Instructables
Picture of SoilMaster 18,000 (prototype)
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I've been wanting to build myself a composter for quite a while now. A few months ago some family of friends gave me a bunch of these 15 gallon plastic jugs, so I set about a plan to put them to use. Due to the limited volume (I certainly would have preferred 55 gallon drums), I decided it would be best to incorporate several of them into the contraption to increase output while maintaining roughly the same footprint (maybe something like 2/3s what it would have been if I'd built 3 separate units, anyway). Also, I thought this would be more fun.

Oh, so, a description...

It's a three armed composter. Each arm incorporates an independent composting unit. These arms/units may rotate as a whole as well. The idea being that when one is full it can be shifted back and allowed to cook while the next one is brought forward and gradually filled.
r9x3 years ago
Can you make a PDF version of this?
OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!! XD three of them!!?!??!? damned man..
Artaxerxes5 years ago
your composter is really cool. I don't know how much work you've done with those containers in the past. I'm guilty of a considerable amount of home garden ingenuity involving plastic barrels just such as those. They are great to work with as they are clean, and easy to fabricate into something new. The down side: They do not hold up to UV exposure worth a darn. They become extremely brittle and fragile after about 1-1.5 years in the sun. However, I'm guessing you need to cover or paint your barrels with something dark in order to get the high composting temps. If that coating/covering was something that would substantially block UV it might dramatically improve the longevity of your creation. I'm interested to know how it works out.
jellysix (author)  Artaxerxes5 years ago
This was the first thing I've done with these types of containers. I've heard they have that problem with breaking down in the sunlight. I'm not too worried about it though, since they were free and the people who gave them to me have a couple more of them they're throwing out every month. If they degrade enough to start failing I'll just switch them out with new ones. The dark color of the barrels is something that has occurred to me, as far as getting the heat up (or blocking the bacteria killing UV light?). That will probably be the next modification I try, and you're right, it probably would even help with the longevity. I'll probably update it on this site as I go. Thanks for the word.
Maybe a Black Shimmer spray paint with an Epoxy base?
jellysix (author)  EagleScout3165 years ago
I'm not sure about the shimmer part. Does that mean it's glossy? That would probably reflect some of the heat. Epoxy base sounds good. I doubt much would adhere well to that plastic. This project is sort of on hold right now though, I've found that a simple pile works well enough for me. I'm currently more concerned with building some kind of rainwater catchment/distribution system.
robert g5 years ago
I enjoyed your take on the composter, thanks for the inspiration, you got me thinking. when we lived in the city we had a small yard, I tried to have a garden, but did not have a green thumb. We did learn some thing, composting, that is we took our organic materials from the house, the grass clippings, the neighbors leaves (when in season) and composed them. To blend and mix all the materials evenly I put my weed whacker in a garbage pail then dropped in all the organic material we collected from the week and weed whacked the material into a uniformed blend. This seamed to speed up composting. To this day if I want to reduce the amount of leaf bags I use I'll still drop my weed whacker into the pail and reduce the leaves, now they are easier to compact in the bag.
benin5 years ago
great
mrdiablo95 years ago
Exellent, I like the concept and the ergonomics of this, how long to put this baby together? Has this sped up the decomp in any way? Either way the minimizing of bending over to turn the compost is great.
jellysix (author)  mrdiablo95 years ago
Thanks. I'd say it took somewhere around ten hours to put together, but that's mostly because I was sort of making it up as I went along and had to go back and correct a couple flaws. I think it could be done in half the time, or less, without too much trouble. Especially if you've got templates or patterns for the wood cuts. As far as speeding up the decomposition of material, I'm sorry to say, I'm not sure. I moved to a new place a couple weeks ago and have been totally neglecting my compost(er). Honestly, I don't even remember when I last put stuff in it, and I haven't checked on it for two weeks or so. I'm starting to get settled now though, and plan on getting back to it. Especially since the new place has a garden about 3 times bigger than the one I put together at my last place! Another thing which should make a difference, I ordered a mulcher the other day, so I plan to run most of my composting materials through it before putting them in the containers (some of it I'll probably just dump on the garden too). I think some of the grass I put in last time was too bushy to get and stay good and moist and rotty.
fuzvulf5 years ago
Love it, Have a suggestion, a round piece of wood attached to one end of each barrel with a belt that goes to the center and rotates the outer drums as the outside is turned. Some of the high end composters incorporate a crank that you turn to turn over your compost and speed composting. But, great, love it, looks like it would be the ideal height to just park a wheel barrow under one of the drums, dump your compost and take it to the garden.
PKTraceur5 years ago
3 words......... Unbeleibly Insanely awesome!
lucek5 years ago
I use a 25 dollar one from my citty and a trash can.
shooby5 years ago
This is pretty damn cool. Although you mentioned footprint minimization, I assume you have a reasonable amount of outdoor space. Maybe a future version of this could use piles (posts) fixed into the ground, instead of the larger triangular base you've built for this one. Any reason for the height?
jellysix (author)  shooby5 years ago
Thanks a lot, I appreciate the feedback. I like the idea of the piles. While building this I noticed an issue with vertical/lateral stabilization until I tacked a piece of plywood across the back of the supports (which worked surprisingly well). The embedded posts would certainly help with that, as well as saving both materials and space. One reason I designed it this way though was so that it would be more mobile. Right now, when it's empty, I can actually lift it up and move it around by myself. It's pretty cumbersome, but the whole thing probably weighs no more than 50 pounds. As for the height, there are a couple reasons. The way it's set up in the primary picture, you would be loading your compost materials into the lower container. It's right about waist height, maybe a little lower. I thought this would be a convienient height for walking up with a pail of vegetable trimmings and dumping them in, and it's not too high for shoveling either. The other benefit is that a wheelbarrow will fit beneath that lower container, so when the compost is ready you can just dump it right in and take it away to the garden or wherever.
canida5 years ago
Looks good! I'd love to see the full build of your next version.