I like to recycle my pots of soil after the growing season. I have been using a plastic trash can to store and compost my potting soil, but it does not allow me to rotate the mix as I add organic material (leaves, grass clippings, etc.). I have seen several compost barrels on the Instructables site and wanted to make my own.
So ... here is my version.
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Step 1: Concept
My project started off with an idea of what I wanted - a barrel to make it easier for me to compost and recycle my potting soil. But I wanted to use the materials I had on hand. I had a barrel, but it did not have a top or lid. I had lots of spare lumber. The only item I did not have were the rollers. I also wanted to not put any additional holes in my barrel. One was because I did not have any hinges to make a side hatch to access my barrel and I did not have the original top to cap off the end. I also wanted no side hatch or hole, because I might decide to recycle the barrel and turn it into a rain barrel later. So I came up with my current design.
List of Materials:
1/4 inch plywood
2x4 pressure treated timber of various lengths
4 small casters
Drill (for screwing and drilling pilot holes)
Phillips head screw driver
Saw (I had a table saw but any saw to cut wood with will work)
Total Cost of Project:
$8.50 for the casters - all other material was on hand or salvaged.
Step 2: Make a Top
For the top, I used a scrap piece of 1/4 inch plywood. I placed the barrel on top of the plywood and traced the outline. I then used a jigsaw to cut it out.
My next step was to cut out some square blocks to act as spacers and allow the top to stay centered on the barrel. Because the edge or rim of the lip on the barrel extends out, I could not place the blocks flush against the top. I placed the block on the center of one of four 'corners'. I then measured from the corner of the block to the edge of the top. The distance of the rim was 1 5/8 inches, so this was the distance I measured from the corner of the block to the edge of the top. I did this for each block placed at the other three (3) corners. Once this was done, I put the top on with the blocks down or 'inside' the barrel. (Note: I nailed the blocks in as I did not have screws long enough to secure them. The nails were 1/8 inch longer and stuck out, so I bent them so as not to snag on anything).
Step 3: Build the Frame
The frame is fairly simple - just a rectangle to place the rollers and keep the barrel stable while turning it on the rollers.
I did not measure the lengths - the width was about 3/4 the width of the barrel. The length was slightly longer than the barrel itself. The actual lengths were dictated by the 2x4's I had on hand. These were nailed together to form the frame. (NOTE: I used treated 2x4's as I had these on hand. Also, since it was going to stay outside, the treated wood would last longer).
I was worried the frame would not stay together, so I cut some braces and screwed these into the corners. I cut these braces from scrap left over from the 1/4 inch plywood used to make the top.
Step 4: Place the Rollers
To roll the barrel on its frame, I needed four (4) casters - I found these at Home Depot. I placed the barrel on the frame and 'eye balled' their placement. I wanted to put the casters on either side of the two ridges on the barrel to help keep the barrel centered and prevent it from slipping when rolled.
I used wood screws to secure the casters. This way, I could easily remove them if I needed to make adjustments to their placement.
Step 5: Project Comments
As in any project, there are unforeseen things which come up.
First, I ended up making the frame a bit longer than I intended. But then, I did not measure anything (except by eye). However, I thought overall the frame came out okay. I did put in some diagonal braces in the corners to help keep everything square as well as to keep the frame together. Since I did not have screws long enough to use in the frame itself, I had to use nails. Because of this, I added the braces in which I was able to use the screws I had on hand.
Second, since the frame was longer than I expected, I added the short 2x4 at the end as a 'stop' for the barrel. This is to prevent the barrel from sliding off the end as it is being rotated.
I have noticed I placed my rollers too close together. Once I have the barrel running with a load of soil, I may separate them to balance the load. These are screwed in so it will be easy to move them.
As for my top, I plan to use bungee cord to secure it and keep it closed.
Step 6: Completed Barrel
Here is my completed barrel. I think it turned out all right, considering I did very little measuring and everything was built 'by eye'.
This project took longer to collect the materials and write up these instructions than it did to actually make. But then, I imagine a lot of folks will find that to be true.
I hope this inspires you to make your own composting barrel.
Step 7: Project Updates
Well, my barrel works, but not exactly like I had hoped.
My bungee cords are not quite long enough, so I am going to get some longer ones. This will make it easier to take to top on & off.
When I rotate the barrel, it is hard to roll and unstable. So, I will move the casters farther out. Also, the organic material slides and does not 'tumble'. To fix this, I will add some baffles into the sides to help toss things around. I know this will put holes in the barrel to secure the baffles, but that's okay.
Once I have made my changes, I will let you know how they worked out.