In recent years considerable interest in compost tumblers has developed. Not surprisingly, this seems to have coincided with the development and release of various commercial compost tumbler models, such as the ‘Urban Compost Tumbler’, the ‘Back Porch Compost Tumbler’, the Mantis ‘ComposT-Twin’, the ‘ComposTumbler’, and the ‘Easy Spin Tumbler’, among numerous others.
By the way, for those of you completely unfamiliar with the compost tumbler concept, in a nutshell, it is essentially just a rotating compost bin. Typically these systems take the form of a compost drum (that is, a cylindrical container, with some sort of door for adding and removing materials) on a support stand – although there are certainly rolling compost mixers as well.
There is no doubt that the composting tumbler concept in general is a brilliant advancement in the field of composting – in one fell swoop you are able to mix and aerate your compost materials, and do so without any back-breaking labor! These backyard compost systems basically mimic their larger industrial cousins – the extremely effective ‘in-vessel’ composting systems.
Yet, compost tumblers are not without at least a couple potential limitations. One (fairly minor) issue with these systems is the fact that – like many typical ‘backyarder composters’ – compost tumblers are generally too small to generate any sort of sustained heat (they definitely heat up – I’m just talking here about multi-day, weed-seed-and-pathogen-killing temps). Using a large black tumbler in the middle of the summer will certainly help in this departmet, but nevertheless it is going to be a challenge to keep your mix at the sort of ‘hot composting’ temperatures that can be easily achieved (and sustained) in larger composting systems and piles.
Probably the biggest issue with these systems in my humble opinion is that they are pretty darn expensive! You might find some of the smaller (and less effective) systems for under $200 USD, but the larger high quality compost tumblers are going to run you $400, $500, or even $600+. Now don’t get me wrong here – the ease-of-use factor alone (of course coupled with the desire to make your own compost) might make a compost tumbler a really good investment. Manufacturers often offer sale pricing, free shipping etc to further sweeten the deal as well.
Nevertheless, we are talking here about DIY composting systems – so let’s not spend any more time discussing the commercial options. I’m sure many of you that have found this page are keen to learn all about how to make a homemade compost tumbler!
Homemade Compost Tumblers – In More Detail
If you are interested in learning how to build a compost tumbler, you are definitely in luck! There are countless online resources and how-to instructions out there, so I certainly had NO trouble rounding up some that I felt were especially helpful. There seem to be multiple approaches, ranging from the ultra-basic to the advanced, and from small compost tumblers to large. The YouTube videos I found ALONE were amazing, so that’s as good a place to start as any.
Basic Compost Tumbler Plans – These are the rotating composters that I think pretty well anyone could build. In most cases, these systems are just some sort of plastic drum (or even a garbage can) that can be rolled along the ground
“Simple Compost Tumbler”
This is a pretty basic rolling compost bin made from a 55 gal plastic drum, and I was really impressed with this video. Providing the viewer with a full parts list and written instructions is a great way to go when it comes to helping people build their own DIY compost tumblers.
Medium Compost Tumbler Plans – These are basically the homemade compost tumblers that most ‘backyard warriors’ could probably put together, but that might seem a wee bit too complicated for some.
The creator of this particular video (which you can find by clicking the title, or following the link at the end of this description) disabled ‘embedding’ (so I can’t actually post the video itself here), but it is worth check in out if you are looking for something similar to the rolling system mentioned above, with some additional functionality. I found the video quite ‘fun’ to watch (and I just KNOW I will be whistling that tune all day now – haha). I do think they kinda glossed over the making of the system somewhat, in favor of outlining the composting process itself, but it still may be worth a look. I like the breaker bars they installed in this tumbler – definitely helpful to prevent big clumps of material from becoming packed together.
You can check out this video >>HERE<<.
Advanced Compost Tumbler Plans – These are the DIY compost tumblers that most ‘handy’ people would have no problem building, and ideas I might even try out myself at some point (remember – I am the furthest thing from a ‘handy man’), so don’t discount them completely if you don’t have a lot of confidence in your building skills. I was really impressed with the quality of these systems – some of them definitely giving various commercial versions a run for their money (the one that actually links over to compost tumbler plans – the first one listed – stood out for me especially)
“Home Made Compost Tumbler”
This video features a VERY impressive DIY composting tumbler – as I mentioned above, this is definitely one that stood out from the rest (and they are ALL good). There is no doubt that this homemade tumbler is as good (or better) than many expensive commercial tumblers for sale. And is if the video wasn’t cool enough – this person even provided a link for a free set of plans for this system.
“Big Mouth Compost Tumbler”
This one is quite similar to the one just mentioned, without some of the additional ‘bells and whistles” – and also with any additional instructions other than the creator’s narration. Again, this is a DIY compost tumbler made using a heavy duty plastic drum mounted on a solid wooden base. It is a tumbler that rotates in the vertical plane (a fact that makes the solid based a very important feature, I might add). Like a lot of these homemade tumblers, the creator has painted his system black to help absorb solar heat – definitely a great idea. I also really liked the way he designed the lid and used bungee cords to secure it.
“Building a Compost Turner”
This is definitely one of my favorite diy compost tumbler how-to videos – and judging by the 100,000+ views I’d guess that others feel the same! The video was put together by the ‘Urban Homesteaders’, who definitely seem to have their act together in terms of providing interesting/helpful information about sustainable living. This compost turner was made from salvaged materials – which is always a cool idea if you can manage to do this. I really like the solid foundation – as mentioned, this is an important consideration with the end to end rotating systems. Setting the posts in concrete is a great way to ensure stability, although I imagine this might scare away some people (be assured, it is not hard to do this at all). I think it would have been helpful to also include some text and a parts list etc, but all in all I think a lot of people will benefit (and have already benefited) from watching this video!
I really appreciated this how-to- tumbler construction video. It reminded me of the Urban Homesteaders’ video, since they also used a concrete foundation, but I felt that this one took things a step further by providing lots of helpful text instructions, with all the pertinent details included. It is also interesting to note that this is a horizontally oriented compost tumbler, just like some of the really nice commercial systems, yet it was estimated to cost a whopping $45 (so less than 1/10th the price of some of these commercial compost rotators). All in all I think a lot of people will appreciate this video – I know I sure did!
“Compost Bin With Belt Drive”
This is a really recent video (as of the time of this writing – fall 2009), and this fancy DIY rotating compost bin is definitely impressive! All I wish is that the creator of the video had taken a bit more time explaining how exactly he build the system. This tumbler reminds me of some of the fancier commercial bins, such as the ‘ComposT-Twin’, since it includes a hand crank, and just generally looks totally professional. Once again, I have little doubt that this person spent only a fraction of the cost (of a commercial version) building it though.
Ultra-Advanced Compost Tumbler Plans – These are the DIY compost tumbler projects that will likely only appeal to those who really know how to ‘build stuff’. They include systems that some might say are even more advanced than many of the commercial compost tumblers!
“The Automatic Composter” – Parts I, II, and III
This dedicated DIY composter (the person who made this video that is) took three ‘kicks at the can’ (no pun intended) in order to bring us what looks to be a seriously cool automated DIY compost tumbler. I don’t know that I would have the confidence to tackle a project like this, but I have little doubt that there are many people out there that would! As he mentions himself, the spinning action provided by the lawnmower engine might be a wee bit ‘over the top’, but I think anyone who could build a system like this could likely ALSO create some sort of multi-wheel rotating system in order to create that ‘perfect’ compost turning speed.