The Transmogrifier – designing and building a compost tumbler for the Victory Garden

Food and organic waste can be up to 21% of a household’s garbage; rather than continuing to add to weight transported by EXTREMELY fuel inefficient garbage trucks, I decided a month or two ago to try my hand at make a compost tumbler for my yard.  This, of course, required a smaller cousin, a filtered compost bin, for the kitchen in which we can collect scraps.

The inspiration

Working from the cleverness of others and their own DIY compost tumbler, I realized I would want to modify the design to be larger (two houses, one of which is a duplex, adjoin my yard, plus my friend Alisha from krav would be contributing food scraps and labor to the Victory Garden) and also to be more durable – so I will water-proof all the wood with the same non-toxic waterproofing I paid so much for, for the IkeHaus.

As with all of my projects which at least partially point towards my intended future agrarian paradise, this needs to be a VERY portable product, so I can take it with me on that much-anticipated day when I make good my escape from the ‘Haven.  Thus, the project uses bolts to connect the wooden pieces, and the barrel is able to be thoroughly washed prior to transport!

The illustration

My childhood was heavily infused with reading and re-reading many comic book collections, from Garfield to Foxtrot, and many liberal doses of my beloved Calvin & Hobbes in between.  For a project involving composting, which is taking things in an unusable state (food waste) and magically turning it into high-grade fertilizer (composting!), what was I supposed to think of besides Calvin’s Transmogrifier, a box that helped him use his imagination to make him and his world into something more to his liking:

The source of the Transmogrifier

The source of the Transmogrifier (comic drawn from here)

The values of corrugated cardboard cannot be faulted by this writer (especially not contra Hobbes), but this project decided to go with plastic, steel, and pressure-treated lumber, instead.

(Editor’s note: haven’t had time to go learn to use the laser cutter fully at the CEID, so the nameplate is a future task.)

The assembly

So, after another long and tiring (but oh-so-fulfillingly-school-free-) week of work and krav, I spent Thursday and Friday nights putting this together, having purchased materials earlier in the week.

beginning work on the compost tumbler

beginning work on the compost tumbler

building the composter legs with the Irwin clamps that are so incredibly useful

building the composter legs with the Irwin Quick Grip clamps that are so incredibly useful

the composter-building game was called midway, on account of rain

the composter-building game was called midway, on account of rain

circular saws are best employed for questionably safe cuts

circular saws are best employed for questionably safe cuts

axle fits into place through the barrel AND the plywood support

axle fits into place through the barrel AND the plywood support

threaded rods provide internal threshing arms, to help mix the compost whilst tumbling

threaded rods provide internal threshing arms, to help mix the compost whilst tumbling

The outcome

At the end of the day, then, The Transmogrifier looks pretty sleek on the edge of my yard, no?

Compost tumbler in place next to the Victory Garden

Compost tumbler in place next to the Victory Garden

The home front

So, with a compost tumbler in the yard, we can expect compost anywhere from 12 days to 6 weeks, depending on how often we turn the compost; how much air it receives; and what organic compounds are used.  To make it easier to feed the tumbler, Alisha and I each got a food waste bin that has a carbon filter to reduce smell to almost nothing (and in my case, the tumbler is in the back yard so I don’t have to worry about when I will have time to empty the indoor container into it!).

the initial compost contents

the initial compost contents

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