Picture of Compost Tumbler
This is my first attempt at an instructable and my first attempt at making a compost tumbler. The research I've done on different compost bins leads me to believe this style works best.

Step 1: 55 gal. barrels / drums

Picture of 55 gal. barrels / drums
This seems to be the toughest step for DIY'ers trying to make a compost tumbler. Where can you find large plastic 55 gal. drums? My advice is to keep your eyes open when you're out and about. We've all seen them at some point, but never pay attention as to where or when. LOOK... you will find them. I planned on cutting the bottom off of one to make a door, but thought of a better idea so I could make two tumblers.
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Farmboy8304 months ago

I have made one of these and they work really well.

jmills6165 years ago
Hey there, I've embarked on building my compost tumbler and found your design to be the best out of dozens I've reviewed over the past many months. My question has to do with how you connected the 2" PVC to the inside bung hole. I noticed the use of a threaded 2" PVC adapter. Are you screwing this thing "on the inside of the barrel" to attach the PVC Pipe to? Screwing these adapters on the outside (as I did for a rain barrel project) is hard enough - I'd have to crawl inside with a wrench. Not enough room for me. LOL. Thanks, John
I have a couple ideas. I am not sure if the bungs are standard parts, but mine appears to fit a 1 1/2" to 2" reducer if I can glue the reducer into the threaded port where the bung was. Jury's still out on that. But the center of my bungs has a3/4" threaded "knock out" that I was able to remove by cutting at the edge of the knockout with a sharp knife (watch the fingers) and then using a 3/4" galvanized nipple to punch out the plug. Think of how a tap & die set might work...
I am still cobbling all my recycled PVC/ABS parts to get this put together, but I hope to have it done this weekend for very little coin. I'll take photos as I go and see if I can post 'em.
very clever. like the door design and how you took advantage of bung holes to allow air inside without having to drills holes all over the barrel essentially ruining the container.
stooker4 years ago
Has anyone tried adding a spigot to the bottom or side of the barrel to harvest "compost tea" out of? Or will that just compact with compost and not work?
resago5 years ago
here's a suggestion: attach the barrel to the rod with some flanges and then put a pulley on one end of the rod on the outside of the stand, you could then add an electric motor on a timer to turn the pile for you. You would have to use sleeves on the legs so the rod could turn easily. instead of a motor you could also attach the pulley to a geared down wind rotor.
jmills6165 years ago
Hey there, I've embarked on building my compost tumbler and found your design to be the best out of dozens I've reviewed over the past many months. My question has to do with how you connected the 2" PVC to the inside bung hole. I noticed the use of a threaded 2" PVC adapter. Are you screwing this thing "on the inside of the barrel" to attach the PVC Pipe to? Screwing these adapters on the outside (as I did for a rain barrel project) is hard enough - I'd have to crawl inside with a wrench. Not enough room for me. LOL. Thanks, John
Honus6 years ago
I built this for my wife this weekend- works great (my 5yr old loves to spin it.) Thanks for the great instructable!
newbloom Honus5 years ago
How has this worked for you?
how long does it take to make a batch
Honus newbloom5 years ago
So far so good! I don't know what the batch time really is- I let my wife handle that stuff.
goofy gal5 years ago
I will be making my tumbler soon and bought my supplies today.  I was concerned about the plastic bending at the site where the metal pole went through.  I looked around Lowes hardware for a while and ended up buying some floor flanges to anchor to the sides.  It looks like it will work pretty well.  I'm really excited to try this!
bearcat225 years ago
Step 4 could be explained more clearly. The sentences are confusing. Two "plug" type pieces are shown in the photo, with no information at all given about where they were obtained.
Why go to all the trouble with the PVC pipe to get air? Every other barrel design just drills a bunch of holes all over the barrel. Is there an advantage to doing it your way?
pxbaroni6 years ago
use a lot of your ideas on mine...Thank you for sharing with us. Great machine.
laiab6 years ago
The carwash in my area had plenty and gave them away for free. They use biodegradable soap, and even provided the department of environment forms to prove it.
lohlmohd6 years ago
GREAT CONCEPT! I was struggling with buying one, so this was perfect for me. I made a few modifications, mostly due to the first barrel I used. The second one has a full lid with the compression ring, better in my opinion. I used a 2" "H" inside the barrel, so there are two air inlets instead of one. I also used 3/4" fittings on each side of the barrel to act as "bearings" for the axle. Thanks for the idea!
bobber1286 years ago
What type of connectors did you use for the frame? I would assume galvanized carriage bolts, maybe 6" long? How many did you use?
rootchick6 years ago
The shape of it reminds me of R2-D2...paint that puppy to create your very own composting droid!
My son's are painting mine to look like R2D2. Funny you mentioned it.
jwiney6 years ago
Just a question is there a reason other than to support the PVC that you went to the effort of matching up the pivot rod through the pvc pipes. Wouldn't it be easier to turn ninety degrees and avoid the pvc, or would they then be to flimsy?
The 2" PVC is not a tight fit to the barrel opening so having the PVC go through the pipe gives it stability when it's turned. So not only does it add air to the compost, but the pipe going through the PVC keeps it stable. Gett the holes to line up is best achieved by constructing the unit tot he point of the connection to the barrel at the top. Then just adjust the small PVC pipe from the barrel to line the holes up. It was easier than I though it would be.
This design looks great. I now have everything to make this and am curious about the question about the PVC turned at a 90 degree angle to the pivot rod. Did you try this? Would you do it again? Thanks so much for this idea.
teddyd6 years ago
Does anyone have the measurements for the stand? I'm thining that the ground support posts are 3 ft. the center beam is 2 ft. and the upright beams are 3 ft. as well. so...2, 10 ft. sections of 4x4 should do it.
Here's what I did: Used 4x4 treated, base is 32", sides are 22" (but it depends on barrel size, you need to make sure it rotates and doesn't hit the cross wood at the base), the cross wood (bottom between the sides) is 24", I used a 36" 1" galvanized pipe from Home Depot. The barrels have a seam, so it's easy to cut the middle hole for the pipe to go through and keep it lined up.
singerguy746 years ago
I was wondering how happy you've been with the design and if there were any changes you would make if you did it over again? I'm considering doing one much like this with a couple alterations. 1. What if I just cut the top off the barrel and add a hinge to make the whole top flip open? I think that might make it easier to load/dump plus I don't have any scrap plastic to make a door out of. 2. Instead of the PVC venting system I might just drill a series of holes like many of the tumblers on Instructables have. 3. Have you had any issues with the plastic stretching/ripping where the pipe runs through? I know some people recommend adding extra bracing.
dsTexasLady6 years ago
Why does everyone make a special rotary device? Why can't I just roll in on the ground?
Yes, you can roll it on the ground. I saw an instruction by a barrel company from Canada, but it take you more effort to roll it around on the ground. I am unable to find the site again, sorry. Basically, you get a food grade plastic barrel with a screw type of lid, drill holes on the side of the barrel and roll it on the ground so it is mixed and the compost, "compost tea/liquid" will come out from the holes. It should be quiet easy, I am actually going to try to get one and try if it work this summer.
Sorry, there is a error, I mean roll it on the ground so it mix the compost, and the compost tea/liquid come out form the holes. not the compost. :)
Look up craigslist for your area you will be surprised at how easy it is to find them for 20 dollars or less. My suggestion though is to find a food grade one rather than a chemical one use one.
I went to a koi fish store (in Anaheim, CA) They had a lot of used, but cleaned 55 gallons drums. 15 to 20 bucks each.
I am wondering if you use a garbage bin, does the lid come off when you turn the composter?
Dave G6 years ago
Nice work. I did my own compost tumbler this summer and am loving it. I posted pics on how I did it at http://www.goodrum.cx/compost_tumbler if you're interested.
Bobblob6 years ago
Nice looking composter and Instruckable.

I made one a very years back with an easy to find 32 gallon lockable plastic trash barrel Your stand is much studier than the one I made from 1" X 2" strapping but my composter was smaller as well

I documented it with a few pictures on another composter Instruckable HERE
bike folder6 years ago
This is great I just put a little 4' x 9' raised box garden in my yard last spring. It worked well. I'm ready to compost, thanks! This would be a good one for Mother Earth News! Lets spread the word.
Jacquet6 years ago
He said O2 (oxygen), not H2o (water). Basic chem not a strong point I see ....
fritsie1236 years ago
I don't quite get the meaning of the pvc pipe inside. Is it to let air in or out? Is it really important, 'cause i think the air can come in throught the gap in the lid anyway. How often do I have to tumble the drum? I'm not really up to speed with composting, as you can tell... :-)
andrewtmeyer (author)  fritsie1236 years ago
The PVC is connected to the hole in the top. It allows air to flow in and out of the tumbler. You need O2 to make compost. Look up aerobic vs. anaerobic. If you don't get O2 into the tumbler you'll have a smelly garbage tumbler. There is no gap in the lid. The lid is sealed onto this kind of drum. I do have some air holes on the outside of the tumbler but the PVC allows air to flow into the compost.
Ok, I understand it now, thanks!
dchall86 years ago
I'm confused about that pipe and the water statements. You keep saying that the pipes provide air and that you need H2O to make compost. Both of those statements are true but how does the "H2O" statement relate to the pipe? Do you also add water through the pipe? You're going to have smelly compost any time your ratio of protein (so-called "greens") to carbohydrate (browns) is out of balance. You'll know it when you smell it. When you smell ammonia or gas (like methane), stop tumbling and add several inches of dry leaves to the top. The leaves will capture the odor and keep those gasses in your pile. The pile needs those gasses that are leaking out. I've been making compost in a pile on the ground for 15 years. I used to turn it religiously (ever Sunday, Christmas, and Easter, ;-) ), but now I never turn it. Keeping it moist is much more critical than fluffing it up, so this tumbler should work to that end.
wamcvey dchall86 years ago
To be clear for others:

greens = materials high in nitrogen, not protein
browns = materials high in carbon, not carbohydrates
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