Earlier in the year I processed a ton of apricots and discarded the stones in the compost heap. Months later when my wife wanted to use the compost, it was apparent that the stones were decades away from naturally decomposing. And I knew I needed a method to remove the stones (and other detritus).
I did some research and found a rotary trommel was the way for me to solve this problem. There are many examples of rotary sifters on the web but this instructable chronicles my build where I re-purposed most of the material. The only new components were castors, wire mesh and the vee pulley (which I barted for with some beer).
I cut a length of sheet metal to attach to the inside of the wheel rim. This probably helps to support the mesh but you may be able to get away without using it. I cut it 4 inches (100 mm) wide* then carefully removed the burrs with a file. I used the existing spoke holes in the rim to temporarily attach the sheet metal using lacing wire.
I calculated the inside circumference of the wheel rims and cut the mesh with 6 inch (150 mm) overlap**. Stand the mesh on its end and drop two wheel rims over it. At the top fix the third rim in place with clamps*** then begin to fix the rim to the mesh using the existing spoke holes. You should aim to use every hole twice and I found it useful to drill out the hole a little to fit in my 5 mm cable ties. At this stage, decide where the 'head' of the cable tie will be...inside or out. I chose inside so it wouldn't interfere with the castors (but since discovered the castor rides above the cable tie). It would be better to have the head outside of the chamber...one less thing to block material.
Fix both ends with cable ties then begin work on the center rim. I used a length of timber to ensure this rim was evenly centered in the tube. It helped to have a second person assisting placing the cable ties from the outside while someone is reaching into the chamber...it's quite awkward. Pro tip: Begin your first cable tie at the edge of the mesh then continue around the mesh. I didn't do this (I began in the middle) and ended up with the mesh pulling in slightly. Happily it hasn't affected performance.
* If you install a sheet metal liner beneath the rim, keep it to the width of the wheel rim and no wider. Any wider (as I found out) blocks filtered material from passing through. See the exception to this below ***
*** While using the trommel I wish I had just a little more of the mesh protruding from the frame so that I could more easily place a wheelbarrow beneath it where it catches the junk. I would suggest installing this rim about 6-8 inches (150-200 mm) back from the end of the mesh, and this should be braced with a wide section of sheet metal that is attached to the rim and extends to the end of the mesh.
Measure your mesh tube and cut steel to suit. Plan for the tube to be contained within the frame, although I would suggest the exit end (where the rocks and waste come out) protrudes 6-8 inches beyond the frame.
The box steel I used was thin walled so I welded nuts in place for the castors to thread into. There is no need for an additional locking nut as once the castor is embedded in the wheel rim, it cannot turn. It is unlikely that the thread would wind itself up or down over time.
* After I had completed the frame, I realized one end rim did not line up with the frame, hence in the photos you'll see I made small weld-on extensions that the castors were fitted to. It hasn't affected performance but took more effort to rectify. It would have been much simpler to mount all castors in the frame.
This motor is 1/4 hp and cost me $15 bucks, with the previous owner gifting some used vee belts and a 2-sided pulley housing. The motor rpm was too high so I found a large vee pulley that geared the belt right down to a usable speed. Your motor and vee pulley combo's will infinitely vary so some trial and error will be required.
I then (precariously) clamped the motor and vee pulley housing on timber blocks while I figured out placement and position to obtain belt tension from the motor to the housing, and from the housing to the tube.
My large drive belt (about 2 m in circumference) needed the pulley housing to be lifted (to take up excess slack) so I made up a steel frame. To create tension, I fitted a sturdy hinge to one end and bolted (rather than welded) this to the frame. To recess the nuts, I drill a large hole into the frame, hover the nut flush then carefully weld and grind it flat. Use a sacrificial threaded bolt to hold the nut in place so you don't mess up your good bolts with weld splatter. You may need to tap the thread if any weld sneaks onto the threads of the nut.
The motor was mounted independently so I could adjust the motor-housing belt tension, again by using a hinged mount. At the other end of both mounting frames, I fitted a long bolt that lifts or lowers the frame to adjust tension. Note a simple way to make a turning knob out of a bolt.
You also want to plan a gradient for the soil etc to drift down. I can't tell you the exact angle I mounted my frame but it's probably 4 inches (100 mm) lower at the exit end. If you don't have a gradient, your sifted siftings will sit in the sifter!
You don't need to make this a mobile trommel (though I highly recommend it). It's not too heavy so two people could carry the trommel and place it on saw horses or similar at the job site. However, mounting it on wheels means one person can easily move it from place to place.
Yes, stub axles would have been tidier and prettier, but I took the simple option of welding the forks to the frame. This worked just fine. Place some timber under the frame to figure out your tipping/balance point and place the forks a little in front of this. Otherwise it could tip forward when being wheeled around or during use.
The rear legs I made to swivel in three positions: pointed down with feet on the ground; pointed horizontal where they act as handles (think wheelbarrow); straight up for storage (though in hindsight this position probably won't be used).
Mount a solid sheet of something (I used ACM) to the frame to stop soil etc being sprayed out the side of the trommel. I mounted this panel on one side only but it could be useful on both sides. Definitely needed on the drive side though! If you had access to those soft plastic hanging industrial door entrance strips, they'd make great curtains.
Well it was a brilliant feeling to see the trommel operational and doing a most excellent job of sorting out the good from the bad. Looking at the video and photos, you can see how efficiently it removes rocks, bits of plastic and glass, apricot stones and even weeds. The bad stuff ends up in the wheelbarrow, while the rest piles up beneath the trommel.
About the legs/handles. I planned to wheel the trommel by adjusting the legs into a horizontal position then wheeling the trommel around. But it wasn't long until I realized a broom handle and wooden dowel slotted nicely into the frame and became great handles. No longer any need to adjust the leg position. Use what you have lying around.
If you're in the US, head to your nearest pawn shop and look for a 110V wire-feed or stick welder. Offer them $50 or 50% of the marked price for it. I wouldn't pay more than $50 for one. Or make them throw in a welding helmet or something. Then just head to your nearest hardware store and buy some cheap flux core wire or electrodes, and go watch some weld.com YouTube videos, and spend a couple of hours welding on some scrap metal.Alternatively, you could drill and bold everywhere that was welded on this cart, but you'll probably spend that much in fasteners anyway!
I agree! Welding is all about trial and error. I did exactly what is described above, and I'm now an avid welder. The only different advice I would give is to forgo the flux-core wire and utilize a shielding gas with standard welding wire. The welds are much cleaner, stronger, and there's much less spatter. Happy welding!
I built one with no motor and only wood and the sifting part. The barrel rests on the wheels, the wheels are mounted to 4x4s (old fence posts), and the 4x4s bolt to some sawhorses. It comes apart for storage, and the sawhorses are usable elsewhere. http://lazygardens.blogspot.com/2015/05/diy-trommel-sifter-for-compost.html
Hi, go for it! I don't see why you couldn't build it with a timber frame. You'll need some brackets to mount the motor and pulley wheel. But a course in welding would get you started and 2nd hand welders are cheap. Thanks for your comments.
Im not sure. There is a bit of load when a shovel full of material is thrown in. Your motor will need enough torque to keep turning. Hopefully youll find something...maybe an old washing machine motor?
Excellent build! I have an allotment with all sorts in the soil, and a load of bike wheel rims (received free!). This is something I plan to build and use in spring.It occurs to me that the type of open-frame litter bin I've seen (designed to hold a plastic liner), which has a cylinder of large-size (about 2-inch squared?) wire mesh, could be repurposed instead of using bike rims, if lined with a finer-grade mesh.Also I suppose if successive wraps of different mesh were attached along the length of the sifter, and a row of bins placed beneath, you could obtain soil sorted finest-to-coarser, suiting different uses, all in one pass.
Another thought on this theme is to build one or two of these barrel screens, using the same bicycle rims and finer mesh (depending on needs) and swapping out the barrels, assuming that the frame could be made to exchange the screens. In this way you could keep the size of the machine manageable so that it could be easily transported, and for storage when not in use. I have seen commercially purposed trommels that were more or less permanent installations because of their large size with screens that were graded to produce finer and finer soil.
Thanks for sharing this informative build. I have looked at several home made sifters on Youtube and the barrel design I think would be the most efficient for my needs. I'm not yet skilled enough to weld a metal frame together, as shown in this build. Can you imagine one made out of dimension lumber and if so do you have any thoughts or suggestions in building one? Thank you millions.
Great Instructable and your photos are very complete and nicely done. Could you provide a bit more detail on the wire mesh you used? If I'm seeing the photos correctly you used just one piece of mesh, not two pieces connected at the center rim, correct? This would mean your roll of mesh had to be about 5 feet wide (my rough guess looking at the pictures). Where did you find 5 mm mesh that wide? And do you recall what gauge it was? Thanks for posting this...I need to build one to sift small stones.
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