DIY Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is something I have been wanting for quite some time. Until now, I have been using a vermabin, which basically consists of a bin filled with worms. The worms work through the kitchen scraps you leave and turn it over into useable compost. The problem for me was that my worms were eaten by spiders. So the bin was just a small bin of scraps that wasn’t turned nearly as often as it should have been.

A compost tumbler offers the perfect solution. Easy to turn, easy to fill, and no worms are involved. I actually started this project several weeks ago and used it as it was until I found the materials to build the rest of the tumbler. This could work for you as well if you find yourself with limited time or motivation. There are numerous compost tumbler plans out there. I chose to use scraps that were sitting around my house. You may find that you have different materials on hand. I encourage you to use those and redesign the stand to suite the materials you have. Refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle!

What you’ll need:

1 large barrel (many recommend food grade, ours is not food grade, but we know it was used for transporting river rock)

4- 2×4 @ 2’

2- 2×6 @ 1’

2- 2×6 @ 2’

4 castors


1 door latch

Wood scraps to secure latch to

Screw driver

Note: It is important to warn that I made a mistake while assembling my tumbler. The legs should be secured in the opposite direction than mine. The best way to check for this is to 1) look at the pictures and be sure yours are secured in the opposite direction of mine and 2) lay your castors on top to be sure you will be able to attach them in the proper position.

  1. Begin by drawing a door on your barrel. I made a 12”x12” door. Drill many ½ inch holes around the barrel excluding the area on the door. Other DIY instructions recommend larger holes. I already know we have rodent problems and don’t want to encourage their existence. More holes in a smaller diameter appears to be working well for us.
  2. Use as is until ready to complete the stand. Add food through the top and roll on the ground daily to begin producing quality compost.
  3. Lay the barrel horizontally on the ground and secure the barrel so it will not roll. Using a hand saw, cut out three sides of the door and around the corners of the fourth, leaving the edge attached.
  4. Secure the latch opposite the attached side by screwing into the barrel and into wood scraps to keep the hinge secure. We found it helpful to lay the hinge in place and trace where it would be, screwing it into place after finding the best position. 
  5. The stand will be a 2’x1’ rectangle. Using a pencil, draw a line 1’ (halfway) across each leg, this will serve as a guide for where to attach each support.
  6. Using 1- 2×6 @ 2’, secure it to a 2’ leg, lining up the top of the 2×6 with your pencil line on the 2×4. Secure the 2×6 to the leg with three screws.
  7. Attach the opposite end of the 2×6 to a second 2’- 2×4 leg, being sure to line the top of the beam with the guide line you drew earlier. Again, secure this board with 3 screws.
  8. Repeat this process to build the opposite side of the tumbler.
  9. Next, attach the two long sides using a 2×6 @ 1’. Do this by first attaching the 2×6 to one long side, it will be secured to the 2” side of the 2×4 leg and can be lined up with the 2’ 2×6 for accuracy.
  10. To secure this 1’- 2×6 to the opposite side, line it up with the existing support beam on the opposite side and screw into place.
  11. Repeat this process with the remaining 1’- 2×6 on the opposite side.
  12. The tumbler will sit with the support frame closest to the ground. Attach the castors using screws to the top of each 2×4 leg.
  13. The barrel should rest gently on top and is easiest to turn by standing on the short side and turning the barrel with two hands as if you are turning the steering wheel of a car.

This composter needs to be turned daily. It is projected to produce fresh compost in 4- 6 weeks. I built two tumblers. I am finding it easiest to feed and tumble one for a month while the other is only turned. After a month, I should have usable compost in my tumble-only barrel. I can then switch them, so I am only tumbling the one previously being fed and begin feeding the now mostly empty barrel.

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