Introduction: Convenient Composter

About: I am a R&D Prototype engineer at Weatherford Labs. I also recieved my real estate license earlier this year and have already completed 3 very different and successful deals! I consider my self a "Jack of many…

We all know that compost is good for the garden; we also know that it is a pain to maintain and can smell pretty nasty if not done properly. I have done a little investigation into composting methods and contraptions and I present here my take on the subject. One of the main requirements that I wanted from my compost was that I wanted to be able to get a small and somewhat "clean" amount of compost out whenever I needed it. It also needed to be clean and not take up much room and generally be easy to maintain. My answer to all of this was to keep in an easily spin-able trashcan that had an integrated sifter so that I could easily gather the plant-ready compost without dodging dead fruits and vegetables.

Step 1: Gather the Stuff

I would have really liked to reuse a trash can but i couldn't find one after looking (passively) for about a month. I finally figured that 3-4 hours of driving around town looking for a used and available trash can would have been more expensive (in gas) and worse on the environment then just baying a new one from the big orange box (home depot).

3-4 small wheels (with stationary axis)
Assorted lumber
hardware cloth (wire mesh)
the "duct tape" of the fastener world: drywall screws
paint (optional)
finishing nail (yes, just one)

Jig saw
Drill with user-defined bits and 1/4" bit
Dikes (wire cutters) or tin snips
Hammer...for the one nail

Step 2: Build the Spinner

I started with the harder step because I happen to have the room in the garage when i started this project:

Build the stand that will spin the can (much easier than kicking it down the stairs or chasing it down the street!)

First build something that looks like a 3-wheel creeper. (4 wheels would really be better but I was trying to minimize my budget)

Next add a small lip on one side of this "creeper" so that it now looks like a hand truck with the wheels on the wrong side.

Step 3: Support the Spinner

Now take that "hand truck" assembly and add a hinge and another board to it so that it will sit like an artist's easel. Drill a hole through the board that the wheels are attached to and thread a rope through it with a figure eight knot in the end of it. Once this rope is in place tie additional figure eight knots so that the angle of the spinner can be adjusted. The hinged board will need a hole large enough that these additional knots will slide freely. Attached to that hole should be a slot so that the rope will fit but not the knots. This will act like a cleat to hold the angle of this "easel" assembly.

While creating this i also noticed that this would be a good concept to implement on an actual artist's easel or on an adjustable hight saw horse.

Step 4: What-a-Can!

Now: the part you have all been waiting for: Building the actual compost canister. Your center cylinder can be any size you like. I had some 2X8 laying around so i used a diameter of roughly 7.5 inches. Cut a circle out of some wood to which you will attach the hardware cloth.

Great little trick i learned: if you don't have a compass around just drive a finishing nail into the center of your future circle, then slide some chain on it, i then used another pencil or nail to scribe the circle that will be cut.

Step 5: There Is a Little Cylinder in All of Us...

Find the center of the cylinder from the bottom and place a finishing nail there. (If you used the chain method from the last step then just reuse the nail hole that was used to scribe the circle) This will help to line it up with the center of the can. This is a good time to whip out the machine gun...oops...did i leave that little tool out of the materials list? I guess a drill will do...drill all those drain / vent holes in the trash can. Find the center of the bottom of the can, drill a hole there and a few more radially outward from the center. These will secure the inner cylinder (the sifter / screen). Now put the sifter cylinder in the trash can; insert the pin (a.k.a. finishing nail) that is at the bottom of the cylinder into the hole that is in the bottom of the trash can. Find a minion...I mean helper... to hold the inner cylinder while you shoot screws through the bottom of the trashcan into the wood of the inner cylinder. You might even be able to stand the cylinder and trash can up on a block of wood or something so that you can do this without help.

Step 6: Secure the Sifter

Now that the cylinder is in position it needs to be reinforced. I used the ever useful ceiling wire to do this (Instructable yet to come: The many uses of ceiling wire). Just drill some strategic holes in the can (i did four holes each about 90 degrees from each other) then run the ceiling wire through the holes in the can, through some of the hardware wire of the inner cylinder, then back out of the can. Bend both ends of the wire so that it will not slide out. When i was finished it was kind of reminiscent of a baseball stitch looking into the can.


OK, now that we have done all this work you don't want to have to pick out any huge chucks of rotten food out of your superior compost soil so at a top to the inner cylinder. I just cut some extra hardware cloth to cover the top. This way if someone unfamiliar with the mechanics of this machine go to through some scraps into it they won't accidentally through it in this "cleaner" part of the can.

Step 8: Pile on the Junk!

Now you are ready to throw all the junk you want in there! You have any easy way to spin the can which you can leave with the can for convenience of you can hide it in the shed/garage so that this just looks like a trash can. Some tips for keeping the smell down: DON'T FORGET YOUR BROWN WASTE!!!!!! Usually the pile will not smell or attract flies as long as there is a good coat of brown yard waist on top (leaves dried grass etc...) To make sure this happens I like to leave a container of loose brown waist next to the compost that way whenever i add a substantial amount of green waste (kitchen scraps) or if it does start to attract flies and stink then I have some brown waster right there to cover it up. One thought i had was too make something like a shade tent out of hardware cloth that i can just through grass clippings on and cover that with some more hardware cloth so that it doesn't blow away. That way the grass will dry out much faster to be used as brown waste. (If not dried it counts as green waste, a healthy compost pile should be about 1/2 green and 1/2 brown waste.)

Toss the lid on top, let sit for a while or spin to your heart's content!

Step 9: Update:

So, it has been about 2 months since i have built this and it has not at all lived up to it's expectations. I was lazy in finding some good brown waste to mix in with my kitchen scraps so it started to get a little stinky (as is to be expected). Last week i finally got around to raking up some dried grass clippings to toss in there so it has been doing a little better.

The trash can doesn't roll on the stand nearly as well as i hoped it would. It is just as easy to just roll the can around the yard. Never the less this has been a good exercise and the first dedicated compost container I have built. Hopefully you all will benefit from this as a concept prototype. I think integrating the inner wire mesh into a system like this would be stellar! That way you could have one active compost while one matures and it would still be easy to collect the compost soil. Generally I would not recommend this composer to you but I do hope that you have at least gathered some good tips and ideas from my instructable.