dry meat.
awang85 years ago
Hi, I've got a question. As far as I know, how can a light from a lava lamp become hot enough to actually dry meat? Also, christmas lights and cold, and so are night lights. Thanks.
miser (author)  awang85 years ago
The light bulb in my lava lamp is 30 watts and puts off quite a bit of heat (enough to melt the wax in glass). The Christmas lights I'm referring to are the large C7 ones. If it was much of a concern, someone could also use a regular 100 Watt light bulb to add much more heat. Insulating with styrofoam is another thought that I had (keeping heat in- but make sure it isn't too close to the light source). Please also see the other thread regarding the temperatures needed to dry foods.
bwpatton1 miser5 years ago
oh, ive got tons of c7 Christmas lights, they actually do put out quite a bit of light.
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