How to Build an Electric Dog Food Dispenser

Written by jonathan pfeiffer
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How to Build an Electric Dog Food Dispenser
An electronic dog feeder is an easy way to feed your dog when you're away. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

When you are away from home for an extended period of time, plans have to be put into place to make sure your dog is fed. Most people rely on friends and neighbours to accomplish this task. However, if you own a VCR that is not in use, the timer and motor inside of it can be utilised to create an automatic dog feeder. The crucial part of this endeavour is creating the system of pulleys that will slow down the high-speed motor and add torque.

The amount of food allocated along with a desired feeding schedule can be set up by programming the VCR.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • VCR with programmable timer
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Electric drill
  • 2 plywood boards, one about a couple feet square, the other about a third that size
  • At least 3 L-brackets
  • 3 bolts, 1/2-inch diameter, 7-inches long
  • 15 nuts
  • 9 lock washers
  • 3 lightweight plastic wheels, about 1-foot diameter, with 1/2-inch ball bearing hubs
  • PVC pipe, 2-inch diameter
  • Rotary tool with sanding attachment
  • Screws
  • Spool of 1mm diameter plastic "stretch" cord
  • Poster tube
  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • Hot-glue gun

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  1. 1

    Unfasten the VCR case. This equipment is high voltage, so there are a few dangerous parts. Keep your hands away from the internal components for the moment. Locate the components of the power supply. The power supply components are comprised of large capacitors and transistors. They can even be on a different circuit board to keep them separate from everything else. Use an insulator to cover the power supply, such as a plastic trash bag or a mouse pad.

  2. 2

    Locate the VCR's drum motor. The motor should be easily visible and appear much like a metal cylinder. Remove it from its mount by disconnecting the ribbon cable and unscrewing the cylinder counterclockwise. Be sure to take off the VCR's mounting bracket.

  3. 3

    Reconnect the ribbon cable to the motor's connection point. Connect the power cord of the VCR to an electrical socket and press "play." The motor will be spinning at this point. If there is no movement, make sure there is a solid connection with the ribbon cable and that it is seated properly. Once the motor is functioning, push the "stop" button and place the VCR out of the way.

  4. 4

    Construct a platform using a drill, two pieces of plywood, screws and L-brackets. Attach the smaller piece of plywood for a foot and the larger piece of the plywood to stand vertically. This forms a frame for the pulley assembly and will make the motor usable for this endeavour by reducing its speed.

  5. 5

    Attach the motor to the frame using the motor mount taken from the VCR and an L-bracket. Be certain that the vertical portion of the frame and the rotating portion of the motor are placed parallel to on another.

  6. 6

    Drill three ½-inch holes in the frame. The specific location of the holes is not important, but having them evenly spaced is. Through each hole, place a bolt and lock them in position using lock washers and nuts. For each bolt, place a wheel and lock them down using nuts. The wheels should be capable of easily spinning but not slide back and forth.

  7. 7

    Cut two 4-inch pieces of PVC pipe. The hubs from the first two wheels will have the sections of pipe mounted over them. If the pipes do not fit over the hubs, make use of a rotary tool to cut out a little from the inside of each pipe.

  8. 8

    Make a hole in the CD spindle cover on the side near the top. Food will be dispensed for the dog through this hole. Connect the last wheel to the spindle bottom using screws. Deposit a small amount of dry dog food on the cover and place it on the base of the spindle.

  9. 9

    Position a loop of cord around the first wheel and motor. Use a good knot to make certain that the loop is tight and secured. On the second wheel, place a different loop of cord and have it wrap around the PVC coupling from the first wheel. The final cord loop will be placed around the PVC coupling from the second wheel to the wheel with the CD spindle. Push "play" on the VCR and the entire assembly will turn. Dog food will fall out of the hole in the cover with each rotation. If the wheels do not move but the motor does, verify the loops are on the appropriate wheels and properly tightened.

  10. 10

    Cut a poster tube along its length to create a chute. Cut some paper towel rolls to form large, medium and small legs. Use a hot-glue gun to connect the legs to the bottom of the chute so it can be situated as a slope. The short end will empty into the dog bowl while the tall end is placed under the CD spindle.

  11. 11

    Program the VCR to record at a predesignated time to set up a feeding schedule. The amount of dog food dispensed will be controlled directly by the length of recording time. Since each model of VCR is somewhat different, consult your instructions to establish how to set up to record.

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