Introduction: Inexpensive Food Dehydrator With Recycled Parts

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.

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 Bits

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.

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

Step 2: Cutting the Pieces for the Frame

The size of this dehydrator was built around the trays that I found at a local dollar store. The dehydrator dimensions are listed, but you may have to alter them based on the size of food trays that you can find (or make).

For the frame of the box, I used an extra cedar fence plank that I had lying around. You can also use square dowels if you don't have fence planks, but the fence plank will probably be less expensive (but you will have to do more cutting).

Take the fence plank and cut it into the following pieces on the table saw:

Four 11" x 1/2" x 3/4" posts for the four corners of the box
Four 16 1/4" x 1/2" x 3/4" horizontal cross beams for the front and back portions of the box
Four 7 3/4" x 1/2" x 3/4" horizontal cross beams for the left and right sides of the box
Eight 7 3/4" x 1/2" x 1 1/2" boards to hold the trays on the left and right sides.

See Fig.1

Step 3: Making the Front and Back Portions of the Frame

Take two of the 11" posts and two of the 16 1/4" horizontal cross beams and arrange them on the ground or workbench in the shape of a rectangle with the posts on the left and right sides and the horizontal cross beams on the top and bottom. Instead of affixing the bottom cross beam exactly flush with the bottom of the posts, I left about 1/8" because I planned to have a small gap at the bottom to allow air from the dehydrator to vent out. Once you have the boards arranged in a rectangle, it is a good idea to use a clamp to hold them in place. See Fig.2

Use a nail gun with 1" brads and put two brads in each corner of the rectangle.

Once you have completed the rectangle that will be the front or back of the box we are building, use the remaining two 11" posts and 16 1/4" cross beams and repeat this step so you have an identical rectangle for the other side.

Step 4: Putting the Frame Together

Now that you have the front and back rectangles completed, you will need to connect them to make the box frame.

Take the four 7 3/4" x 1/2" x 3/4" cross beams for the left and right sides and use the nail gun with 1" brads to affix them perpendicularly to the four corners of the rectangles that you built in Step 2. Use two brads for each corner. You should now have a rectangular box. See Fig.3

Step 5: Adding the Tray Holder Boards

The eight tray holder boards should still be remaining. They are wider than the left and right cross beams so that they can hold the trays inside the dehydrator.

Measure 3" from the bottom of the front left post and make a mark with a pencil. Repeat this 3 more times for the rear left, front right and rear right posts. This will mark where you will place the top of the bottom tray holder.

Measure 2" above these marks again on all four corners (should be 5" from the bottom). Repeat this 8 more times so you have four marks on all four corners which are 2" apart and the bottom one is 3" from the base.

Using these pencil marks, wedge in the eight tray holder boards into place on the left and right sides. Then use the nail gun with 1" brads and put four brads in each tray holder (2 on the front and 2 on the back) for a total of 32 nails.

Your rectangular box should now have tray holders on the left and right sides and will look like Fig.4

Step 6: Cutting the Panels

Use wood paneling or white bead board and the table saw and cut 5 panels into the following sizes:

Front door: 17 1/2" x 10 1/4"
Back panel: 17 1/2" x 10 3/4"
Top panel: 17 1/2" x 9 1/4"
Left panel: 9 1/4" x 10 3/4"
Right panel: 9 1/4" x 10 3/4"

Notice that I did not put a panel on the bottom. This serves two purposes: 1) it allows air to flow out of the dehydrator and 2) any mess made by drippings are easy to clean up by simply moving the dehydrator and wiping up the surface under the dehydrator.

Fig.5 shows the panels for the dehydrator

Step 7: Attach Aluminum Foil to Inside of Panels

Tear off 5 sheets of aluminum foil in pieces slightly larger than the panels you created in Step 5. See Fig.6a. The foil will help reflect the light and heat in the dehydrator.

Squeeze glue onto the back side of one of the panels. See Fig.6b

Press the aluminum foil onto the glued side of the panel. See Fig.6c

Repeat this for the remaining 4 panels.

Use a utility knife to trim the excess foil.

Step 8: Light and Air Holes

The dehydrator will be heated by a lava lamp that I had. I decided not to remove the light bulb and wiring from the lava lamp and affix it to the dehydrator so that I could still use the lava lamp :)

Use a pencil and trace the lava lamp and the 80mm computer fan evenly spaced and centered on the top panel (the one measuring 17 1/2" x 9 1/4").

Use a drill with large bits (2", 1", 3/4" and 5/8") to drill holes into the panel. The holes will allow heat and light from the lamp as well as air from the fan to circulate in the dehydrator.

Some of the aluminum foil on the under side of the panels may peel away. Just be careful that it doesn't peel too much away.

See Fig.7

Step 9: The Door Panel

On the door panel (the one measuring 17 1/2" x 10 1/4"), use a pencil to mark where the corners of the clear acrylic window will be placed. Since I had a couple small scraps of plastic measuring 12" x 8 1/2" (combined), I made my marks at:

Top left: 2 3/4" inwards and 3/4" downwards (from top left)
Bottom left: 2 3/4" inwards and 9 1/4" downwards (from top left)
Top right: 14 3/4" inwards and 3/4" downwards (from top left)
Bottom right: 14 3/4" inwards and 9 1/4" downwards (from top left)

With the pencil and a ruler, draw connecting lines from each marking.

Now draw a smaller rectangle on the inside of the larger rectangle you just drew measuring at least 3/8" smaller on all sides. The outer rectangle marks where the edge of the acrylic sheet will be placed and the inner rectangle will be cut away. (The acrylic sheet will overlap on the door panel allowing you to secure it to the panel).

In the corners of the inner rectangle that you drew, drill 4 holes. See Fig.8a

Remove the blade from a scroll saw. Insert the scroll saw blade into one of the four drilled holes and reattach to the scroll saw. Use the saw to cut along the inner rectangle. The purpose of this cut is to make a window in the front door panel to be covered by the clear acrylic sheet. See Fig.8b

Step 10: The Door Panel Window

Glue around the edges of the window on the front door panel. Clamp the clear acrylic sheet just over the window. Let the glue dry. See Fig.9

When the glue is dry, drill pilot holes in the corners of the acrylic sheet and use screws to affix it to the front door panel. Do not tighten the screws too much or you will break the acrylic sheet.

Step 11: Attaching the Panels to the Frame

Use the nail gun with 5/8" brads to attach the panels to their appropriate places on the framed box. Use at least 8 brads on each panel (corners and middle areas of the sides). Do not nail the front door panel to the dehydrator.

See Fig.10

Step 12: Attaching the Door

Screw in the two door hinges to the top corners on the front side of the dehydrator's frame. Then attach the door panel to the hinges. Drill a pilot hole in the middle of the bottom side on the front door panel and attach the knob. The door panel should open upward.

See Fig.11

Step 13: Adding the Light and Fan

Attach the computer fan to the top panel on the dehydrator just over the holes you drilled in step 7. See Fig.12a.

Attach or place the lava lamp base just over the other holes on the top of the dehydrator. See Fig.12b.

Step 14: Finished!

Open the dehydrator door and slide the food trays into place. See Fig.13. You are now ready to dry food. This is my first instructable. I hope you like it. Your comments are appreciated.

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