Ya'll don't know how long I've waited to get a proper sifter for Al's pine bark fines recipe! I've collected all sorts of scrap wood and hardware cloth, and was getting closer and closer to trying to put one together.
Well, this is what I picked up on the curb, in my favorite recycling neighborhood, on the way in this morning...
God is sooooooooooooooooo very good to me!
I'm gonna put some handles on it, and call it "Benjamin!"
Well, you can tell better than I how sturdily it is built. I was sifting gravel, dirt and tree bark, sometimes using the back of a rake to spare my hands some. What you are sifting may not be so heavy duty. Give it a try before 'fixing something that isn't broken." Great score though.
Long time, no talk to! Glad you can see my score. Been a LOOOOOOOOOOONGGG time.
And, guess what? You just give the gift that keeps on giving, cuz there's a new DGer named LindaM777 from north HOUSTON, who's into container succulents. I managed to stop her before she filled all her containers with potting soil, and am about to explain your Gritty Mix?, 5-1-1 mix for her containers!!!!
M aybe just start gently with it. If you pile up so much that it sags and stretches, you either need to screen less bark at one time or reinforce somehow.
The only way I can think is to lay it OVER slats or a wire shelf so that the hardware cloth rests on slats or thicker wires.
That looks like around 1/2". Or 1"? Anything it holds back even briefly is too big for many uses. If that seems true, you can prop the frame at a 30-50 degree angle and just let the bark flow down it. Then only the smallest stuff will go through on one pass. And you don't have heav y piles of bark strecthing the screen, or the weight of a rake.
You might want to lay a piece of 1/4" hardware cloth on top of your nice screen. Use that to remove small fibers and dust.
Al pointed out once that lots of usable pieces will still fall through 1/4" screen, if I recall. When I started with dusty, small-fiber "mulch", I wnated to get rid of as much small stuff as I could (bujt still had lots). Now that I start with coarse, clean "n uggets", I do wnat to keep muc h of the "fine stuff" that passes through 1/4" screen. But the only "1/8" screen I have , has a funny weave, and it hardly passes anything. Maybe that isn't really 1/8" screen, becuase it seems muc h finer than real 10 mesh cloth.
Holy cow. that is a fine mesh. My home made one is 1/4". Hadn't thought about tipping it . I nailed 2x4's in a window frame shape then put the screen over the frame. I nailed lathe on the frame to hold the mesh evenly. Then added legs, so when it is tipped upright the stuff I am sifting (up to 1" rock along with pea gravel, bark and dirt in the beginning) is held by the frame. In the spring when the boxes thaw (heaven only knows when that will be - thank heavens they are black to generate heat) I think I will dump them into the frame bit by bit to see if I have anything usable.
I found several sections of industrial steel shelving with the rungs spaced about 3/4" apart. That close spacing supports my hardware cloth or even flimsy chicken wire just fine.
I can pile on whatever I'm screening and rub hard with the back of a rack or my hands without worrying about the chicken wire stretching.
If the shelf is laid on top of a wheelbarrow to catch the screened stuff, I have to flip the coarse stuff off onto a tarp laid alongside. (I usually do it that way to screen cleanly, for example pine bark for buckets or seedling mix.)
For rough-screening clay or half-finished compost or crummy bark mulch as a soil amendment, I prop up one end of the shelving up on cinder blocks, or cinder blocks on top of a stump.
I can process more clay in one batch if I also prop up the bottom edge a little. This creates more volume under the screen so I can sieve several wheelbarrows-full before I have to move the shelving or shovel the screened stuff to one side.
Sometimes I mix amendments into the clay AS I screen it. 4-8 shovels of clay, one of grit, 1-2 of bark, one of manure or compost, for example.
I haven't figured out how to make the "1/8th inch" mesh work. My desire is to remove dust and real fine fibers from what passes through 1/4" mesh. I want bark chunks that are 1/8" or 1/10th " , but not 16th inch. Anything that fine in a seedling mix, I would rather take from store-bought seedling mix or potting mix ... probably peat-based, but better peat than the "peat powder" I see in most HD bags.
I'm not sifting for 'fines' but have found a pretty good finely chipped bark for my general potting. I kind of 'pan' it and pick of the big pieces that surface.
You know those heavy plastic racks they move bread packages on? About 2 1/2 feet square, with couple inches edge and heavy 'mesh' bottom? I scored two of those from behind a bankrupt convenience store. Great sifters. Or to carry things with. Or shelf that drains. It was good for drying my sweet potato harvest.
I rarely sift my compost anymore. I rake off the top and shovel from the good part, and pick out just the biggest chunks.