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Compost bin building experience

Today the finishing touches were put on the compost bin for Phoenix Garden.  So many miscellaneous items were addressed, from trimming off the ends of 8 of the 12 front slats, adding a top 2 inch wide slat to each bin and driving the last screws into place.  Here's how it looked before the components were taken down and stored for transport to the garden tomorrow:

For anyone interested in building a 3 bin compost setup, a brief description of our experience over the last few days may be helpful.  Here's how the week progressed:

Sunday: Reviewing the Design and Triple Checking the Shopping List

The original design we're using was published over 15 years ago by The Natural Soil Building Program, sponsored by the Seattle Public Utilities.  Here's a link to the document for reference.  Many of the materials used - cedar wood, for instance, are not readily available here in Northern California.  Also, from previous builds done through the County of San Mateo's Office of Sustainability, we knew to incorporate some design improvements - such as how the roof is attached.

This process took many hours (at least 3 hours) as there just wasn't enough measurement specificity in the original design document - so new hand drawings were made.  In the end, this investment paid huge dividends when it came to shopping on the fly (more about that in a minute) and in cutting all of the various pieces to size.

Monday: Shopping at The Home Depot

Getting the wood for the compost bin project is one of the most difficult steps in the build process.  If you're lucky enough that the store you're shopping has all of the wood dimensions that you need, getting the wood to the build location is also a challenge, since many of the 2x4's, for example, were 12 feet in length.  In our case, the design called for 1x6's for the front slats - but the store only had 1x8's - so immediately in line, with other customers waiting patiently behind you, a quick recalculation is necessary.  Stressful!  Very glad to have studied the plan so closely the day before.

After considering many options, such as using a hand saw in the parking lot to cut pieces down to more transportable lengths, we decided that delivery was the best option.  Our delivery experience wasn't great.  The driver wasn't the most friendly and ended up driving off before I could compare the delivery contents to the actual invoice.  At $89 delivery from Home Depot isn't cheap, but it was our only option.

In total our shopping bill came to just under $500.

Thursday: Cutting & Initial Assembly

A couple of tools for making parts for the compost bin were extremely useful:

1) Chop Saw - this makes cutting pieces to length quick and precise.

2) Table Saw - particularly useful to rip 2x4's in half for framing the compost bin roof

A 3 hour session transformed the raw lumber into components for the project.  Again, having a cut sheet with quantities and dimensions easily available made a huge difference in being able to produces parts for the project as efficiently as possible.

In the evening, Howard and I spent another 4 hours assembling each of the individual dividers, attaching the hardware cloth and combining all of the pieces into the final setup.  The nice thing about using carriage bolts and screws is that we can relatively easily assemble and disassemble the whole thing.  As you can see from the below progression of photos, the components come together very easily:

A little hard to see in the last photo that the roof frame has been added.

Friday: Miscellaneous punch list items

With the luxury of having a full day before the bins will be placed in their final home, a laundry list of nips and tucks were done today.  Here are a few images showing some of the details:

Saturday: Install Day!

More to come...


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