Homemade Immersion Heater for Large Pickle Tank

by shelbyvision on July 12, 2011

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.


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.


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.


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.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

shelbyvision July 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thanks for all your comments. Some good suggestions for insulation. Jason, the plastic piece down the center keeps the element from touching the bottom, and the sides when the lid is on. It doesn’t really matter that much, though, because the element is kept from getting that hot by the liquid it is in. For safety sake, I always unplug it when I leave the shop.

Diana Casabar July 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Great idea Steve. I may have to use this in my workshop. For the insulation, how about just putting it on a rubber mat that you stand on in front of counters? You know the kind that save your feet?

jasondeck July 13, 2011 at 3:57 am

Very neat, is it close to the plastic of the bucket? Are there any worries of melting?


patpruitt July 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Nice setup…you could always just wrap with insulation for a water heater. Or bubble wrap 😉

victoriadanner July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

What a fabulous idea!

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