A Simple Homemade
Compost Riddle

Dateline: 8 May 2013

Hand-crafted riddles

Last fall I happened upon this audio slideshow featuring Mike Turnock, the last riddle maker in the UK. That's Mike in the picture below, and he made the riddles in the picture above. 

Mike Turnock with one of his riddles.

Since the slideshow link above was published to the internet, Mr. Turnock has found someone to pass the craft and business on to. The company has a web site HERE.

Old handcrafts appeal to me. When I watched that slideshow last fall, I wanted to make riddles to. I wanted to be the only handcrafted wooden riddle maker in the United States. There is an opportunity right there for some enterprising American.

But I'm crafting products every day in my small rural workshop. And I still intend to start up an American-made wooden clothespin company, like I've talked about here in the past.

But I still wanted to make a small compost sifter/riddle for myself. As much as I'd like to make a round riddle, I just didn't have the time to do that for one sifter. So I made the sifter shown below.

My homemade compost riddle

My riddle measures 16" square. The sides are 3" high. The strips of wood on the bottom that hold the 1/4" hardware cloth in place are 1/4" thick.

Note the four support wires

Mike Turnock's round riddles have support wires under the screen mesh. Those support wires make a lot of sense and I made sure to put similar support wires under my screen, as you can see in the picture above (click to see an enlarged view).

I used common pine for the wood. And I coated it with a liberal amount of homemade beeswax-turpentine-linseed oil paste. 

I used my new riddle for the first time the other day. I needed just a little sifted compost. It worked really fine. Maybe not as well as a round riddle, but good enough.


Anonymous said...

These would be great for saving seeds, especially if one could incorporate calibrated mesh sizes into different stackable round riddles. How is tension applied around the perimeter during construction? I've made many a sieve and drying rack (e.g. for garlic) and that is a perennial problem. Nice tight mesh makes for a good tool. Brian in Quebec

Herrick Kimball said...


The 1/4" galvanized hardware cloth in a 16" square frame doesn't need tensioning, like, for example, lighter-gauge screen. And the underlying support wires were pulled very tight with pliers before screwing them down. I think the support wires would be especially important if using thinner screen.

Anonymous said...

Now i know what I have been using all these years!
I have used these for screening out rocks/sticks from my garden soil/compost etc...