Here’s my compost tumbler. I chose a metal 55 gallon drum but plastic will work fine. When this barrel rusts through I’ll replace it with plastic. Also if you chose plastic you won’t need a jigsaw and industrial hearing protection to cut the door!
Find a barrel. Breweries, car washes, thrift stores, etc are great places to find food-grade 55 gallon drums or plastic barrels. Beware of the drum’s previous contents!
Plan the door and select hardware. My door is large enough to accommodate a shovel. For hardware I used 2 barrel latches and 2 hinges. There is a variety of neato hardware at any home improvement store. Have an idea of what you need then go check out the options! Don’t forget nuts, bolts and washers! Lock washers, lock nuts or both are good ideas for this project.
Plan your stand. My barrel is held by plumbing pipe supported by two 4x4s cemented 2 feet in the ground. The tumbler is high enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow. It’s a good idea to sketch plans and record measurements. Below is a photo with dimensions that work well.
If you chose plastic this will be easy! If you went with metal, I’ve felt your pain. Metal drums may have an open end with detached lid. If you don’t have access to a welder, fret not, you can sew the lid on! Simply, I say that as if it’s simple, clamp the lid on then drill holes through the bead and use wire to sew the lid in place. If you click on the photo below showing aeration holes and look very closely by the bead you’ll see my “stitches,” there are 4.
Draw an access door, think about the size needed for loading and unloading. BEFORE you cut the door, lay out the hardware, mark and drill the holes. Then cut the door. For metal drums it’s a great idea to round the edges with a file. Attach the door!
Holes are easier to cut than plug! Start with a few on the ends of the drum and add more later if you need them. I have four 1/4″ holes on each end of my drum, they work well. Don’t forget to drill holes centered on each end to slide the pipe through.
There are many creative stand options for compost tumblers. I opted for a permanent stationary stand. DO NOT skimp on the depth of the holes, a full 55 gallon drum is heavy and needs good support. There is no shame in drilling the pipe holes after cementing the 4x4s. Measure twice, drill once. Setting the poles then drilling fits nicely with the measure twice, drill once motto. There is shame potential if a level isn’t involved in the hole marking process.
Aesthetics are important, it’s okay to spruce up the compost tumbler. Don’t forget to check out my recipe for compost!