15 Homemade Compost Tumbler Ideas Which Will Make Your Head Spin

Some time ago, I was writing about compost tumblers. There, I have mentioned that while testing those, I have broadened my knowledge about this matter. The truth is that I have learned the basic principles of making a tumbler, and I have decided to make several on my own. And I did.

Fifteen, to be more precise. Therefore, here are 15 homemade compost tumbler ideas which can help you to learn something new.


Why Should I Even Bother?

Homemade Compost Tumbler

The answer to this question only you can give. Perhaps you don’t like the offer on the Internet. Maybe you have some old tubes and barrels laying around, so you keep tripping over them, and you just want to make something out of them. Or perhaps you just want to try and see if you can assemble (not Avengers) one homemade compost tumbler.

Whichever the cause is, I believe that it is valid. It is your choice anyway. In any case, there is one crucial advantage of a tumbler made this way and of that which is bought. Custom made tumblers are unique and one of a kind. Moreover, you can choose, modify and adjust it whatever suits you.

What Will Be Needed?


Some of those tumblers will require a lot of assembling, while others will be a simple modification of an ordinary barrel. But, in any case, you are going to need the following:

  • A drill (battery or electricity powered one is preferable)
  • Hammer and nails
  • A bungee rope
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    3" casters (those are available in hardware stores, or can be bought online)
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    Aluminum straps
  • Various buckets, bins, and barrels
  • Aluminum pipes
  • Plastic or wooden panels for internal paddles
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    Hinges, handles, and wire
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    10' 2x8 treated lumber
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    12' 4x4 treated lumber

Keep in mind that not all of the material is needed for all of the tumblers, but I’m listing it here so that you have an assessment of what to expect.

When To Start?

Homemade Compost Tumbler

To answer this question in one sentence, whenever you want or have time. For those a bit complicated tumblers you will need a whole day of work, while for the others, you can finish the job in under 30 minutes.

Luckily, the winter is approaching, and since there is not much you can do, I suggest to clear out the garage, and make one or two of these tumblers.

15-Gallon Trash Can

1. 15-Gallon Trash Can – The Fastest And Easiest One

So, if you are not making large quantities of compost, take an ordinary 15-gallon trash can and add biomass of which you want to make compost and fill it. Now, put the lid on top of it and secure it firmly with bungee ropes. Keep in mind that this approach is good if you are using a lighter material such as leaves and grass clippings.

After that, leave it in a sunny place, and once in every few days put the can on the side, and give it a few rolls. Since this approach also requires you to bend over, older people might find it difficult.

2. A 15-Gallon Trash Can Upgrade – Still Fast To Make, But The Can Is Useless Later

The previous approach is good in case that you wish to use the trash can again. But, if you have one spare, feel free to use a drill and punch a few holes in rows on the side and at the bottom. This will provide the airflow, and the process of cooking will be better.

However, in later stages of composting there is a high probability that water will run through the holes, so be careful and wear older clothes because things will get dirty.

Small Metal Bucket

3. A Small Metal Bucket With A Lid – Still In Range Of Smaller Quantities

Do you remember those old cylindrical cans with the welded top where the half of it could be opened? I had a few of those laying around, and I’ve managed to make two types of tumbler out of it.

The first approach is to take that bucket and attach a lock on the outer side. In case that you don’t have any, punch two holes on the lid and the body of the bucket, and tie it with a piece of wire. Since this bucket is symmetrical, it is convenient for rolling around. Trash cans are conical in shape and can’t go as straight as these.

4. A Small Metal Bucket With A Lid, But Lifted Above The Ground – An Upgrade

This is the second approach when it comes to the metal bucket. This one is better for elder people since it will be raised above the ground, and will mix ingredients better.

Start with punching two larger holes on each side of the bucket, in the middle of the height. Pull a metal rod through and lift it above the ground. For lifting, you can make two X stands and dig them into the soil, or use old poles if you have a pair which is at sufficient height.

Metal barrel

5. Barrel – The Most Often Used Approach

Because of their volume, barrels are the most convenient to turn into a tumbler. There are several ways to do so, and this is the first one. This will require a metal barrel since we are going to get things rolling (pun intended).

Start by cutting a square of metal from the side of the barrel. Attach aluminum straps on the inside of the barrel to make the mouth thus made, stronger. Now, attach hinges to make doors. Since the doors (without Jim Morrison) will be uneven with the rest of the barrel, I suggest you to find two old car tires and pull on both ends of the barrel. Voila! This is your new tumbler.

6. Barrel – Upgraded With Paddles And Holes

This is an upgrade of the previous approach and is better if you want to make a tumbler which is used more often. You will need for this one square piece of plastic or wood. If you cant find the matching one, take a plastic tube and cut it through the middle.

Now, make the door as with previous one, and inside of the barrel, alongside length attach halves of tubes with screws. They should be put next to another, so they make a bent letter X. Punch holes at both ends of the barrel, and in lines along the height. Tires are optional, but I have added them because of easier rolling.

7. Barrel – Uprightly Set

Metal barrels are great because of their durability, so I have one more approach. This one is good for when more significant quantities of compost are made, and if you are either tight with space, or don’t want to ruin your lawn.

Punch larger holes at each side of the barrel, the same as we did with the metal bucket. Pull stronger and thicker metal bar through both of the holes, and this is going to be an axis around which the barrel will rotate. Since it must be lifted above ground, find help for the next step. Make X carriers from wood long enough, and dig them into the soil.

Lift the barrel and lay the axis at the place where two pieces of wood are crossing. The mouth of this tumbler can be made the same way as with previous two, only that it will be cut at the top of the barrel.

8. Barrel – Horizontal Variety

One more approach for the metal barrel is good for lightweight turning. It won't allow too much organic matter to be put into, but it is still great.

This one will also require doors to be made, and will be lifted above the ground, sitting at the central axis. Contrary to previous way, the shaft will go through the height of the barrel. Here, you can punch holes at sides and put the trellis beneath it to collect liquid fertilizer. Of course, lifting it above the ground is needed.

Plastic barel

9. Plastic Barrel – Lightweight, But Not So Resistant

Although plastic barrels are less durable than metal ones, they still make a great choice for being turned into the tumbler. Also, their main advantage is that the majority of them have a lit which can be tightly screwed.

The first system is just to fill the barrel with organic matter, and make it roll. Of course, be careful about stones and bumps on the road, since those can cause the barrel to crack or burst.

10. Plastic Barrel – Horizontal Variety

Plastic barrels are in most cases asymmetrical, and can often be inconvenient for rolling. Therefore, the best course of action is to put them on the side.

Of course, you will need barrels without a lid, since this makes things a bit more complicated. In case that you can’t find one lidless, just be sure that the cover is tightly sealed. Make doors and punch holes as you did with metal barrel. Now, pull a metal pipe (notice that rod is not necessary since it is light) and lift it above the ground so that it can be rotated.

11. Plastic Barrel – Double To Avoid Trouble

This system is best used for farms since it utilizes two barrels put in one line. Great for chicken manure-based compost.

Go with two same barrels, to avoid any imbalance. As with the previous one, punch holes at the bottom and the lid and pull the bar all the way through. I have made a stand of wood in shape of reversed letter T and connected them at the top. This should provide enough stability. The best thing about this system is that one barrel is filled, while other is used.

12. Plastic Barrel – Hot Wheels

I have been thinking, how to use the shape of the plastic barrel to my advantage. Then, it hit me. There are tumblers which are utilizing wheels upon which the barrel is rolled. That system I wanted to apply.

First, I have made a square frame of wood. On two sides I have attached a pair of casters opposing one another. Slowly and gently, I have put the barrel on top of casters and tried if it will roll. It was perfect! All that was left was to make doors, and the tumbler was done.

13. Plastic Barrel – The Cerberus

Once I made that double tumbler, I have thought about making one which will utilize three barrels. Thus the name, by a three-headed dog from Hell from Greek mythology. This system required some welding, so if you are not skilled at this, I suggest you to either pass it or ask for help from someone who has experience.

Start by making two three-pronged pieces made of tubes with same angles. Imagine that letter Y is equally set that is what you need to make. Now, one is placed on one side, and the other is opposing it.

Connect them with rods which are pulled through the barrel so that you can rotate both the barrels and the whole construction. It reminded me of Ferris wheel of some sort. This one is great in case that large volume of compost need to be made, and you are tight on space.

Wood barrel

14. Wooden Barrel – Nature To The Rescue

This is far the best system in case that you want to make some great and beautiful compost tea, and that you are using a lot of organic matter when preparing compost.

Start by cutting the top of the barrel to make the opening where the organic matter will be thrown in. To attach them again, screw and use latches, since those are tight and seal right. At the bottom of the barrel, drill a hole and connect the small pipe to drain manure tea which I have mentioned.

Now, on the opposite side of the bunghole, I have made another hole so that an axis can be pulled through. Since these barrels are heavy, well-dug poles or even concrete will be required, so make sure that it is stable enough.

15. Give Up On Everything And Buy One

There is an always a way out. In case that the plan you have set isn’t working for you, there is no shame in giving up. Buying one and assembling it may be equally challenging as making tumbler from scratch.


So, here they are, brilliant 15 homemade compost tumbler ideas which can be used to make one at your home. Remember that you should always wear protective equipment, and to play music whenever it is possible. Makes things a lot easier.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts, advice, and opinions in the comments section below.

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