Best Composter Update: Back to The Drawing Board

Some Updates on the search for the best drum composter.

I Wanted to give an update on the stationary drum composter that I recently built. The good news is that the concept is sound. However, there are enough glitches in the original design that I will have to scrap the first prototype and build a second to HOPEFULLY iron out some of the kinks. Let’s call this next one my Beta model.

The Good:

As I said, the principal is sound. Organic material placed in an insulated container that allows air to flow through, and stirred up once a day, does produce enough heat to sustain the growth of thermophylic bacteria. After two weeks, the stuff in the barrel was well on its way to complete decomposition. So I believe I can make this idea work…if I can solve the problems.

The Bad:

The main problem with the design is that while the composter composts nicely,  I can’t seem to get the compost to slide through the barrel and come out the other end.  Turning the hand crank is easy and does stir up the compost enough to introduce oxygen. But laying the barrel horizontally like in the Ridan pictures show, didn’t cause the compost to move through the barrel.

I tried to enlist the aid of gravity by remounting the barrel pointed downward at an angle. But the compost still wouldn’t move through or come out. So I took it apart and discovered several things.

1. Decaying compost + heat + oxygen + moisture = RUST

The inside of the barrel, even after two weeks was incredibly rusty. I had no idea that steel barrels would oxidize so quickly. But it stands to reason given all that the metal was exposed to. However, There is simply no way that compost can slide easily across such a rough pitted surface. Thus my first change will be to build a new one with the barrel made out of plastic. Plastic comes with it’s own set of problems of course but rust is not one of them.

2. Whatever tines I use next on the axle they must be really strong.

The rust problem caused several of my stirring tines to rust through and break, rendering them useless. The next composter I build will have a shaft that is STRONG and can stand up to heat, oxygen, and moisture without decomposing as fast as the compost.

3. Having an enclosed barrel system is a fine idea conceptually but there simply has to be some sort of easily removable access panel so you can monitor what’s going on inside the barrel, take temperatures, and to clean it out if compost gets stuck (which it inevitably will)


It is hard to keep reminding myself that perfection never occurs on the first try. Edison tried a hundred lightbulbs before he found the right one, blah blah blah.

But it is true. The first one worked but had some flaws. The second will be better. And the third will be better still.

I invite everyone to keep checking in to see my progress on the beta compost model.

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