Make a low, heat-retaining DIY compost tumbler

Sebastian von Holstein
Friday, 7th June 2013

Make a quick, cheap and efficient tumbling composting system...

Tumble composting can be a pricey enterprise, if you decide to buy any of the ready made options. These usually sit quite high up in the air, making it difficult to get composting materials in and out of it. The other benefit to having a low set tumbler is that you can make the most of the grounds natural heat, making for far more efficient composting, particularly during the cold winter months.

What you will need:

  • 1 Barrel 
  • 1 36in x 18in Board  
  • 4 NON Pivoting Wheels 
  • 2 Hinges for the hatch door
  • 2 Pin Locks  
  • Wood Screws 


1. Firstly, you will need to create an access panel in the barrel, which must be wide enough to fit your shovel. Mark out the area and use a jigsaw to carefully cut out the door.

2. The tricky part: you will have to install the hinges and pin locks into the panel to secure the hatch. This is not essential but should you wish to, you can screw in a drawer handle to open the hatch more easily.

3. Oxygen is essential in the composting process so aerate your drum by drilling small evenly spaced holes throughout the barrel. If you wish to do so, you could also paint the barrel black to enable better absorption of sunlight and heat to the composting material.  

4. A base is now needed for the barrel to sit on. Use your 36in x 18in board and fix the non-pivoting wheels so that the barrel is being supported and is raised off the ground. This is your turning mechanism that will allow you to "tumble" your compost so getting it right now before you fill it up is a good idea! A helper or two may be needed. Once this is complete, sit the board on a few bricks to stabilise the structure.

5. All you have to do now is fill it up with your kitchen waste. As the weight increases, rotating the barrel will become easier. Attempt to rotate frequently, perhaps even every day if you can. 

Sources & resources

If this project has made you go compost crazy, why not attempt a compost loo build?

For more great composting advice, see how Simon Watkins makes the finest quality compost.

Check out our recommended gardening books with some composting books for under £5. 

Photo credit:

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Ed Truesdale |
Wed, 06/01/2016 - 17:23

The instructions do not reflect the illustration photo.
First of all, 36"x18" "boards" are not available in U.S. markets. Plywood cut to that dimension would be the only alternative.
Secondly, the photo shows the barrel mounted on stacked 4"x4" timbers, not stacked on bricks as described in the text.
For the accomplished DIY'er, the photo is an adequate guide. But this article falls far short of being a true "instructable", since the instructions are woefully lacking.

Ed Truesdale |
Wed, 06/01/2016 - 17:29

Since the website won't let me edit my post, I'll make an additional comment here.
The "instructable" also says to just fill it with kitchen waste. That is NOT how you make viable compost, and would result in a foul mess. Please research other information on composting before following this idea.
Rotating compost bins are great, but you have to know the mechanics of making compost to use one effectively.