To prepare for this month’s Waste-less adventure, my lovely husband created a composter for me! As I promised, here is my Tumbling Composter Tutorial.
If you want to see our earlier post on composting you can take a look here. As a quick recap, the nice thing about a tumbling composter is that you don’t have to get in there and stir that stinky mess. You can turn food and yard scraps into nutrient rich compost in a matter of weeks!
We were able to build ours mostly out of odds and ends we were able to find around the farm and scraps from the renovation. Here’s a list of what we used (and some links if you’d like to use what we did):
- Two 50 gallon drums
- 4 hinges
- 4 latches
- 2 handles
- Zip ties
- Weed Whacker String
- One 10′ 4x4s
- Six 4′ 4x4s
- One 10′ 1″ galvanized pipe
- One 4′ 2×4 or 2×4 scraps (optional)
- 3 structural connectors
And of course, a drill and screws. We also used a sawzall to cut out the doors on the drums. There are a few ways you could cut that out though, so get creative if you don’t have one, or borrow one!
The more you can salvage, the cheaper it’ll be. Old door hinges, cabinet handles, lots of places have 50 gallon drums sitting around. If you know anyone who works with wood they might have some 2×4 scraps you can use.
A quick tip: This is a HEAVY composter, so you might want to assemble it where its final place will be. It is not easy to move.
We designed our stand to be VERY stable. We get high winds here so we need the extra support, you might not need the cross beams on the legs to be quite as long.
Here is a basic blueprint of how the stand looks.
- First, you’ll want to screw together all three legs. We used the structural connectors here for extra support. Those barrels can get heavy and we didn’t want the legs giving out.
- Then you’ll want to drill a hole through the center leg, and halfway through the side legs. We had our holes drilled 14″ from the top of the leg so our wheelbarrow can fit underneath. If you have a bigger wheelbarrow you might want to put it up higher. It’s really useful to be able to just dump your compost straight into your wheelbarrow!
- You’ll also want to drill a large hole through the top and bottom (or sides when it’s finished) of the 50 gallon drums.
- Insert the pole through the legs and drums as you can see in the pictures of the composter.
- Once that’s all put together you can add the top beam. For added support, add the triangles in the corners out of 2×4 and straight 2×4’s on the other joints. You should be able to see examples in our pictures.
When that’s all done, you’ll be ready to start on the bins themselves!
The Composting Bins
Now for the last and most important part of our tumbling composter tutorial, the composting bins! The sawzall comes in really handy during this part. You could probably use a hand saw? But if you have friends with tools, see if you can borrow one! It’ll cut your time down by a LOT.
- Start off by measuring and marking your opening. Ours were 20.5″ x 14 but again you might want to customize it for your wheelbarrow. Too wide and you’ll just be making a mess.
- Drill a hole in all 4 corners and cut the top and bottom. The holes should help you get your saw in to cut those lines. STOP before you cut the sides though!
- Now you’re going to want to screw on the hinges and the locks. It’s much easier to put them on BEFORE you cut the sides of the door otherwise it’s much more difficult. You also might need to pre-drill the holes before you screw them on, just remember: drill smaller than the screw!
- Once those are on, you can cut the sides of the door and add the handle.
- You’re almost ready to go! If you’ve been wondering what on earth that weed whacker string is for, now is the time. You’re going to want to drill aeration holes all over the drums. Then you can string the weed whack string through some of those holes from side to side in a criss cross pattern. These will help break up the compost as you spin it.
- Tie off the weed whacker string with a square knot, and then we used zip ties around the knot to help secure it. When you’re cutting off the zip tie strings, here’s a video example of how you can do that in a way that won’t leave any sharp edges.
And with that, you’re ready to start adding your compost! You could give it a quick coat of paint to pretty it up, but I’m happy with the functional look it has.
I hope you enjoyed our Tumbling Composter Tutorial.
If you have any questions, or if you want to show off your own composter creation, please leave a comment below!
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