Backyard Compost Tumbler (another One)

About: I am a Home Theater Nut, Gadget Guru, Builder of Things, and I'm getting Much Much better at putting things back together after I take them apart.

Hi everyone, for my first Instructable (go easy on me please), I got a lot of inspiration from other Instructables, and made my own Compost Tumbler. The total cost for my tumbler was about $50, because I had a lot of this stuff laying around.

If you had to buy everything, it might get up to about $75. If you use nails for most steps, probably $30

There are a few things that make this unique, and a few things I learned that I will apply to my next Tumbler, so I hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Get All Your Parts Together

This is what I used, because I had a lot of this laying around, so feel free to use anything similar you may have around;

1 - 55 gallon Drum (mine was from RV Antifreeze)
3 - 2' x 4 'x 8' Pressure Treated Boards
1 - 6' Galvanized Fence Post
3 - Door Hinges
3 - Barrel Bolts
6 - 3/8" x 1' Threaded Rods
12 - 3/8" Nuts
20 - 3/8" Lock Washers
8 - 3/8" Flat Washers
36 - 1/4" Nuts or Wing Nuts
36 - 1/4" x 3/4" Bolts
8 - 3/8" x 4" Lag Bolts
4 - 1/2" x 4" Bolts
4 - 1/2" Lock Washers
20 - 1/2" Flat Washers

1/4" Drill Bit
3/8" Drill Bit
1/2" Drill Bit
1 3/4" Hole Saw
Socket Set
Jig Saw
Helper, or a lot of patience for certain parts.
Note that my Helper didn't feel like hanging around much!

Step 2: Make Your Base / Frame

1. Cut all of your 2" x 4" s in half.
2. Lay 4 of them out and make 2 large X's
3. Drill 2 1/2" bolt holes thru each X, and secure together with 1/2" Bolts, Nuts, Washers, and Lock Washers
4. Cut the bottom of on side of each X at a 45 degree angle (cut out a triangle) so the bottom will rest evenly on the ground.
5. Cut 1' off the other ends of each X
6. Get your Helper (if he's not running away), and have them hold an X for you while you hold and work on the other one.
7. Use your 3/8" drill bit and drill pilot holes for the cross beam across the bottom (the part you cut the 45 degree cut on).
8. I measured my cross beam 3" off the ground.
9. Secure the Cross Beam with Lag Screws, Flat Washers, and Lock Washers
10. Repeat 6-9 for other side

Step 3: Prep Your Barrel

I used a Drum I got for free, it had RV Antifreeze in it.

I know everyone says you should use food grade, but RV Antifreeze is designed to be used in Drinking Water Systems, and safe after a thorough rinsing.

You would be amazed at how many places use RV Antifreeze, and are willing to part with the Drum's.

1. Wash thoroughly, I used a pressure washer.
2. Drill a 1-3/4" Hole dead center, on each end, using your hole saw.

Step 4: Mark Your Door and Hinge Holes

1. Use a magic Marker and mark where you ant your access door to be.
2. measure your shovel, then allowed ample room for me to get it in and out easily.
3. Take a Hinge, and a Barrel Bolt, and marked where all the holes will go.
4. Use your 1/4" Drill Bit and drill holes where you made your marks for hole

Step 5: Drill and Cut the Door: Attach Your Hardware

1. Drill out the 4 corners of your door
2. Use the corner holes and cut out your door with your JigSaw
3. Attach your hardware, using the 1/4" bolts and nuts

Step 6: Cap the Big Holes

I put Snap Seals (I had them laying around) into the threaded holes on the top of the drum.

Step 7: Add Stirring Sticks

The reason I went with Threaded Rod here is so that I can have a lot sticking out inside the drum, to assist with stirring the contents, and have a little stub sticking up on the outside, so I have something to grab onto when it's time to Tumble the Drum.

1. Attach a 3/8" Nut, Lock Washer, Flat Washer onto a 3/8" Threaded Rod, about 4" from one end
2. Stick the Threaded Rod thru the Drum, and attach the other side using the same hardware setup

Step 8: Add Vent Holes

Composting needs air to work efficiently, so I randomly drilled about a dozen 1/4" holes around the Drum. I don't know if that is enough, but time will tell.

Step 9: Insert Fence Post and Place on Base / Stand

1. Slide the Fence Post thru the holes you drilled with your Hole Saw.
2. Take your work of art, and place it on the stand you created.
3. I was thinking of drilling thru the post and inserting bolts or Cotter Pins to keep it from sliding off the stand, but after testing, this is not going anywhere!

Step 10: Start Composting!

Now I'm ready to compost!

I plan on having plenty of Compost ready for next growing season!

Step 11: Things I Learned

*Hardware - the plastic on the drum is pretty thick, and 2 Hinges and one Barrel Bolt on each side would be plenty.

*Shrinkage - the plastic has a tendency to warp a bit after it's cut, so be sure to allow ample room for the latch to function. Do not butt the two pieces together when drawing out your placement holes.

*Stirring Sticks - I carefully measured my door so my shovel will fit in and out, but I placed two of my stirring sticks right below the door, so my shovel will hit them and not be able to get very deep into the Drum at all! Measure Twice - Cut Once!!!

*General Hardware - I probably could have gotten away with a single box of nails instead of all the elaborate fastening hardware, but I did have most of it laying around, so I used it. You can probably save about $20 if you just use nails for the fastening of the boards.

Thanks for looking!



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    7 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Fantastic idea! Is it hard to turn when its full?


    8 years ago on Step 7

    I really like this idea. I think I may do it straight across from side to side on the upright barrel though. My idea is to flip it end over end because I have a screw top barrel (if I mount it to a tumble frame). Then if I mount it on the fence post like you did going through the middle of the heighth of the barrel (sideways if it is standing up), it will be super easy to tumble. Or just roll mine on the ground would work as well. These rods make the barrel more efficient and look easy to install.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I have been looking to build a rock tumbler, & after reading about this composter, I think the idea would also work for tumbling rocks.  Thank you everyone for the ideas!!!

    May  the Angels of Heaven watch over you for all time.


    1 reply

    8 years ago on Step 11

    Thaks for the insight. I agree, I am thinking of a metal door too, but was thinking of getting some aluminum flashing from a Big Box and using it. Should be cheaper and easier to work with.
    I am working on my next barrell, which I will post pics of, it is a 55 gallon drum that is sawed off on the top.
    The rotation and base are on a fence post in the middle again.
    I'll post updates as I progress!


    8 years ago on Step 11

    I basically built this same tumbler and I would agree that the plastic warps quite a bit around the door. I think i will try and make a new door with sheet metal. there is no amount of repositioning I can do to fix it. Also the stand doesn't work well with wood screws. My stand is all messed up. I should have used bolts like you did. I realize this is an older post, but i will post after i give my tumbler a much needed tune up this weekend.