Early Bird Catches the Worm Harvester

Introduction: Early Bird Catches the Worm Harvester

I am a vermicomposter & like they say "need spurs invention" they are correct. I was pregnant at the time I created this UPCYCLED project when I could not bend over for long periods of time to harvest my castings. I was in my basement standing there WISHING I had something else to help me get through all the harvesting I had to get done; then it hit me while I was looking at my detergent bottles: "What if I had a HAND HELD harvester? What do I have in this basement that would help me accomplish my worming tasks?" Then like a brick, it hit me....bottles make great scoops & other upcycled stuff, why not a worm harvester? And like the sun coming over the horizon, my idea was born!

I have taken an everyday detergent bottle, and designed a product to SHAKE the castings out of your worm bins. Granted its easier to shake the castings when they are DRY, so try to dry them a little bit before you attempt to harvest at all.
The point of my upcycled harvester is to seperate the castings from the worms & or leftover uneaten materials from your bins! I have had many ways suggested to me that will successfully seperate the castings & worms, but they either take too long, make my back hurt, or FLING my worms around & around, which I don't like at all! So I created a HAND HELD harvester!

The easiest way to harvest is STANDING up, and with my hand held harvester, it's easy to see where the worms are, and what kind of material hasn't been digested yet, and how much castings you are actually harvesting! It's like MINING for gold when you think about it, right?

If there was one thing I know sure, it's that as humans, we need our clothes cleaned properly & then we have to do something with all those LEFTOVER detergent bottles & my instructable does both!
Please read on & be INSPIRED!

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Step 1: Step 1: Gather Materials

1- If you don't already have one: get a detergent bottle that is large enough to incorporate a MESH bottom. This might take some searching around in your neighbors recycling bin since most bottles now are smaller because the formulas are CONCENTRATED; saving space on the shelves at the local stores.

2-1/8" hardware cloth(HWC) from your local Hardware store. I have used 1/4" HWC with much success, but I find that the smaller the HWC, the more FINE THE MATERIALS in the end!

3-20 gauge wire to attach your HWC to the bottle; use colored wire is you like!

4-Knife & or Scissors to cut the bottom & top spout off the detergent bottle, also use scissors to cut the HWC to FIT THE BOTTLE bottom.

5-Hole Punch (chose one that is NOT PLASTIC. I find it best to use METAL crafting punches. The plastic cheesy ones just SNAP in two while trying to add your holes to your bottle!)

6-Piece of paper to trace the bottom of the bottle b4 you cut, so you know how much HWC to cut to fit your bottle. And when you are finished making one harvester, you can REUSE your bottle pattern to MAKE MORE HARVESTERS!

Step 2: Step 2: Cut Spout & Bottom Off Your Bottle

In this step, we will show you how to cut off the detergent bottle spout &
the bottom where the Hardware Cloth (HWC) will attach!

1-gather your cutting supplies, and also your HOLE PUNCH

2-Insert you knife to START the removal of the spout, but continue with scissors for more control of where your cuts continue; especially around corners! There are some spots on detergent bottles where the strength of the plastic will need to be cut with a knife, so please be cautious when cutting with your knife~the plastic could just cut like butter, & we want all of your fingers still attached when you are finished, ok?!?
I find that cutting out the spout FIRST works best because even tho you will want a LARGER hole to SCOOP up your materials, it's best to DO IT IN TWO steps(this idea is best when working with NEW MATERIALS you may have never worked with in the past). I cut the spout off, then I make the hole larger, all the way out to the start of the sides of the bottle, because you need more open area to SCOOP your castings into the bottle, & also when removing the leftover material & worms later on.

3-Cut around the spout, from the side to the back where the handle starts & then back around to where you inserted your knife to start. Then use the scissors to MAKE the whole larger. I cut my bottles all the way to the edge where it starts to slope down to the front of the bottle. and back around towards the handle at the back of the bottle. (Also in this step, if you haven't cleaned out your bottle, do so now. So that while you are working inside your bottle, attaching the HWC with your wire, your hands stay CLEAN & dry!)

4-After you have removed the spout, CAREFULLY insert your knife into the straightest point on the bottom of the bottle. (Refer to pictures included in this step for help understanding this step.) Like the spout, you may need to use the KNIFE more then the scissors due to the strength of the plastic around the bottom!
Eyeball the bottle where you think the strongest place is to CUT THE BOTTOM OFF. Generally I start at a NICE STRAIGHT part of the bottle on the side, insert my knife to start the cutting, but then continue with my scissors, trying to keep a straight line all the way around the top. You can use your scissors also to FINESSE the lines so they don't look so raw after the spout is removed.
5-Take your paper, trace either the bottom piece you just cut off to size up the HWC, or trace the bottom of the jug, making sure to MARK (x) on your paper where you would like the HOLES where your WIRE will attach the HWC to your jug.

Step 3: Step 3: Attaching the HWC to the Bottom of Your Bottle

In this step, you will attach the Hardware Cloth (HWC) to your bottle, using wire.

1-EYEBALL the bottom of your jug and refer to your marks on your paper where you want to PUNCH the holes where the wire will hold your HWC on.
I use SHARPIES to mark my holes first directly onto the bottle, that way I know how high I want them, and how close I want the two holes together, etc....and when you are satisfied with your placement of your holes to punch out, sharpie is easily removed with alcohol!

In general, when punching holes for your wire, use TWO HOLES; entrance for the wire, and EXIT for the wire.
2-Cut pieces of wire that are slightly longer then what you expect to finish the attaching of your HWC. You can always cut off excess wire, but you can't make it longer!
In general, I use the four corner method to be sure there is plenty of places to hold the HWC properly. And I also stack my holes on top of each other, with just the smallest area in between the holes to give the WIRE something to hold onto!
Make sure to cut off excess wire & to fasten the wire back onto itself INSIDE the jug so a not to SCRATCH yourself when working to harvest your castings! Reaching in to pick out your wormies isn't any fun when you are worried you might POKE yourself :-)

3-Insert the wire thru the holes from outside to inside the bottle, & fasten together! Now wasn't that easy? As you are working, make adjustments to the wire & the HWC as you go.
The HWC is best worked with a ROLLED edge so it doesn't scratch you or others as you harvest. I have used popsicle sticks to aid in this task. Or maybe just a stick from your yard would work too!

Quick note: Besides using this new harvester to separate worms/undigested marterials from their castings, I have used it to harvest directly into my plants or my garden! Yep, use it much like a seed spreader. Add your material, SHAKE OVER YOUR PLANTS or garden, and WALA...instant natural fertilizers, shaken, NOT STIRRED! LOL

YOU HAVE JUST made use of a bottle that usually goes into the landfill! Congratulation on making your first EARLY BIRD catches the WORM HARVESTER!
Wishing you many happy days of vermicomposting!

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    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is just what I needed for my worm farm. Thanks for this one. :)


    8 years ago on Step 3

    WALA is not a word. I think that you want to use the French word for "there it is" i.e. voilà. It is pronouncd (v)wɑˈlɑ. You can use it to express "Lo! There it is", ta-da, presto, behold!


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    you reply to my post with a negative comment? you must really be born. I could care less what you think about what kind of words are in my post. Get a life.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I agree ! I use Wala all the time and as long as you understand what I am trying to say it is FINE. Great post / will make one to seperate the worms I want to feed to my chickens. Great Idea !!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea, but Have a design question. Why did you choose to cut off the entire bottom and wrap the hardware cloth up the sides? Can you think of a reason not to remove most of the bottom and apply the hardware cloth inside the (now bottomless) bottle?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting idea! We keep worms too... though we've been too lazy to harvest the castings... sigh. I'll keep your idea in mind though!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea, its hard work separating out the worms. Is this gentle enough on the worms, I always worry about hurting them?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your question ChrysN, It is GENTLE on the worms for sure the way this harvester works! I made it for that fact, well its not the only fact, but still being gentle with the worms is my issue also. I have other harvesters that FLING my worms around & around and truthfully, I never liked the way those worked. I figure a gentle shaking up and down wouldn't be too brutal, and the 1/8 inch hardware cloth does allow wormies thru into the castings, so that you can pick them out after you are done. And since you can SEE them inside the harvester, as well as in the castings, it makes light of your work! All done while you are standing, perhaps over a table or workstation! Thanks for asking your question. Jennifer.