DIY Recycled, Wooden Compost Bin

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For the back of the compost bin, slide the salvaged wood into the slats created on each side.
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Building details for the wooden compost bin that will supplement your garden soil all season.
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In "The Country Almanac for Housekeeping Techniques," Richard Freudenberger and the editors of "BackHome Magazine" have collected hundreds of formulas for effective cleaning, gardening and home maintenance — as well as ways that our ancestors saved on heating bills, prevented costly repairs and maintained a cozy, charming home with little besides ingenuity.

Recent studies show that modern commercial household cleaners are causing serious health issues for individuals and their families. The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money (Fair Winds Press, 2012) by Richard Freudenberger and the editors of Back Home Magazine shows you how to keep a clean and healthy home for just pennies a day. Using a collection of formula for effective cleaning, gardening and home maintenance. Don’t just clean your household, get the longest life out of every item. The following excerpt describes how to make a DIY wooden compost bin from salvaged materials.

Build a Simple, Wooden Compost Bin

Cost savings
Between $55 and $169 compared to store-bought, depending on design and manufacturer

Easily assembled from salvaged materials, and can be sized to suit your needs

Commercial drum and bin style compost containers are expensive, and they often don’t hold enough working material. A nice slatted box is simple and cost effective if you use salvaged materials. Try plank cedar from old siding, or any weather-resistant wood. Pressure treated 1 x 4s and 2 x 4s will also work, though many people prefer not to invite salt chemicals in the wood from leaching into their garden soil.


• 32 boards (3  1/2 inches [8.9 cm] wide)
• Additional scrap wood (for a brace)
• Square level
• No. 8 x 1  5/8 (4 cm) deck screws
• No. 8 x 3  1/2-inch (9 cm) deck screws
• Jigsaw
• Protractor
• Drill and 7/8-inch (2.2 cm) auger bit
• Sandpaper

Step 1: Gather and cut wood. If you use salvaged pieces, you might have to trim split and nail-pocked ends off a few of the 1 x 4 boards; then cut the good wood into 42-inch (1.1 m) lengths. If using wider boards, cut those pieces into 3  1/2-inch (8.9 cm) widths. You need about 32 of these boards to build the sides of each bin.

Step 2: Make corner boards. Cut six 2 x 4s to 35-inch (89 cm) lengths. Lay one pair side by side, ends flush. Use a heavy pencil and a small square as a guide. Working from the top, mark lines on the flat faces at these measurements: 4  1/2 inches (11.5 cm), 9 inches (23 cm), 13  1/2 inches (34.5 cm), 18 inches (45.5 cm), 22  1/2 inches (57 cm), 27 inches (68.5 cm), and 31  1/2 inches (80 cm). Create side panels by setting those marked pieces 43  1/2 inches (1.1m) apart, flat on the ground. Place eight of the 3  1/2 x 42-inch (9 x 106.5 cm) boards over them so that the top edge of each one is aligned with a set of pencil marks and all eight are flush against the far edge of the side piece. Leave 1  1/2 inches (3.8 cm) of wood uncovered on the side piece, and a 1-inch (2.5 cm) gap between all the crosspieces. Fasten each board joint with a pair of No. 8 x 1  5/8-inch (4 cm) deck screws. Then repeat the entire process to make a second panel exactly like the first.

Step 3: Make the rear wall. The third panel is the rear wall of your wooden compost bin. Follow a process similar to making side panels, with this slight modification. Slat spacing remains the same, but set the ends 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) from the edges of each of the side pieces before fastening the joints. Because you’ll be working from the front of the bin, do not use a fixed panel there. Instead, set the last eight slats in slots, which will allow them to be removed individually or in groups, as needed. To do this, cut two 3/4 x 5  1/2 x 35-inch (1.7 x 14 x 90 cm) boards from any wood you have available. Then—beginning at a point 2 inches (5 cm) from one end of one of these—made a series of eight marks along the closest edge, each 3  3/4 inches (9.5 cm) apart. Next, use a protractor to mark eight 35-degree angles at each of those points, measured from the left side of each. To make the slots, extend the angles to 3  1/2 inches (8.9 cm) in length, then draw another line 7/8 inches (2.2 cm) from, and parallel to, each of those. At the ends of each set, use a 7/8-inch (2.2. cm) auger bit to bore a hole completely through the wood.

Step 4: Make the slots. Cut along the marked lines with a jigsaw to remove the bridges of material. Clean up the cut slots with sandpaper. Then, trace the outlines onto the second board and cut duplicate slots in it. Next, using No. 8 x 3  1/2-inch (9 cm) decking screws, fasten each board to the inside faces of slatted side panels. Slot openings should face outward and be even with the bin’s front edges.

Step 5: Create a temporary brace.
To brace the boxes without making them permanent fixtures, drive a few No. 8 x 3  1/2-inch decking screws through the abutting sidepieces at each corner to hold the rear together. Then screw two 3/4 x 2  1/2 x 46  1/2-inch (1.7 x 6.4 x 118 cm) strips of scrap across the top and bottom of the side panels up front. Remove screws to disassemble and move the bin. Slip the front slats into their slots to ensure proper alignment. If the slats don’t come in and out easily, trim them down or refasten the two front cross braces after making adjustments.

More from The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques

• How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
• Homemade Household Products from Under the Kitchen Sink
• Cleaning Appliances with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Reprinted with permission from The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money: Folk Wisdom for Keeping Your House Clean, Green, and Homey (Fair Winds Press, 2012), by Richard Freudenberger and the Editors of Backhome Magazine.

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