Weeknd Project: Make a Tumbler Compost Bin

Build a tumbler compost bin with hardware store parts for a fraction of the price.

Here's how to build a tumbler compost bin with hardware store parts. It cost just a fraction of the price of store-bought one.

We started composting at the Weekendr house a few weeks ago. This year our yard will feature a sizable vegetable garden and common sense dictates that we recycle the organic scraps from the kitchen to make our own compost.

It’s a stinky endeavor, but we’re told by our gardener friends that it will pay off in spades. Everything from banana peels to kiwi skins to egg shells get put to good use.

After a few weeks of collecting kitchen waste in a mixing bowl on the back deck, it was apparent that we needed an industrial-strength compost bin to hold the rotting organic matter. I browsed the garden catalogs but prices for commercial compost bins are steep. You can expect to pay $250 and up for a good plastic tumbler compost bin.

I decided to save a buck and make my own with a trip to the hardware store. Here’s how I did it for under $50:

MATERIALS:

  • 20-Gallon Buckets (2)
  • Stainless Steel bolts, 3 in. long, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
  • Stainless Steel nuts, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
  • Rubber grommets, 1/2 in. dia. (16)
  • Metal Conduit, 4 ft. long, 1/2 dia.
  • Duct Tape
  • 2×4 Saw Horses (2) 
Two buckets, some bolts with nuts and rubber washers, a steel pipe, and a little help from Buddha.

Two buckets, some bolts with nuts and rubber washers, a steel pipe, and a little help from Buddha is all it takes to make a compost bin.

I spent about $40 on all the parts for this compost bin.

I spent about $40 on all the parts for this compost bin, not counting the 2x4 base that holds it.

I removed the rope handles from the buckets and used the holes for the 1/2-in. bolts.

I removed the rope handles from the buckets and used those holes to attach the 1/2-in. bolts.

The compost bin takes shape with the bolts on tight.

The compost bin takes shape once the two buckets are bolted together.

I didn't have a 1/2-in. dia. drill bit so I snipped a hole in the center of each bucket with wire cutters.

I didn't have a 1/2-in. dia. drill bit to drill the hole for the center pipe, so I snipped a hole in the center of each bucket with wire cutters.

A fast-moving baby puts the near-finished compost bin in perspective.

A fast-moving baby puts the near-finished compost bin into perspective.

I drilled holes in each end for air circulation and rested the pipe on a pair of 2x4 saw horses. Crank handle to come.

I drilled holes in each end of the compost bin for air circulation and rested the pipe on a pair of 2x4 saw horses. A crank handle will make this complete.

The finished compost bin. I cut a hole in the top for an opening and I still have to work that out.

The finished compost bin has a hole cut on top where the scraps go in.

I cut a flap lid on top for access to the bin. Right now it's held down with duct tape but I plan to come up with a better long-term solution.

I cut a flap lid on top for access to the bin. Right now it's held down with duct tape but I plan to come up with a better long-term solution.

 

I found an old rusty crank handle in the weeds while digging up the garden plot. It fits over the steel conduit perfectly! The compost Gods must be looking down on me.

I found an old rusty crank handle in the weeds while digging up the garden plot. It fits over the steel conduit perfectly! The compost Gods must be looking down on me.

The garden plot takes shape.

The garden plot takes shape.

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10 Responses

  1. [...] Jump to Comments Thanks to web-crawling programs that aggregate post with similar tag words, the Weekndr.com site sent some traffic over to [...]

  2. I would like to build this, but I have found some dicrepencies. So please clarify for me. The bolts in the picture look shorter than 3″ and you said to buy 8 of them, looks like you only used four where the handles were. Where should the other 4 be used? Did you use a different type of grommet for the conduit?– The others look more like rings- they don’t have a groove.

    I think your idea is great, and appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

    • Hi Tammy:

      Thanks for your note. Here are answers to the questions you posted.

      You are correct. Those aren’t 3-in. long bolts. More like 2 in. But it’s not a big deal, you’ll just end up up with more bolt extending out the other end.

      I bought 8 bolts thinking I would need to drill additional holes to keep the two buckets together, but ended up only using four once I found out from a gardener friend of mine that the two buckets didn’t need to make a water-tight seal where they join. I decided not to go through the trouble of drilling the other four holes, since the first four were already drilled for the handle.

      I used rubber washers where the bolts attach (no grooves. they come as a round ring or a flat ring and both will do fine). I used rubber grommets (with grooves) for the conduit. These were kind of tricky to install but they keep the conduit from spinning inside the bucket hole while you’re spinning it..

      Have fun making your tumbler bin!

  3. This would be good for those folk with limited space. You could make a small unit for use with balcony gardens.

    I’d been thinking of picking up an old butter churn like this one (http://dairyantiques.com/Metal_Butter_Churns.html#Metal_Cylinder_Churn), but your idea is better.

  4. amigo…

    ¿no importa que la compostera no esté en contacto con el suelo?

    ¿no dificulta eso el intercambio microbiano o de la fauna del suelo hacia y desde la compostera?

    • Hablo poco Espanol… Combinar el suelo y la compostera in el Tumbler. 2 partes suelo, 1 parte compostera. No comprendo el segundo question.

  5. great instructions, Thank you. I would like to use this on my blog.
    Kaye
    http://buildingblocksintupelo.wordpress.com
    .

  6. Solana Center for Environmental Innovation

  7. Making a Tumbler Compost Bin is really easy and by this Compost Bin Tumbler we can utilize all the wastes and rotate them to mix and add this fertilizer to the soil that improve all productivity……Click Here

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