Vibrating Compost/Soil Screener

sprayturfJune 1, 2007

Hi all

Well i am currently in the middle of building a vibrating screener with a view to selling them on the net.

What i want to know is how much would you pay for a screener ?

The one i am creating will be folding and will be made from stainless steel and alu.

Unlike other products this will be built to last for years with a sealed motor meaning no belts.

Just switch on and away you go.

It will accomadate a wheel barrow under it and a garden tub to take the over sized.

Could you please give me some feedback before i decided to produce this item.



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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Cool idea. I've thought about building one myself- even though I don't ever sift compost- just to build it.

One that size, I think, might get you better than $100, but not $200. I say that because it's sort of a luxury item. You would sell a lot at under $100, but I couldn't imagine that you'd have any margin. Most people's pain level starts at $200 for these items. You could start marketing at a lot more $$ and test the market, then bring the price down if you don't get many hits.

Market it as "soil and compost sifter", and provide 2 sizes of screens (IMO). Test, test, test. Remember that success is a little good idea, and a lot of marketing!

Best of luck- I truly wish you success!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 1:14PM
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maybe with wheels to help with lawn composting.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 4:55PM
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val_s(z5 central IL)

Okay - I admit it....I sift my compost. Hubby and I built a simple one that sits over a large trash can. I'm assuming that you want all input so here's my 2 cents.

However much I love the idea of a motorized vibrating screener, for me I don't think it would be practical. Limited storage space (city dweller), gas prices are out of site, our electric company also just announced a rate hike.

Right now I'm still young and healthy enough to sift for myself but I can also see why some people would like this item. I don't know for sure but it does seem that the non-sifters outnumber the sifters so you'd have to really have a good marketing strategy.

Pablo's advice sounds on target if you go through with it.


    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 10:11PM
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I am an experienced gardener, and I have to say that I don't think sifting is worth it. I wouldn't buy a sifter --- because I value having larger chunks in my garden. I like that the larger chunks will be able to keeep the worms around in my garden.

I also like that some of the smaller stuff goes back into the next batch of trimmings, to get the composting started.

So, I don't see any reason to segregate the finer stuff from the bigger stuff.

Good luck anyway ---


    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 10:27PM
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Built a sifter but haven't had a chance to try it out yet. Too busy with other stuff. I intend to screen out the twigs, branches and such that inevitably get into the compost but haven't broken down yet. This would be mainly for lawn applications. Gardens and my fruit trees could care less about a few twigs or pine cones. I copied designs from (squeeze) and with a few modifications based on what materials I had on hand. I have no shame in copying a good idea. There was another guy that built his own vibrating sifter as well but I don't recall seeing any pictures.

I'm not sure I would purchase a manufactured one, but that's just me.


Here is a link that might be useful: My sifter

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 11:50PM
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Well the screener i will be building is made from stainless steel and Alu with wheels.

regarding price the motors cost $200 just on there own before you even build the thing.

I Just really wanted to know if you guys think its a good idea.

My proto-type will do 3 tons a hour no problem, i guess i need to be targeting landscapers rather than the hobby gardener.

I will be producing a small unit in the future.

I guess if you only use it a few times a year its probably not worth you buying ?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 6:13AM
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i won't do 3 tons in 3 yrs

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 10:50PM
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I would love to have such a product, but not so much to screen compost, as to screen dirt.

My need for one would be for one that dumps. Dumps into a convenient, changeable, container. From the screen, not from the dirt pile below.

Let me give you my example: it may not fit everyone, but I surely would like to have such a tool.

There's an abandoned railway behind my yard. I'm reclaiming that area, but the area was filled/built, a hundred years ago, with bank run gravel and sand and dirt mix. I'm sifting that mix through a hardware cloth screen, over a wheelbarrow. The dirt (with some sand in, obviously) I can reuse, but the rocks I don't want, and they go out with the trash. But there's lots of rocks: a few big ones (three in. diameter) a lot of one in. diameter, and a lot of gravel smaller than that, which is held up in the hardware cloth-wood frame screen. I have to lift that screen, off of the wheelbarrow, and dump that screen into trash bags (obviously not overloading the trash bags). But that lift really gets my back hurting.

Any solution that your machine might deliver?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 8:27AM
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Take a look at the EZ 100 / 200 at
$595 plus freight - your choice of screens

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 3:01PM
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philes21 my machine is probably exactly what you need.

Basically my machine has a barrow below to take the screened dirt and a tub to take the over sized material.

The EZ screen ones look great, but the thing with mine is the machine is purpose built to do the job.

Mine also has no moving parts making it safer

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 1:58PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

No moving parts?

Vibration is movement
A motor is movement

Watch out where you say that- you'll get called on it. (Even your computer has a moving part... the hard drive).

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 2:16PM
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What i mean is that my motor is fully enclosed and has no belts or moving parts that could cause problems.

Pablo don't worry i aint selling them yet.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 7:54PM
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The vibrating sifter I saw last year online was a large wood framed screen (triangular I shape if I recall, maybe 10 feet long). It was hung from the narrow end so it made about a 45 degre angle with the ground. The motor vibrated the screen and you just shoveled whatever at it and the fines fell through the bottom and the rest tumbled down the flat/angled screen into its own separate pile. No dumping needed.

sprayturf, I think you might be able to make some money with a good design, as a good quality motor set-up, a sturdy frame and maybe interchangable screen are the main components to build a quality unit. I don't know that you would be able to patent it as there are already so many variations out there. Another issue for you to consider: will potential customers have a GFI protected electical outlet handy to use? Gas powered would work, but add to the price.

If I were considering a purchased unit for larger scale sifting, I would have to wonder if a vibrating or rotary would be better for my needs. I think moisture content would affect a vibrating unit more as a rotary would be better at breaking up moist clumps. Sifting for artifacts would probably do better with a vibrating unit. Maybe even variable speed. The smallest vibration possible to get the dirt through based on the conditions of the soil in question.

I appreciate the nod from Lloyd on my rotary sifter, and I think mine is last place in quality compared to his and Bill's. It works great though.

If I wanted to build a vibrating sifter for small scale sifting, I think I would try a smallish wooden frame and clamp a electric vibrating wood sander to it. Seems like around $60 bucks for all new materials for that idea (A cheap sander of course). Maybe a fan to keep it cool. There is no point in having it sift faster than I am prepared to shovel. I think a small sander would do fine for a wheel barrow sized sifter screen set up. Turing it off to move/dump the wheel barrow would give the sander time to rest and cool. GFI protected outlet would be wise for those tempted to try it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 10:46AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

I've never used one, Vance- but my guess is that a vibrating screen would handle clumps better. I'm thinking specifically how many people complain about clumps forming in a tumbling composter. I picture a vibrating screen abrading the clumps down to nothing.

That's all guess, of course.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 10:53AM
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Vance have you ever tried to sift soil using a sander ?

My guess is no, when testing my machine i noticed you need a lot more vibration to move the soil than a sander gives off, so i would say you would not get far with that idea, might be ok for screening sand but that would be about all.

Like most things you have to test the thing time after time before you can put it into production.

My screener will be made to do the job right, i am a landscaper so i work with soil nearly every day and this is why i have have built this machine as an aid to getting decent soil without back breaking work.

After countless hours of raking and sifting by hand i have seen that there is not a proper machine to speed up things.

I cannot really go into detail regarding the design at the moment but it is made from stainless steel and Alu meaning zero rust, it also saves me time as i don't really want to waste time painting the things.

I do have plans for a smaller unit for the person who just screens compost and soil now and then.

Unlike other products ours has an easy change screen and is lightweight, also if there is no power near by you can just use a cheap generator to run it.

As for the trommel type screener they are good but there are more moving parts meaning more wear.

Most people i have talked to have said that they would not be screening wet soil because its too hard to handle i.e mud haha.

I know most of you probably would not want a powered screener because of the price but its like comparing a hand drill to a powered one,

It may cost at the start but the money saved you soon lose in time, its like saying why bother having a car when i have 2 feet.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 3:42PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Spray- I think that a lot of people here get by without screening- manually or powered. Not saying that nobody has a use for it, but most home gardners don't bother.

I don't mind clumps of stuff in my soil/garden- if I were a contractor or lived in MA or CT rather than NH (ha ha)then I would wnat that smooth texture look and then it matters.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 3:53PM
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3 tons per hour and it falls into a wheel barrow? By my lousy math (3 types of people on earth, those that know math and those that don't) that means I'd havta shovel 3 tons onto the screener and then move 3 tons away by barrow. In an hour? Not a chance. I haven't tried my sifter yet but I envision some lazy Saturday/Sunday when it's too wet to do anything else getting together with my favorite 12 pack of beer. I think sifting for a bit and breaking for beer is more along my lines. If it takes me 3 hours to do it, so be it. It took me months to make the compost, I don't need it all sifted in an hour.

Hey Vance, good idea. A guy could just build a sloping tray and have the stuff slide down as the sander purred away. You might have to play with the slope (gravity is a wonderful invention) but I bet it would work. The sanders are pretty cheap when they come on sale and I bet a few trips to the odd auction or yard sale might yield a couple.

Spray. I'm thinking a lot of landscapers get their soil products delivered already screened to their specs and if not, then they probably have a skid loader to do this...

Good luck tho


Here is a link that might be useful: Commercail screener.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 6:10PM
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No, I have never tried the sander as a vibrator bit, so I don't know if it would work well. On the small scale I was thinking of, one shovel full at a time into a small light frame, it might do fine. (I just like to wonder out loud).

I never answered your original question as to how much I would be willing to spend on a vibrating soil sifter. If I were doing a large scale personal project, then the few hundered dollar range would be about it. I would have to save 8 hours labor per $100 spent just to call it even in terms of labor saved. In other words, if I save 8 hours, that's an extra full day I can spend at work making money to offset what I paid for it. People love labor saving devices. Tillers are a good example of people spending a whole lot of money for what many consider a luxury item.

Now if I were using it to make money, as in like a landscaper, then price would not be as big an issue as quality and portability. $500-600 for a unit that would fit in the truck and last for years, not an issue.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 7:46PM
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Thanks for your views everyone i have enjoyed reading them.

I guess the only way to see if people want something is to ask haha.

Basically i will be targeting my product more towards large scale gardens, nurseries and landscapers etc.

I am very gratefull to everyone who has taken the time to tell me what they think.

I will be working on a smaller unit once i get this one finished, so i guess the price range for that will be about $250 so asking you guys how much you would pay is great for my market research.

like u guys said if its only an thing you do a couple of times a year its not really work buying one.

What i have found since using my proto-type screener is when i am taking soil away from a project i can screen it, meaning i am taking less away and bringing in less soil, this is saving me money.

Also i have mixed soil and compost together by adding 1 shovel of soil then 1 shovel of compost etc to use it for potting up.

There is another market i can use it for also but cannot say just yet.

Thanks again guys you have be really helpful

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 9:31PM
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$10 Steel Barrel
$23 Mesh at home depot
$16 Caster wheels from Princess Auto.
$4 Lag bolts
$6 2x4s

$59 total...

Here's my screener

It's wife-powered, and works rather well :)

When mounting the caster wheels, we spaced the input end wheels closer together to give the barrel a bit of angle. We then adjust depending on the material being screened by propping the rig up, or digging it in to increase/reduce the angle.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eso's Screener

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 12:58PM
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wfike(8, Atlanta, Ga.)

If I paid $500.00 for a screener it would have to sort my worms also.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 6:35PM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

What a great thread. I'm a dedicated sifter. I know there may be negligible value in sifting from a biological perspective, but sifted compost is easier to work with, and there's something about the sifting process that is satisfying, even therapeutic. That said, the therapy is in producing a nice finished product, not in the work required to get it! The idea of standing back sipping a beer while a machine does all the work is really sweet.

I've got an old table saw motor that I've been planning to use for a sifter, but just haven't quite gotten around to starting the project yet. I'm curious why your motor costs $200? I'm thinking my old table saw motor will probably have more than enough power and if memory serves, the entire table saw cost only about $120 when I bought it a decade ago.

Anyway, if I were in the market for one, it would have to be under the price point at which I would consider making one myself. That price would probably be about $100. If I could find a good wheelbarrow-scale sifter for $100 I'd buy it. Anything more than that and I'd just start experimenting and make one myself.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 9:51AM
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What you are talking about building sounds like something I've used in the concrete pumping trade. That is probably where you should look for compairison and markiting of the price range you are concidering. When pumping concrete for spraying shotcrete, you don't want to have large chunks get into the pumper. We used a vibrating screen over the pump hopper to keep those chunks out. This type of heavy duty screener sounds kinda like what you are talking about building.

comercial worm farms often use screeners as well for separating worms, castings and bedding though this application is pretty traumatic for the worms.

Perhaps such a screener would be appropriate to a company selling bagged finished compost but I'm sure it would need to be attached to different equipment than a wheelbarrow.

I don't personally know any gardener that would be willing to spend $200 for a screener just to screen their compost. Most of us only screen it for used in seedling mixes anyway so a cheep manual method works just fine.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 12:06PM
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crabjoe(z7 MD)

If I could get me a powered screener for under $200 that could do 3 tons an hour, I'd take it in a heartbeat!

The reason is because I've got so many rocks in my yard, it would be well worth the money to keep my back from breaking until the stones were gone.

BTW, I need one where I can use a front end loader to load the dirt with. Ain't no way I'd going to shovel an acre by head to sift out rocks.

Oh.. You could probably pick up a cheap electric motor from Harbor Freight for way less then $200. But then again, I have no idea what the HP requirement on something like this would be. You could probably get lawn mower gas motors cheap too. HF also has a 6.5HP B&S gas engine for $150.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 4:46PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Early on I sifted my compost a few times with some sort of old screen or metal mesh material. Took a lot of time and energy and for what? I have learned that screening compost is pointless and unnecessary. If you wind up with some unattractive big lumps on top of your garden, easy enough to pick out the few that bother you. Thus I wouldn't pay anything for a compost screener. Being easier to work with if screened, that isn't even true, the clumpy stuff falls through your fingers less. :-)


    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 2:39AM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

Marcia, try making a nice shallow furrow for carrot seeds in clumpy soil full of sticks and other chunks of partially digested organic matter. We'll make a sifter out of you yet! ;-)


    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 12:21PM
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I use my 6.5 HP chipper/shredder to make my compost into something that resembles black earth. No lumps or clumps even after removing the screen.
My compost pile is leaves dropped off by the city (10 cubic yards per load), grass clippings from our local prison, veggie scraps tossed on top with tree/shrub clippings, meat scraps thrust into the mound, and the occasional bucket of urine poured over the top for extra nitrogen.
My compost piles age 1-2 years before being used. After going through the chipper/shredder, they are completely pulverized.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 3:32PM
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Hum, another reason to get a chipper/shredder.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 7:32PM
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