“Spider” DIY Compost Sifter, Fine Screen Demo

Well, our “spider” DIY compost sifter video has now received over 7,000 views!  The original video was not very detailed and there were some questions.  So, we made another, longer and more detailed video to demonstrate how well it works.

Click here to see the original video as well as numerous pictures and construction notes.  In that video, we were using the course (1/2″) screen and we were sifting the wood chip mulch we got from the county recycling center.  After a couple of months, we added rabbit manure until it was about 20% of the compost and turned the pile.  After a couple more months and a few more turns, we are now ready to use the compost.  However, before we use it, we wanted to sift it again, this time with the fine (1/4″) screen.

We knew it would work well, but even we are shocked at how well it worked and how beautiful the finished product was.  Certainly, the garden is going to love this fabulous compost!  In this video, we setup the spider, demonstrate its use, and sift a wheel barrel full of fine compost for use primarily in making compost tea. Wow, doesn’t it work fabulously! Enjoy  :good:

13 Comments:

  1. avatar
    Rob Dentremont

    Brilliant! So why did you not make a trommel? I have been a harsh critic of trommels in the Facebook group Keep Calm and Make Compost, but everyone else gushes over them. I am posting a link to this page…will be interested to see the response.

    Trommels have their place, but an inclined plane design makes so much more sense for compost sifting.

  2. Thanks for your kind words. It just never really occurred to me. I saw plenty of them on Youtube but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I felt it would be harder to make something that was round, plus I didn’t know how to make it adjustable. I think the two primary things that make this design so clever is that the screens are interchangeable and the height and angle are infinitely adjustable (so long as your legs are long enough). If you watch out first video http://www.plumfabulousfoods.com/blog/compost/diy-compost-sifter-dubbed-spider you can see we kind of had trouble getting the sifter tall enough to fit over the compost bin. I was thinking about an aluminum pipe construction (either for the legs or the legs and the frame) but I suspect that would be quite a bit more expensive, not to mention more difficult. As it is, this one cost us about $400, but I think we should have been able to do it for $350. Most of the expense was the motor, switch and shipping. I can tell you that it collapses and stores well (legs are a bit difficult), it works great, was relatively simple to build and as you can see, the sifted compost is beautiful. We are going to try and sell some compost at the local farmer’s market for $1 per pound. The intent would be to use this compost primarily for compost tea. I would go check out that FB page…but I don’t do FB :{

  3. avatar
    Rob Dentremont

    “Thanks for your kind words.” You are welcome.

    “screens are interchangeable” It looked like a bit of a struggle to remove the coarse screen and install the fine one. How about just laying the fine screen over the coarse screen? That’s what I do.

    “angle are infinitely adjustable” I have found that 45 degrees works pretty well. Must the angle be adjustable?

    “the sifter tall enough to fit over the compost bin” Mine empties into two containers, each container has two 5 gallon buckets. Fine stuff is guided by a chute which helps with wind.

    “was relatively simple to build” I’m not sure about that one….

    “sifted compost is beautiful” Agreed! Funny many of the fb group say sifting is not needed.

    “We are going to try and sell some compost at the local farmer’s market for $1 per pound. The intent would be to use this compost primarily for compost tea.” Don’t answer if I’m being nosy but can you make a profit…is your product as good a value as store bought stuff? It’s hard to compete with giant machines, especially when taxpayers pay for stuff to be delivered.

    “I would go check out that FB page…but I don’t do FB :{” I wish you could see the responses. Two of the heavyweights say they can do just as well using a flat sifter! I thought you did the whole job in the 5 minutes elapsed on the video but one guy said it took 30 minutes and I have not fact-checked. He said in 30 minutes he can do that much pushing stuff through the screen with his fingers. There are some real stubborn composters out there. I tell them composting is in a dark age because there is no competition…not even bin makers want to prove theirs is the best. I say tumblers suck, trap doors at the bottom are a joke, and screw the 27 cubic foot rule.

    If you know anyone who does have facebook, maybe they can open this page:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/115845788782011/search/?query=spider

    I hope to make the worlds first real sifter for the backyard composter and get rich selling it. That and the best bin system.

    Please feel free to reply by email.

  4. Changing the screens was a struggle because we did it after we set it up. Had we swapped screens before we attached the legs, it would have taken very little time.

    I want the angle adjustable because not all materials sift the same. 1/2” might need a different angle than the 1/4”, fresh mulch might need different angle than composted material, etc. I have not tested. I don’t really care, adjustable is the way to go imo. Most of the machine sifters I saw were stationary, attached to something (like a swing set, basketball goal, a porch, etc.). Most machines looked cumbersome, hard to store, move around, etc. This one collapses and stores well, is easy to transport, and can go anywhere there is electricity.

    The wind caused us lots of grief a while back. The fine stuff falling through was getting blown away. Not sure what to do about that except sift on a calm day or setup a wind break.

    The construction is very simple. I don’t remember how long it took us to build it, but it was not much time. We didn’t do it all at once. There was s bit of trial and error with the legs. Have you seen all the pictures on the website?

    We are not really worried about making a profit right now. I really don’t want to sell the compost because it is a lot of work to produce and we need it. Selling it would be an experiment. I am going to set the sifter up and do demos, then see if we can sell some. If it sells, great. If not, great. If by some chance it is popular, we will see how we might do larger volume cheaper.

    It took us about 30 minutes with the setup and video production. It would have gone much more quickly had we not been producing a video. That compost bin you see holds 1.8 yards. We filled that nearly full in like an hour and a half a couple months ago. Good luck doing that with a flat sifter and fingers.

    I am curious, I will check out the FB page. Your post there must be what has driven all the traffic to the website lately LOL.

    I had hoped this sifter would be cheaper. The motor will be cost prohibitive to many. I refused to use some electrical tool as a makeshift vibrator. They all looked to me like they barely worked. I thought about attempting some king of hand crank design, but…we live in the industrial age LOL.

  5. And I am not really interested in arguing with trolls…

  6. avatar
    Rob Dentremont

    Wind – I cut an old dirty shower curtain into a trapezoid and attached the sides to the sifter frame. It makes an OK chute that helps a ton with the wind. Who has time to wait for calm? A four sided chute would be better but is harder to make.

    I looked at the pictures but did not study them. As you might imagine, I am stuck on my concept. I think it would be great if our machines could compete one day. Sure yours is faster but mine is way cheaper. The judging would comprise a bunch of areas and a composite score would be tallied.

    I wish you the best in selling the Spider!

    Hand crank…nah. I use an 18″ wide dustpan to load the sifter while vibrating the screen with the other hand. I think for the price and less than mega volume from a backyard operation it is perfect.

  7. P.S. The FB guys, Jeremy Marin and John Compost Cossham are not trolls but rather know it alls who (like many of us) believe our way is the only way.

  8. Another sifter I posted about is Jesse Glaves’s:

    https://youtu.be/GsLU7KPoWro

    His is more like mine, but mine is better. :)

    My goal was to convince them that inclined planes make more sense than trommels, but I failed.

    • Yea, that looks super simple. I would have done something like that, but we wanted to do larger volume. We started with 9 yards of mulch. The idea was to go through and sift all that quickly and get it composting while we collected other materials to add to it. If you set our sifter up next to the source pile, I figure we can do about a yard or more per hour on average with a couple shovels going at once. Plus, it has been a fun experiment.

  9. I need to see pics of yours. I built this one because we are want to be able to do a large volume. I have plans for a lot of sifting and composting.

    • I cannot take pictures now because I have dismantled the sifter in order to embark on a next gen version. Dumbass me I have spare frames…should have left it intact and started fresh on a new one oh well….

      Years ago I put photos on the Wildlife Gardeners forum. See them at:

      http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/composting/9492-chain-link-fence-gate-compost-sifter.html

      You can only see the small pictures unless you are a member but right now you cannot even join…the anti-robot app is not working.

      The sifter is not the latest but is the best I can share now. The frame is a 3′ x 6′ chain link fence gate without the chain link. It’s great – light, strong, durable. The angle is steeper that what I now use. The mesh is 1″ chicken wire and 1/2″ or 1/4″ screens can be laid on it if desired. One downside is lack or portability but I’m sure there’s an elegant solution somewhere.

      If you have time, please have a look at my other posts at the parent page:

      http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/composting/

      Compost Piles On Parkway Strip – note the opposition!
      Chain Link Fence Gate Compost Bin
      Smaller Fence Panel Compost Bin

  10. Hi my name is Tony Morales and I’m just starting my small Homestead here in Texas I started with rabbits and chickens I would like to learn more about composing and if you could guide me to build a compost separator like the one that you have because me and my wife like to plant fruits and vegetables in our yard sincerely thank you from the Morales family in Midland Texas

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