Compost Tumbler

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Introduction: 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

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.

Step 2: Cutting the Door

For this step I used two templates to make a hole and a door. I cut the hole into the bottom of the barrel and filed off the edges. Make sure you use the bottom of the barrel, as you'll need to make use of the top later.

I found a large piece of scrap plastic to make a door. Again, I traced the template, cut, and filed the edges.

Step 3: Attach the Door

Here I have attached the door using a door hinge and two barrel latches.

Step 4: Drilling Pivot Holes

This tumbler works by spinning the barrel end over end. I'm using 1.25" steel pipe to feed through the barrel. You'll need to drill the same size holes through the PVC pipe that will be used on the inside of the container. The PVC is attached to the screw cap holes in the top of the barrel and allow air to flow into your compost.

Step 5: Assembling the PVC

You'll need to carefully assemble the PVC pieces. I slid the steel pipe through the holes to keep everything aligned. Drill plenty of small air holes into the PVC. I drilled holes about 1.5" apart and all around the pipes.

It's hard to see in the picture, but the PVC is screwed into the hole at the top of the barrel. I found a piece PVC that was threaded. All pieces are 2" PVC.

When completed, the top of the barrel will become the bottom of the tumbler. Air will flow in and through the PVC piping.

Step 6: The Stand

This is the stand I made to hold the tumbler. It is made out of 4x4 lumber. Drill 1.25" holes on each side to accept the steel pipe. ALMOST DONE!!!

Step 7: Put It Together...

That's it!!! Put the steel pipe through the wood posts, the barrel, and the PVC. Screw on a couple end caps and you've made THE BEST compost tumbler.

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    49 Comments

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

    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

    1 reply

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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 built this for my wife this weekend- works great (my 5yr old loves to spin it.) Thanks for the great instructable!

    composter.jpg
    2 replies

    How has this worked for you?
    how long does it take to make a batch

    So far so good! I don't know what the batch time really is- I let my wife handle that stuff.

    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!

    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?

    use a lot of your ideas on mine...Thank you for sharing with us. Great machine.

    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.

    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!

    What type of connectors did you use for the frame? I would assume galvanized carriage bolts, maybe 6" long? How many did you use?

    The shape of it reminds me of R2-D2...paint that puppy to create your very own composting droid!

    1 reply

    My son's are painting mine to look like R2D2. Funny you mentioned it.

    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?