Madeleine's Compost Bin




Yes, there are plenty of compost bins on Instructables, but I wasn't satisfied with the looks of them and had specific lumber to use up from building a deck. These compost bins measure 3' by 3' by 2' tall. The front stiles are removable by sliding them up, making it easy to fork or shovel the compost out of the bins. The back stiles are screwed in place for stability. Other openings are screened with fiber glass mesh. Tops are hinged, each swings away from the center.

I built two bins so I can keep finished compost in one while the other is still working.

Step 1: The Design

I modeled the entire bin in Google SketchUp before cutting the first board. It was extremely useful to estimate materials and during construction as well. I kept the model on a laptop in the work area for easy reference. You can download Google SketchUp application for free at

I'm providing the .skp file in this Instructable. Free! as in free beer.  NOTE: after download, you must rename it with an .skp extension for SketchUp to recognize it.

Step 2: Gather Materials

The bins use dimensional lumber and standard hardware. Here are some rough numbers, but if you want a really accurate take off, you can use the SketchUp model

2 x 4, about 24 linear feet
2 x 8, about 35 to 40 linear feet
5/4 x 6" decking, about 40 linear feet
1 x 1, about 40 linear feet (I ripped these down from extra 5/4" decking, but you can buy them at big box)
3" deck screws, a small box
2 1/2" square drive, composite deck screws, a couple small boxes
6 galvanized tee hinges
36" wide fiber glass netting or hardware cloth, about 25 linear feet
Rubber spline (if you're using the netting), about 35 feet

The lumber I used is pressure treated with the less evil kind of micronized copper preservative. You would definitely not want to use lumber treated with the older chromated copper arsenate, which has been known to leach into the compost.

Step 3: Identify/borrow Tools

These are the major power tools involved

chop saw or miter saw
circular saw
laptop PC

I also used a screw pocket jig which I bought at big box for this project. You have to clamp it down during use, so get a c-clamp of some kind if you do not already have one. I also used a special tool for installing fiber glass mesh in window screens.

Step 4: Cut Lumber to Size

With the exception of the spacer blocks used between the front and back stiles, all cuts are straight. I recommend cutting everything prior to assembly. Measure off of the digital model, then transfer to the wood and cut.

Step 5: Pre-drill Screw Pockets

All the joinery for this project is done with screw pockets, similar to furniture making. Pre-drill the screw pockets with the jig, making sure to use the c-clamp to keep it in place. The jig I bought came with a drill twist and metal collar used to set the depth. I used two screws on each side to join the 2 x 8 material, and one screw each side to join 2 x 4 material. These joints are solid, but you can add wood glue for insurance.

I also screwed and glued the spacers onto the stiles.

Step 6: Build Hinged Tops

The tops are made from 2 x 4 and use the same screw pocket technique. Because the tops will get a lot of handling, add the little diagonal bracing to make them really rigid. Bracing is left over pieces of 1 x 1.

Step 7: Construct Screens

Because I had fiber glass window screen material in the garage, I decided to take a chance and use it for this project. It may be too weak and get punctured or rot out, in which case I'll replace it with something else. If you're going to buy screen anyway, I recommend just getting some hardware mesh or chicken wire and stapling it into the frame.

To install the fiber glass mesh, I cut grooves into the framing with a circular saw, then used the screen tool and rubber spline to attach the mesh. Again, I recommend going with something sturdier if you're going to spend the money.

Step 8: Assemble Parts

Assembly is better done with two people because its difficult to get all these pieces together with only two hands. But once assembled, it will stand on its own while you put in the screws to attach the back stiles. Use regular longer deck screws, 3" or so, because they're going into the end grain of the stiles and can strip out easily.

Step 9: Install in Yard

Carry the assembled bin out to the site with two people. Cut 18" stakes to pound into the ground at the bottom front corners of the bin. These keep the side of the bins from spreading out and letting the stiles fall out.



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    28 Discussions

    This is for two bins, correct? If I wanted to make one I would just use half of the materials, right? Thanks a lot!

    1 reply

    Yes, design is for two bins and it should be half the materials to make one bin. By the way, the fiberglass mosquito net has held up to the elements remarkably well, as long as you don't puncture it. If you want the screen to survive a blow with a pitch fork, I recommend using galvanized hardware cloth (can be found at any big box hardware store).

    Slow method: make a pile and wait (2 years maybe). Or, you could chop it and turn it frequently, add water and enzymes, etc. But God does a good job.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm going to have to dig up my old mulch cubes and post them. They're a bit different. I made mine out of electrical conduit bent into square frames with chicken wire tied to it. So they're collapsible, fold-able, and easy to just pick up. I can also connect two together to form a much larger pool when I need more space. Oh yeah, they swing open on the sides so I can work in them too.

    I designed them in my mind. So I kept my model in my head while I was building them. Makes for a tough download though. Sketch-Up doesn't support my PC OS platform anyways.

    I do have a picture of my sifter. I stole the idea for off an archeology show I was watching. That dope was out in a desert sifting for artifacts or something. I make black gold with mine! An easy 5 minutes nets me a level 4cuft. wheelbarrow load. It is many times faster than a stationary sifter. To hazard a guess I'd put it at about 10 times. Because I've done it that way too.

    Now I mulch the natural way. I pile debris in my woods. It cannot be beat. As good as my cubes are I don't bother with them anymore.

    12 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Well done. Yeah, post those mulch cubes -- I appreciate anything that is portable like that.

    Separate note, just installed my first Ubuntu Linux OS the other day -- love it!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'll see what I can do this weekend. I should be able to find them and mock them up with some leaves in them and everything. The downside to my bins is you need a conduit bender and a welder to make them. Well, that wasn't a downside for me, but it could be for others.

    Really, they were very quick and easy for me to make.

    Great to hear you've tried Linux out. If you ever tire of Ubuntu remember they're not the only game in town. Right now I'd like to say try Mint but it seems so many are doing that I can't even log into their website.

    It is what is hot now. I'm a crusty old Linux user so I run Official Debian. No one is breaking their doors down. heh. Only try Official Debian if you want to see the dark side of Linux.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm starting to think LMDE is the answer to most of life's problems, namely Unity, Windoze and let-me-just-get-back-to-work. As for compost bins (speaking of Windows), I use tree trimmings and stack them 5 feet high. I have four of them right now in the garden, and I leave them 3-4 years or until they get full. Once a year I move one, and if any wood is rotten I replace it, and of course the rotten wood goes right into the garden.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Debian's not the dark side of Linux, man :-) When I gave up on Red Hat when 8.0 came out (because I thought Blue Curve was so fugly) and switched to Debian, the beauty of apt-get was a real eye-opener, to say the least.

    Eventually, I started using Ubuntu when it was still in beta, but I'm really growing tired of it, don't like the new UI at all. May return to mainline Debian (I used to run Sid before going to Ubuntu). Am also looking at Fudubuntu and Arch.

    Who knows, I might even give FreeBSD another whirl. I understand ZFS is working pretty well there, while it's not yet ready for prime time on Linux.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I am sure that the interest in Mint is because of the absurd and horrible new desktop that Ubuntu/Canonical packed with their latest update :-)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Don't be so sure. As I'm sure people do things for any numbers of reasons. Like today I'm not doing leaves because it is too windy. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Not when I didn't you didn't. because I checked with others and it was down worldwide.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable.

    My one comment is it looks as though you used treated lumber. If so I would NOT use your compost for vegetables. The chemicals will leach into your compost.

    I made one similar a number of years ago & used Cedar, just to avoid this problem.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The safety to humans of treated wood depends on what chemicals are used to treat the wood - e.g. see

    It is a good idea to look up the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for the specific product used to treat the lumber you are using.

    With regard to micronized copper quarternary treatment, this article gives details of how it is thought to work - and reports (p 18, 24-25) reduced leaching of copper from the treated material compared to other copper-based treatments.

    I have been unable to find any studies looking at copper levels in edible plants grown for food either in garden beds made using MCQ treated lumber or in soil to which compost made in composted boxes made of MCQ treated lumber. One sincerely *hopes* that these foods would not contain excessive amounts of copper, but it would be very nice to find out that somebody had actually checked and found this to be true.

    For reference, here are the recommended daily average intakes (by age and sex) for humans: - for example, 700 micrograms/day for men.

    Here's all about copper and human health - .

    It is possible to get too much copper, especially if you have Wilson's disease, a genetic problem where copper accumulates in the body tissues much more than it does in other human beings. (Wikipedia has a good summary of Wilson’s disease at )