How to Build a 50 gallon Rotating Composter

We liked our motorized 55 gallon barrel composters enough to build 5 of them. There is a lot to be said for having a barrel turn itself automatically by setting a timer; especially in the winter, when the barrel is housed in an insulated box that is heated with a light bulb in the garage.
After 3 to 4 years of using these composters, however, their flaws started to become apparent.
Since the motor assembly is made using a recycled wiper motor, bicycle parts, an alternator pulley and serpentine belt, the lack of uniformity of these components made standardized instructions impossible. The assembly is just a bit too hard to make for too many folks.
They also do not operate flawlessly forever. As the contents become heavier, the tensioner spring needs adjustment to keep the barrel turning. They also require periodic maintenance to keep the belt running on the pulley.
Perhaps the most glaring flaw is the tendency of the barrel shape to roll material into compost balls. These balls vary in size from marble to softball size, and are generally anaerobic in their centers. So breaking one part reveals a disgusting, stinky center. The finished contents look like there had been a dung beetle convention going on inside the barrel.
So the search was on for a simple design that eliminated the need for a motor, and would reduce-or eliminate-the rolling up of material into stink-balls.
The result is our octagon-shaped bin, sheathed in aluminum trim coil. It is lightweight, inexpensive, durable, and super easy to turn. In other words, it fits the criteria for a BackWood Basics product.
Watch our video and see if this is a project that you might want to tackle. I think that 2 of these composters would be sufficient for the composting needs of most home gardeners, with a 4 to 6 week turn-over time.
If you’re local, come and take ours for a spin.