Compost Tumbler

A few weeks ago when my cheap, store bought composting bags began to fall apart, I took to Google images (I was a Pinterest virgin at this point) and began collating ideas for inspiration and instruction.

Google Image tumbler
Google Images

The obvious plan would be to make a simple rectangular compost bin from the many pallets I had, but then one particular image jumped out at me and inspired me to do something a little different. It was a wooden barrel type tumbler, resembling a sort of giant tombola machine. A couple of my friends suggested using an industrial cable reel (yeah, I can’t really take the credit for this idea) as this would provide a ready made tumbler but we soon realised that the drum section wouldn’t be big enough.

The solution was to combine two drums to make one large one. I drove out to a local industrial estate and found a couple of discarded reels which I then brought home (one by one thanks to the limited boot space of my Kia). Next they were disassembled, then reassembled with a larger drum.

I won’t go into too much detail about the actual process here as I’ll eventually post a step-by-step in the how to section.

This part of the job was surprisingly quick and easy, but work slowed down as I waited for delivery of a latch for the lid (I’d have loved to have reclaimed one of these from somewhere but none were forthcoming) and a few bouts of horrendous weather to pass.

With the lid finally complete it was time to work on the tumbling mechanism. The original plan was to mount it on a scaffold pole (which I happen to already have) but I wasn’t happy with the stability of my first attempt (there is quite a bit of weight to it and with kids on the scene I didn’t want to take any risks). Back to the drawing board it was then.

Sometime later I had the idea to attach wheels (initially furniture castors, then later roller blade wheels because I had some to hand) to oblong “feet” which the flanges would rest in and turn on. The first attempt was a disaster – I’d misjudged the necessary width of the feet and instead of turning, the flanges stuck fast. Aargh!

Rollerblade tumbler feet

The next attempt was better (though unfortunately not perfect). The flanges sat much better in the new feet and the tumbler did indeed tumble, but the sheer weight of the contraption and the occasional rubbing of feet and flange (ooh matron!) meant it was not as smooth an operation as I’d have liked. On top of that the final drive to finish this job cost me a drill bit and a screwdriver bit – it was an unlucky night!

That said, we do now have a working compost tumbler, and with a few tweaks it will hopefully prove to be a success.

Nope, it’s back to the drawing board as far as tumbling goes.

15 thoughts on “Compost Tumbler”

  1. Bummer about the whole “back to the drawing board” business. Not that you asked, but if I had to MacGyver this one I’d try making two long rollers by spanning the width with some, say 1″ galvanized pipe to make an axle, greased-up and 2″ galvanized as a sleeve over that to act as the rolling surface. I’d go there ‘cuz I have just the ticket in my “inventory” (I’m short on wheels 😉 ) – Best of luck – Great post!


    1. Thanks for the comments and suggestion, it’s a good one! I think that would work a lot better than the roller blade feet if I had the materials handy. One thing I noticed about the feet though is that they stick out and are a bit of a tripping hazard so I’ve had another look at mounting it on the scaffold pole and think I may have had a breakthrough. Fingers crossed, hopefully an update tomorrow 🙂


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