Friday, August 19, 2011

Homemade Immersion Heater for Large Pickle Tank ~ tool tips

A special thanks to Steve Shelby for sharing some of his tools related writing from his own blog - which you can visit HERE.
I have always preferred to have my pickle solution hot, or at least warm; it works so much faster, especially for dissolving flux. Since many of the pieces I make are rather large, I have sometimes had to settle for cold pickle, since the crock-pot was too small. Recently my crock-pot developed a leak, so that was all the motivation I needed to finally do something about the situation. I had been researching heaters for a couple years, and everything I found was too expensive, so I decided to make my own.

© Steve Shelby
All of the parts, except the thermostat and the indicator light, I got from McMaster-Carr, even the six-gallon bucket, which is a couple inches taller than a standard fiver. The heating element is bendable, came perfectly straight. It’s rated at 750 watts, and is made to heat air or liquid, so it doesn’t have to be fully submerged. I think it’s the same kind of elements they put in dishwashers. I just happened to have a 1970′s vintage 110 volt thermostat lying around. A regular wall thermostat won’t work for this unless a transformer is added to the circuit. The  box is an outdoor-type electrical box, and the thermostat was made to screw right to the box, perfect fit! This thermostat of course reads the air temperature; a thermostat that would read the temperature of the pickle itself was way too expensive. It turned out that this one, when set on its highest setting (90ºF) maintains the pickle at just the right temperature (about 180ºF). The heating element is held in place with a simple framework made from nylon plastic, and a ring of teflon at the end. It’s secured in the box with two nylon “cord grips” that screw into the threaded holes in the bottom of the box.

© Steve Shelby
This thing works great! I wish I had made it years ago. It heats up the pickle in about 1/4 of the time that the crock-pot did, even though it’s about four or five times as much liquid. Once it reaches temperature, it is off most of the time, just coming on for a minute or two about every ten minutes or so.

© Steve Shelby
 It probably will have to work a lot harder in the winter, when the floor is really cold, so I’m thinking about ways I could insulate the bucket. I have a few months yet to work on that.

I also made new tongs to reach to the bottom of that deep bucket. Made from a scrap of 1/2″ copper tubing, it took about fifteen minutes to make.

© Steve Shelby

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