How to Make a Barrel Compost Tumbler

Barrel Composter Front & Side Views

Today I will show you how to make this barrel compost tumbler with the plans I used by and some of the modifications I made to them. The plans were a little vague when it came to the PVC center pipe vent, but hopefully these instructions will clear them up for you. The plans will be posted at the bottom of this post along with a video by Dixie Grilling.

Tools you will need:

  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • 1-1/4 Hole saw
  • Jig saw
  • Channel Lock Pliers
  • Adjustable wrench or socket set
  • Razor knife
  • Screw drivers

Depending on what style barrel you use some of the measurements may be different. I found that 36 inches for the center PVC pipe was to long for my type of barrel, so keep this in mind when you build your barrel compost tumbler.

Step1. Mark the center of the bottom of the barrel, using the barrels seam will make it easy to find center. If you have a big enough hole saw you can just drill out the hole for the flange. If you don’t have a big enough hole saw you will have to trace around the flange, then drill a hole through the center and cut out with a jig saw.

Barrel composter bottom

Compost barrel hole cut


Step 2: Next we are going to make the PVC pipe vent tube. Take Your 3 inch diameter 36 inch length piece of PVC (this could be shorter length depending on barrel style) and glue it to the 3 inch closet flange. Follow the instructions on the PVC Cement. Insert the flange until it is flush with the bottom of the cone shaped part like the picture below.

PVC Glue

PVC Flange Glued


Step 3. Next you are going to drill 8 rows evenly spaced of 3/8 inch holes staggered 1-1/2 inches apart. Make sure to leave an area on both sides for the 1 inch axle hole and clean out all the plastic shavings with a razor knife. If you are using a food grade pickle barrel like the one Dixie Grilling used in his plans below you can also drill the 1 inch axle hole at 21-1/2 inches as shown in the plans. If you are using a different sized barrel, what I did was drill out my two center holes in the barrel for the axel, then I inserted the axle with grease on the end to mark the pvc so I knew where to drill my axle hole.

PVC pipe vent tube


PVC Vent Tube Finished

Step 4. Insert the PVC vent tube into the barrel through the bottom hole you cut out and attach with 4 self tapping screws that weren’t mentioned in the plans. I used 4 wood to masonry screws that I had that were 1-1/4 inches long. In the video you will see they epoxied screen to the bottom of the PVC pipe. I wanted to be able to change out the screen easily incase something damaged it so I made a gasket from a plastic cover from a laundry detergent bucket, the bottom of any round plastic container would also work fine. I attached it to the flange with 8 #6 x 1/2 inch self tapping screws. Vent screen gasket

Step 5.  Build the frame, I purchased a 2x6x16 at home depot and had them cut it the dimensions in the plans below. If you are using a different size barrel follow the instructions in the note on the plans below. I didn’t use any specific measurements for the bolts, I just found the center of the boards and drilled the holes by eye. I also drilled the 1 inch axel hole in the upright about 2inches down and center.

Frame wood 2x6

Frame feet and upright

Barrel Frame

Barrel Frame 3

Step 6: Again they epoxied screen to cover the 1 inch air holes at the top of the barrel. I didn’t want to deal with the epoxy so I found some 1 inch plastic threaded plugs and drilled a bunch of tiny holes in them. Then I drilled 1-1/4 in holes at the top of my barrel and screwed the plugs into the holes. It was probably a little more work involved, but less of a hassle to deal with should anything ever happen to the screen, I wont have to worry about chipping out old epoxy.

Plastic 1 inch plug

This is the plug I purchased at the tractor supply store.

Plastic Vent Plug

Plastic vent plugs installed

Step 7. Attach Barrel to frame by sliding the axel through the barrel and the 2  1-1/4 x 1-1/2 inch pvc spacers, tighten the end caps and you’re all done. Enjoy your new compost tumbler.

Barrel Compost Tumbler

Here are the plans below click on the picture for the full size graphic and to print them out.  Also check out the video and Dixie Grilling will walk you through the tumbler. If you have any question feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to help.

(Plan Photo Credit Plans