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Worm Harvester

Build your own worm harvester and easily separate your worms from the rich, organic fertilizer they produce.

Worms are one of the most beneficial and easiest creatures to raise on a homestead, rural or urban. Not only do they convert all kinds of organic waste into one of the richest natural fertilizers for your garden, they are also a high protein treat for chickens, pigs, fish or other animals.

There are several kinds of worm bins, all easily made yourself at home. The type you want depends on your needs. There are many instances when you might want to take out some worms – for animals, for “seeding” garden patches so that they can aerate and fertilize a spot directly, or for fishing. This is where a worm harvester comes in. You can pick out a few worms by hand whenever you want, but periodically you will need to give them new bedding and take out the rich soil they have created, and a worm harvester makes this task considerably easier and faster. You just pass all of the soil through the harvester, collect the worms and put them back into their home with new bedding.

We have gone through a couple of different designs of worm harvesters, but we find this one to be the sturdiest and quickest.

Materials & Tools
wormharvester-materials1
wormharvester-materials2
Materials

5 gallon Bucket

19” x 39” piece of ¼” Hardware Cloth

Tie Wire

60” of 1” Metal Pipe

39” of 3/8” All thread

5 x 8 feet pieces of 1”x2” Lumber

40” of 2”x4” Lumber

40” x 130” piece of Tarp

2x Broom Handles

Sheet Metal

Worm Collection Vessel (a 5 gallon bucket works well)

3” Wood Screws

1 ½” Wood Screws

½” Metal to Metal Screws

3/8” Nuts and Washers

Washer to fit the Metal Pole

Tools

Hacksaw

Box Cutter

Channel locks

Drill & Bits (7/16”, 1/8”)

Wood saw

Scissors

Marker

1 ½” Hole saw

 

Step 1: Bucket
  1. Remove the bucket’s handle by cutting the plastic that holds it in place and prying it open with the channel locks.
  2. With the hacksaw, cut off the end of the bucket about ¾” up from the bottom.
  3. With the hacksaw, cut the remaining part of the bucket in half.
  4. Invert the bottom half of the bucket, so that the cylinder flares out at both ends and the skinniest part of each half faces towards each other.
  5. Drill two 1/8” holes close together every 3” or so around the circumference of each half of the bucket, about ¾” in from the inside (skinniest) edge.
  6. Make small Us out of tie wire and use them to sew the 19” x 39” piece of ¼” hardware cloth to each half of the bucket and to itself, forming a long cylinder. The bucket halves want to be 16” apart.
  7. Place your bucket cylinder on a flat, level surface. Draw a line (A) from one end of the cylinder to the other. Then draw another line (B) directly underneath, or opposite, this first one. If you were to cut along these lines, you would cut the cylinder in half length-ways.
  8. Along Line A, make one mark 3” from the outside edge of the larger half of the bucket and another 23” from the first mark. Using a 7/16” drill bit, drill these two holes.
  9. Along Line B, make one mark 3” from the outside edge of the larger half of the bucket and another 23” from the first mark. Using a 7/16” drill bit, drill these two holes.

 

Step 2: Pole supports
  1. Using the hacksaw, cut an 11” and two 14” lengths of 3/8” all-thread.
  2. Using the hacksaw, cut a 51” and a 9” length of 1” pipe.
  3. Starting at one end of the pipe, make a mark at 2 ½”(W), 7”(X) and 30”(Y) (there should be 23” in between X and Y). Then make a third mark (Z) about 1 ½” from the other end of the pipe. All four marks should be in the same plane.
  4. Using a 7/16” drill bit, drill X, Y and Z, all the way through the pipe.
  5. Using a 1/8” drill bit, drill W all the way through the pipe. This hole will be dealt with towards the end of the instructions in 5a, when putting the worm harvester together.
  6. Place the pipe inside the cylinder, lining up X and Y with the holes made in the two halves of the bucket.
  7. Place a 14” piece of all-thread through the first hole in Line A, then through a 3/8” nut and washer, then through X, then through another 3/8” washer and nut, and finally through the first hole on Line B. Put a 3/8” washer and nut on both ends of the all-thread, on the outside of the cylinder. Tighten the bolts either side of the pipe to hold it in the center. Repeat this process for the second holes marked on the cylinder and Y.
  8. Using a 7/16” drill bit, drill a hole about 1” from one end of the 9” length of pipe.
  9. Place one end of the 11” length of all-thread through the third hole (Z) made on the 51” piece of pipe.  Put a 3/8” washer and nut either side of the pipe and tighten.
  10. Place the other end of the 11” length of all-thread through the hole made in the 9” piece of pipe. Put a 3/8” washer and nut either side of the pipe and tighten.

 

Step 3: Frame
  1. Cut 4 pieces of lumber, 31” long. These are the long horizontals.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of lumber, 22” long. These are the short horizontals.
  3. Cut 4 pieces of lumber, 45” long. These are the verticals.
  4. Place two of the 45” boards on a flat surface, 31” apart. The 2” of the 2×1 should be face up, making the total length 35”. Make two marks on each board, one 6” from the top and the other 6” from the bottom.
  5. Place two 31” boards in between the vertical boards, above each of the marks just made. Pre-drill and screw together.
  6. Square this panel and then screw in a short board diagonally across two of its corners to hold the square and add support. To do this, place the short piece of lumber on top of the vertical and horizontal boards where you want it to go. Mark the outside edge where the short board crosses the panel and cut along these lines. Put it back in place and screw it to the panel.
  7. Make a mark on each vertical board, 8” up from the bottom.
  8. Repeat d through g for the other long panel.
  9. Stand these two panels up. Connect by screwing the 22” horizontal boards in between the panels 8” from the bottom.
  10. Square the frame and then screw in a short board diagonally across two of its corners to hold the square and add support, as you did in 3f.
  11. Cut one 22” piece of 2×4”.
  12. Using the 1 ½” hole saw, drill a hole through the center of this board. Do not drill straight down, as the holes wants to be slightly angled – it will hold the pole of the bucket cylinder, which needs to be at an angle instead of level.
  13. Screw the board in between the long panels, 26” up from the bottom. This is the downhill end of your worm harvester.
  14. Cut a 24” length of 1×2 and a 25 ½” length of 2×4. You will be using these on the uphill end of your worm harvester (the other short side from 3m).
  15. Screw the 1×2 horizontally across this uphill end 29” up from the bottom, so that it connects the two long panels together but does not go in between them.
  16. Using the 1 ½” hole saw, drill a hole through the 2×4 very close to one end of the board in the center. You then need to cut through the board to the hole, so that instead of having a hole in the board, you have a large U. This will make it easier to put in and remove the cylinder.
  17. Sit this 2×4 vertically on top of the horizontal board that is 8” up from the bottom. Screw it into this board and then into the 1×2 that is 29” up from the bottom.

 

Step 4: Collection tarp
  1. Cut a piece of tarp or fabric, 40” x 130”.
  2. Place a broom handle on one 40” end of the tarp. Fold the edge of the tarp over the broom handle and staple it to itself, holding the handle inside. Repeat for the other end of the tarp with the other broom handle.
  3. Put this tarp inside the harvester frame, with the broom handles over the horizontal boards that are 6” down from the top. Tuck up the ends a little to stop the worm poop that you collect from escaping.

 

Step 5: Insert cylinder
  1. Make a long U out of a piece of tie wire.. Put one end of the U through the small hole you made in the pipe, called W. Twist the ends og the U together so that it cannot fall out.
  2. Put the pipe washer onto the end of the pipe and push it against the tie wire U.
  3. Place this end of the pipe inside the frame, through the hole in the horizontal 2×4.
  4. Lower the other end of the pipe down into the open hole on the vertical 2×4.
  5. Turn the bucket cylinder using the handle. If it doesn’t move freely you may need to ream out the holes in the 2x4s a little. Also make sure that the tarp doesn’t catch on the cylinder – if it does, tuck it into the frame

 

Step 6: Funnels

These funnels are not absolutely essential, but they do make the harvesting process go a lot more smoothly. One is the bottom, or worm collection funnel, the other is the top, or feeder funnel.

  1. Cut a piece of sheet metal, 12” x 22”. Turn in the two corners of one of the 22” edges. On the other 22” edge make a mark in the center and bend the metal at that point. Bend the metal until the two ends touch each other and then screw it to itself. Then screw the two corners that you bent a little up into the horizontal 2×4 of the downhill end of the harvester.
  2. Cut a 24” and two 3” lengths of 1×2. Make a mark 1” up from the bottom of one side of both the 3” pieces of wood. Draw a line from this mark diagonally up and across to the 3” on the other side of both pieces. Cut along these lines.
  3. Screw the 24” piece of wood down onto the diagonal part of the 3” chunks, with a chunk at each end of the 24” board.
  4. Bend a piece of sheet metal into a funnel shape, so that the underside has a long tail. Screw this funnel into the 24” 1×2.
  5. Place this wood with funnel onto the top of the harvester at the uphill side. The two 3” chunks should fit snugly on the outside of the frame, holding it in place. You can also put some screws into the lumber to act as stoppers.

You are now ready to use your new worm harvester. Note that it always speeds up the process if the soil you are putting in is not too moist, but just a bit dry.

Place a 5 gallon bucket under the worm collection funnel. Add your worms and their poop to the feeder funnel, a little at a time, and turn the handle of the bucket cylinder steadily. You want to be turning the cylinder at about 1-2 revolutions per second. Fertilizer will fall through the hardware cloth onto the tarp, worms and uneaten food will collect in the bucket. Dump the fertilizer into a storage container, or directly on your garden. Your worms can go back into a box with fresh bedding.

It’s never been easier to collect your worms!


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