Saturday, 4 September 2010

Dehydrator adapted from an old glass dryer... ...

Well I finally got round to finishing off one of the many projects I seen to have on the go at any given time.
 It was a stroke of luck really, we had been thinking about ways in which we could store things we grow, herbs mainly, but lately other stuff as well, after looking into it we decided the best way to go was to dry things out, this is all well and good, but we weren't sure how to go about it, we knew we could hang herbs up to dry them out, but we don't really have any where we could leave bunches of herbs and stuff drying for days or weeks.

After much considering we decided on the dehydrating method, which is just a kind of accelerated version of leaving stuff hanging for ages, how ever after looking into the prices of some dehydrators we figured it may be some time before we could afford one, so in my usual fashion I declared "I will make one" which is perfectly reasonable, and not really that difficult.

I set about looking for ways to make a dehydrator, I found many interesting ways in which people had made their own dehydrators, from custom built wooden boxes with custom built heating systems to foil lined cardboard  boxes with 100watt light bulbs in.
Then by a stroke of luck some one advertised on freecycle (do you freecycle ? you should) that they had an old glass drying cabinet that they needed to get rid of, we answered the e-mail and luckily the chap agreed to let us have it. It was an old drying cabinet for a school science lab, and was used to dry the scientific kit after being washed, as it turns out this was perfect for our needs.

Here it is -
Yes it does look a little worn.

Now I know what your thinking, something along the lines of "Hells teeth man you can't put food in that !" well no, but I did plan to make it safe to put food in, and it didn't really take much. The cabinet itself was ideal for this project because it had the heating element already fitted, along with a thermostat, which means we could regulate the heat, and as most thermostats have a built in fail safe we could be pretty sure it was going to get too hot and burn the house down.

The first thing to be done was to give it a good clean, and make a repair, although it's not in this picture the cabinet should have had 2 glass doors, it only came with one, and some kind of plastic make shift door, which wasn't very good, so I had to make a replacement.

Stickers and labels needed to be removed - 

Stickers put on by lab.

It had been safety tested, which was a bonus.

And as is often the case when you remove any kind of sticker or label you get a sticky residue, I have used the same method to remove this residue for years, and basically it involves either white spirit, or lighter fluid (the stuff you put in zippo type lighters)

The sticky stuff - 

This stuff is a pain to remove.
Same goes for this.

Here's what I used to get rid of it - 

Lighter fluid and a scourer.

Top tip, this also works on labels on glass jars as well, after soaking the label off, if there's any sticky stuff left get a little white spirit or lighter fluid on some kitchen roll, or a scourer and give it a little scrub, it should come off easily, then just was off with hot water and washing up liquid.

I made the new door from what I had round the house, which was some thin tongue and groove, so I cut 4 pieces to roughly the size of the glass door, and then glued them together, added to extra strips of wood to add a little more strength to it, and to stop it warping, and lastly I put a small wooden handle on it.

So with the door done I then had to set about cleaning the inside and the wire racks, the inside wasn't that bad, just needed a wipe over, the racks how ever were a little harder to sort out because they were quite rusty, so I got a wire brush and cleaned them all up so I could spray them.

The rusty racks - 

Rusty racks.

I also discovered that there was a wire support missing, so I improvised using the old steel rod from our old pedal bin.

Making a new support for the racks - 

New support in construction.

After that it was really just a case of spraying the whole thing to make it look a little neater, not that it will be on display, we have a space for it out in our back room. As the racks had quite large spaces between each part I bought some baking sheet things from a pound shop, and as it turned out the 4 I bought were enough to cover each rack, although I did have to cut them to size and the left over parts I stitched together to make new ones, other wise I would have needed 6 in all, I got 4.

The baking sheets - 

Baking sheets

Stitching the cut offs to make new sheets -

Stitching the parts of baking sheet together.

And here is the finished article -

The finished article.

There's no handle on the door in this picture because I took it before I remembered where I'd put the little wooden handle I'd reserved for it.
It won't win any design awards, but it's more for function than form, and it works a treat, we have already dried a load of sage and parsley, and we have loads more to do, and the other day we used it to dry out some fruit leathers, it didn't take as long as we thought it would for the leathers or the herbs, it took just an hour on half heat to dry the herbs, I could have turned it up and dried the herbs faster, but I didn't want to disintegrate them.

I'm pretty happy with the results, the wooden door helps insulate the cabinet and it keeps loads of heat in, and even stays pretty warm for a good while after, not bad for a total cost of 10 quid, and surprisingly it doesn't use that much electric, less than a kettle, and a lot less than our oven, so drying stuff in the cabinet is more cost effective.

Here's a picture of our energy meter while the cabinet was running - 

Our energy meter.

Thanks for reading.

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