Soil Sifter Plans.




About: I yam what I yam.

Intro: Soil Sifter Plans.

I made this Soil sifter a few weeks ago to prepare for spring planting. My planting beds are full of stones and rocks so I needed a way to clean up the soil to put it in planters and also so I can plant tuber, root and bulb crops (potatoes, carrots, and onions.).

The soil sifter seen in the photo was made from leftover pieces of wood I had from remodeling. I had not documented construction of the sifter since I was not thinking about making an instructable at the time. You may notice some differences between the CAD model and the actual build. The CAD model is an improvement on the original build. I ran out of certain sizes of wood so I adapted scrap instead of buying pieces I would have preferred to use.

I recently started learning FreeCad and decided to Model this as my first object. The 3D models contain dimensions for all of the pieces of wood you will need to build the sifter. I modeled each piece of wood and then assembled them into the final model. The sifter was designed to hold up to 3 cat litter containers or a storage tote. The center bottom board is also removable so that sifted soil may fall into a hole instead of into a tote or buckets.

This Instuctable contains both Images with the information you will need and the 3D models in the FreeCad (*.fcstd) format. You should be able to build the sifter with the images and instructions alone. If you want to view the 3D models FreeCad can be downloaded at

The attached archive contains the 3D models and some Images.

Step 1: Materials

  • Stand Materials
    • Wood
      • Quantity: 4 Dimensions :1 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 12 inches
      • Quantity: 4 Dimensions :1 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 22 inches
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :1 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 27 inches
      • Quantity: 5 Dimensions :3/4 X 2 X 32 inches
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :3/4 X 1 X 32 inches
      • Quantity: 4 Dimensions :3/4 X 3/4 X 2 1/2 inches
      • Quantity: 8 Dimensions :1/2 X 1 1/2 X 16 inches with 45 degree diagonal ends
    • Nails
    • Shower Curtain
  • Tray materials
    • Wood
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :3/4 X 1 1/2 X 22 inches
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :3/4 X 1 1/2 X 10 inches
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :3/4 X 3 X 20 1/2 inches
      • Quantity: 2 Dimensions :3/4 X 3 X 13 inches
    • Wire Mesh: Quantity: 1 Dimensions : 11 1/2 X 20 1/2 inches, hole size 3/8 inch
    • Nails

Step 2: Tools

  1. Saw
  2. speed square or miter saw
  3. pencil
  4. tape measure
  5. hammer
  6. tin snips
  7. staple gun
  8. drill
  9. scissors

Step 3: Assemble the Tray: Attach the Tray Ends

  • Ensure the 3/4 X 1.5 X 22 inch pieces are sanded smooth on the underside of the tray. These will ride along the rails of the stand.
  • Attach the 3/4 X 1.5 X 9 and the 3/4 X 1.5 X 22 inch boards to the 1/2 X 3 X 13 inch boards in the manner displayed in the diagram.
  • Ensure the nails that will be over the rails of the stand are countersunk so they don't bind up the tray as it is slid along the rails.

Step 4: Assemble the Tray: Attach the Sides

  • Attach the 3/4 X 3 X 20 1/2 inch sides in the manner shown in the diagram.
  • Ensure that the nails that are put in from the bottom of the tray are countersunk so they do not restrict movement on the rails of the sifter stand.

Step 5: Assemble the Tray: Attach the Mesh

  • Acquire a piece of mesh that will fit inside the tray. I used expanded metal mesh for my tray.
    • Use a mesh that will be strong enough to support the weight of small stones and the soil you are sifting. You do not want something that will eventually sag or unravel at the attachment points
    • The fineness of your final product will be determined by the mesh size.
    • If you are trying to create real fine soil then it may be useful to create trays of different mesh sizes and sift your soil in gradients.
  • Cut the mesh to size using tin snips
  • Use a staple gun to attach the mesh to the boards on the bottom of the tray as shown in the diagram.
  • Use a hammer to flatten out any rogue staples.

Step 6: Assemble the Stand: Build the Ends

  • Using the 12 inch and 22 inch studs(1 1/2 X 2 1/2 in), build the end assembly shown in the image. You will need to create two of these end assemblies. Each end will require 8 nails.

Step 7: Assemble the Stand: Attach the Rails

  • Attach the 4 pieces of 3/4 X 2 x 32 inch wood in the manner shown in the picture.
  • Ensure that the top two rails are well sanded and somewhat smooth. If the top edge is too rough it will make sliding the trail along the rails difficult.
  • The bottom two rails each get 4 nails.
  • The top two rails each get 5 nails. On each end, 2 nails get nailed into the vertical 22 inch stud, The third nail gets nailed into the horizontal 12 inch stud.
  • If you are nailing close to the edge of the wood a pilot hole will help prevent the wood from splitting.

Step 8: Assemble the Stand: Attach the Side Rails

  1. Attach the 7/8 x 1 x 32 inch pieces of wood to the assembly in the manner shown in the image. The short (7/8) inch sides should be horizontal (face down). The 1 inch side should be the vertical side.
  2. Drill pilot holes so the board does not split.
  3. Properly attached, the two boards should be parallel and have a distance between them of 13 1/4 inches. This provides a little bit of wiggle room for the 13 inch tray which will slide between the rails. When the sifter is fully assembled there will be a total of 1/4 inch gap between the tray and the sides. The tray is pushed tight against one rail in the second image to demonstrate the gap.

Step 9: Assemble the Stand: Attach the Bottom Sides.

  • Attach the 27 inch studs in the manner shown in the diagram.
  • At the arrows in the diagram, you may drill pocket holes in the ends to attach to the vertical studs or put nails in diagonally.
  • The rest of the nails will be nailed through the stud and into the rail.

Step 10: Assemble the Stand: Attach the Bottom Rail Guides

  • Attach the 3/4 X 3/4 X 2.5 inch pieces to the studs in the manner shown in the diagrams.
  • Each piece should be attached 1 inch off of the center of the 12 inch stud. There will be a distance of 2 inches between the guides. The fifth 2 inch wide board should fit between them.
  • Use 2 nails in each guide so they can not twist. Drill pilot holes before nailing.

Step 11: Assemble the Stand: Attach the Diagonal Braces

  • Attach the 1/2 X 1 1/2 x 16 inch board with 45 deg diagonals to the corners of the stand as shown in the diagram. (The long side of the board with the 45 degree corners is 16 inches)
  • Use a Speed square or other measurement device to ensure the corners of the stand are true to 90 degrees before attaching the braces.
  • Drill pilot holes before nailing the braces.
  • Use two nails in each end of the brace. Do not place the nails along the same grain line of the wood.
  • On the top 4 braces make sure that one nail goes into the side rail and the other nail goes into the horizontal rail.
  • Be sure to use appropriately sized nails so the nails do not poke through the side rail.

Step 12: Assemble the Stand: Soil Guide

  • One additional item that did not seem reasonable to model in cad is the soil guide.
  • The soil guide is just a used shower curtain stapled to the inside edges of the stand. You may use a sturdier material if you have it available. I happened to have an old curtain so I recycled it.
  • I decided the length of my guide by placing 2 of the storage containers in the stand. I then cut the shower curtain to a length where the curtains would be inside the buckets.
  • I cut 4 curtains, one for each side of the stand. The side curtains were slightly wider so they wrapped around to the ends. The end curtains then overlapped the side curtains.
  • I cut one loose piece of curtain to place between the buckets so soil would not be lost there.

Step 13: Using the Soil Sifter.

  • The sifter has a removable bottom board so it may be used in two different ways.
    • With the bottom board and containers removed, the sifter may be placed over a hole and the soil that is sifted will fall directly to the ground and into the hole.
    • With the bottom board in place, various containers may be put in the sifter to catch the soil.
  • To sift the soil
    • Place the tray on the top rails of the stand and between the two side rails.
    • pour or shovel dirt into the tray. Fill it close to but not higher than the sides of the tray.
    • If you see large stones remove them by hand, Doing so will mean you may be able to add another shovelful and it will also be less weight on your mesh.
    • Slide the sifter tray back and forth on the stand track. Things that will fit through the mesh will fall through as you move the tray. You will be left with stones and other debris in the tray which can be disposed of or re-purposed. I have been using my stones for an area needing drainage.
  • The first image shows the sifter set up with a tote.
  • The second image shows how the shower curtains are set up to funnel the soil into two tidy cat buckets. Notice the extra piece of curtain draped over the gap between the buckets.
  • The last image is of soil I sifted during the warm spell before the snow that you see in the images.

Step 14: Happy Gardening!



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    4 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I made a few years ago . Have use it to sieve over 3 cubic metres of dirt . I put small hard rubber wheels on the sieve to make it easier to use .

    1 reply
    Todd GehrisRobertW327

    Reply 1 year ago

    That is awesome! Bet you were in shape from that. I was thinking about wheels also. When I first tried the tray I found that little pieces of soil acted as bearings so the tray was sliding easily.


    1 year ago

    you can add a motor on it to shake the tray.

    Just put a button (like the one you got on your jacket, not the one to turn on/off) at the rotating part of the motor and put a stick into one of the button hole at one end and on the side of the tray at the other end.

    This way, it will work like an old vapor locomotive

    1 reply
    Todd Gehrisronanry

    Reply 1 year ago

    I could. :) I'd have to redesign it so the tray sits in something so it can be removed and emptied easily. I think connecting and disconnecting the tray from an armature would get annoying. Either that or some kind of quick release for the armature.