How to Build a Food Dehydrator

How to construct a food dryer powered by the sun, a stove or electricity; including materials, diagrams and assembly.

| February/March 1993

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    Don't miss out on this guide that shows how to build a dryer that is powered by sun, stove, or electric energy.
    ILLUSTRATION: SCOTT MACNEILL
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    The dryer is almost complete!
    PHOTO: DEBRA TETREAULT
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    Dried foods, before and after.
    PHOTO: DENNIS BARNES

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When I first took up self-­reliant coun­try living in the 1960s, I tried drying foods in a sandwich of old window screens laid at a sun-facing angle across a pair of sawhorses, but found that Mother Nature dries slowly in our changeable New England weather. I also tried an antique sheet-metal wet-heat corn dry­er designed for wood-stove-top use, but its single, rusty-hard­ware cloth tray left barbecue­-marks on the apple slices. Plus, it was too small to keep up with our kids' hearty appetite for dried delicacies.

In the 1970s I gave in to progress and got one of the MacManniman's big yard-­square electric food dryers. For two decades, its gentle electric heat preserved apricot halves and apple sections for babies to teethe on, along with other fruits, fishes and meats.

But in time the plastic screen on the racks snagged and frayed, and the oversize box got creaky from being hauled from cellar to kitchen and back. When it came time for a new dryer, all I could find for sale were little round, plastic kitchen gadgets and a couple of large and expensive wood-box units from makers I'd never heard of. So I designed and built my own.

Being of dark-stained ply­wood, it absorbs solar energy for sun-drying and works with stoveheat and electricity as well. Just one of its trays holds as much as one of the plastic dry­ers, fully-loaded, but the box is hinged to fold flat for easy car­rying and storage. Here's how to make one for yourself! It's a great late-winter project offer­ing a promise of the gardening season and harvest to come. Materials cost about $50, or half again that much more if you buy the optional electric fan and thermostat.



Ready-Made Drying Racks

The hardest parts of a food dryer for an amateur wood butcher to fabricate are framed screen drying-racks. They are continually being pulled in and out, and for adequate strength, you'd have to mortise or dove­tail the joints, then stretch and fasten window screening to the wood — a job requiring building jigs, a stretching frame, plus pre­cision tools and set-up time not warranted by a single project. I have the tools and materials but not the time, so I improvised pre-assembled racks.

Know those telescoping half-window screens? I bought three of the largest I could find (the store carried 12"-, 15"- and 24"- high screens), pried them apart and trimmed them for six ready-made screen-racks, mea­suring 23 5/8 wide x 18 3/4 deep to give 18 square feet of drying area — the perfect size for a home-size dryer. Made of strong-enough galvanized steel rail and screen with wood end­pieces, they are rust-resistant, easily replaced if need be, and fit neatly into channels made by screwing and gluing wood molding to the sides of a sturdy plywood box that is hinged for easy breakdown, transport and storage.

David
1/12/2015 7:12:19 PM

Where are the plans?


barkway
11/20/2013 6:44:02 AM

Plywood?? Aren't there a lot of chemicals in plywood?







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