BL Workshop

Make a compost tumbler

Here’s how to tumble your way to rich compost for your garden and plants.



  • Sturdy plastic 55-gallon (or so) food barrel
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Adjustable wrench
  • 8 3⁄8-by-3 1⁄2-inch carriage bolts
  • 8 3⁄8-inch nuts
  • 8 3⁄8-inch washers
  • 16d galvanized nails
  • 2 bungee cords (If barrel has a locking lid, you won’t need the bungees.)
  • 5 2-by-6-inch boards (Lengths will be determined by the size of the container.)
  • 3⁄4-inch galvanized pipe, threaded both ends (You can get a standard-size pre-cut threaded pipe. The length will be determined by diameter of the barrel.)
  • 2 3⁄4-inch galvanized pipe caps


Prepare the Barrel

1. Wash out the barrel and drill two 7⁄8-inch holes halfway between the top and bottom. These holes are for the 3⁄4-inch galvanized pipe.

2. Drill 1⁄2-inch holes evenly spaced around the barrel.


Build a Sturdy Frame

3. Cut the 2-by-6-inch boards and assemble the frame as shown, using the hardware listed. The feet should be almost as long as the legs are high.

compost-24. Drill 7⁄8-inch holes at the top of the legs and pass the 3⁄4-inch steel pipe through the hole in one leg, into the barrel and out through the leg on the other side. Screw on the pipe caps.

5. If the lid needs to be held in place, drill small holes around the lid to hook bungee cords.


Layer yard waste into the tumbler. Alternate green materials like grass clippings with brown ones like hay or fallen leaves. Put in some garden soil and kitchen waste such as veggie scraps, fruit peels, cereal, bread, crushed egg shells, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters. Never use meat, poultry, fish, dairy or pet waste. That stuff can attract unwanted critters.

Bacteria breaks down the materials in your tumbler and turns it into rich organic compost. The decomposing material will become hot as the bacteria does its work. The material in your tumbler should be about as moist as a damp sponge. Spin your tumbler one or two times a week to mix the contents and keep it aerated.


Food barrels are used for things like juice or pickles. Try checking with large restaurants or food distributors. Also, there are companies that sell used food barrels.

Comments about “Make a compost tumbler”

  1. jojo says:

    Would a barrel that had liquid soap be ok do you think or no

  2. me myself and i says:

    I also make compost piles, that way the flies can spread the rot

  3. fatface kazoo says:

    awesome so going to make one !!!!!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi … I am high on using eco-friendly products… Hence do not want to use plastic. Can u recommend any eco-friendly tumbler???

    • bj says:

      Anonymous – If you are using plastic for the tumbler, you are saving it from being put in a landfield… I would think that would be more eco friendly. Just saying :)

    • lj says:

      and you can find recycled plastic containers, so its like a double win!

    • Anonymous says:

      If you try using anything made of earthen materials and not manmade like plastic you risk the container braking down.

  5. super says:

    never use paper with ink on it!!!!

  6. Yaya says:

    I live in North Scottsdale Az…. temps in summer are or can be extreme… what are your recommendations in placement for spring and summer months…?

  7. Dad The Great says:

    Build it high enough to get a wheelbarrow under it, otherwise I love mine. Its very productive. I also used plastic paint and painted it black.

  8. Kris says:

    You can compost newspaper if you shred it.

  9. green fingers says:

    can newspapers be composted?

  10. Hobo John says:

    Great Machine

  11. Eddiegirl says:

    I heard composting “kills” bacteria!

    • santos says:

      it will kill beneficial bacteria if the temperature rises above 160 degrees. Use a compost thermometer if you’re worried about it, you can find one at any nursery.

  12. super says:

    my dad and I built a composter and it works great!

  13. Compost Wantabee says:

    How long does it take for the compost to breakdown and is there a way to separate the newly added scraps, etc from the already broken down compost that is use-able?

    • wombatman says:

      Tumblers are best used by filling around 3/4 full at the one time.
      I keep my new scraps/weeds etc in a normal plastic compost bin till ready to refill the tumbler composter.
      I also use a seperate plastic drum to store grass clippings and other green materials
      until the tumbler is free.

  14. Degreaser says:

    The compost tumbler that boys life put on pintrest works great.I made one this
    weekend i had all the material except for the pipe and the two end caps that cost me 11.89 + tax not bad. Great idea.
    Thanks Degreaser

  15. Vida says:

    I live in the mountains. I would really like to build a compost tumbler but I am wondering if I have to put so many aeration holes in the tumbler. I don’t want the bears, lions, variuos creatures to smell it. Any advice? Thank you.

    • honeybear says:

      If you don’t want critters in your compost, don’t compost cooked food,{such as meats, anything with butter on it, ect}, only compost raw vegetable scraps, paper, yard waste, coffee grounds, eggshells.. .. you get the picture.

  16. steve says:

    I dont think there is anyway that a bungee cord is going to keep the lid on when its upside down cause those cords stretch

  17. softstep says:

    Thank you for creating the composter. I will make one for my composting need.
    have a great life

  18. Catart58 says:

    Looks pretty simple! Gonna try it!

  19. boyscout21 says:

    cool :( :) :( :)

  20. tom says:

    i just built mine today using these plans. its pretty awesome.

  21. Frenchy says:

    How often do you turn it? Daily? How long for chicken, horse or goat compost is ready? Any Recipes for it?


    • Anonymous says:

      The tutorial states that you should turn it 1-2 times per week. I’m not sure what you mean by “chicken, horse or goat compost”, but again, it clearly stated that you should NOT PUT ANIMAL WASTE into the compost. Hope this helps and is not too late!

      • lkmbiker says:

        Actually, it doesn’t say not to use animal waste. It specifies “pet” waste/ This is because dog and cat waste can contain pathogens harmful to humans. Composting cow, goat, sheep, horse, chicken, etc actually improves the output.

      • zoonoticvet says:

        Actually all animals (goats, dogs, cats, cow, horses, etc) can potentially carry parasites that can be harmful to humans; especially if proper deworming protocols are not used.

      • Bookwyrm says:

        S/He means poop.

      • DogofWar says:

        Manure, use only that of grain/vegan/insect eating animals such as cows, horses, goats, chickens etc…

  22. sandcastle says:

    do you drill holes in the top of the barrel also?

  23. cm300 says:

    cool gonna try

  24. yogi says:

    i just made 1 how many vent holes do i need if any?

  25. me says:

    what dos this thing do

  26. surfdawg says:

    what is the little half moon looking cut out near the lid of the tumbler?

  27. handy manny says:

    It’s Easy TO Make. I love it.:)

  28. mo says:

    would a regular trash can with a lid (w/locking handles) work for this project?

  29. asdfghjkl says:

    i cant find a drainpipe or barrel. help!

  30. Tee boy says:

    For a great place to find a cheap barrel, find a car wash owner. They usually get their soap in large barrels. I purchased several from my local car wash owner.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Can the tumbler be made from a metal drum or is the plastic necessary? I have a metal drum so I was going to use that one, but not sure if it will get too hot?
    This is very cool and I cannot wait to get started.

  32. Nancy says:

    This is also great for earthworms :)

  33. cindy says:

    nice project, easy to make gonna do it over the weekend

  34. freebird says:

    how do you fill/empty it?

    • sinner says:

      You tip it forward to load it and tip it as far down as you can to dump into a wheel barrow, etc. As to the smell, good compost should never smell check what you are putting into the compost. perhaps too much water??

      • Opie Wan Kenopi says:

        You should avoid meat and dairy products this is a large source of compost odor.

  35. Johnny Boy says:

    In step four drill 7/8″ holes is incorrect. The nominal size of 3/4″ galvanized pipe is 3/4″. The outside diameter is1.05″ as found on any pipe size conversion table. I built this compost tumbler and had to go back to the hardware store for another hole saw, size 1 1/8 “. I also added a drain valve at the bottom edge to drain valuable compost tea.

    • KMNGC says:

      The drain valve is a must. The compost tea that you produce will be just as beneficial as the compost itself. Use it as a foliar spray to improve sun and nutrient absorbtion in the leaves as well as an organic pest deterrent. Also, with the use of the 3/4 galv. conduit you may want to use some sort of bushing or grommet to avoid damaging or splitting the plastic drum.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I figured this out the hard way. I drilled the size indicated, then to fix it, I used a Dremel to enlarge the hole. It’s hard to fix by getting a bigger drill bit, because it tends to flop around a lot if there’s no anchor in the middle. Definitely start with a hole bigger than 1 inch. It’s okay if it’s too big, actually. Make sure the bungees are on securely before you flip it! I had some unfinished compost dump out…yuck.

  36. Crazy says:

    My mom has been wanting a compost tumbler for a while and we havent had the money to buy a brand new, so im hoping thid will work

  37. TumblerMaker says:


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