How to Build a Soil Sifter

A Soil Sifter Can Save Time in Cleaning Soil and Removing Stones and Debris

By Mark J. Donovan

When working in the yard it’s not uncommon to have to pick through soil to remove stones and other debris. I recently went through this hassle when I installed my new above ground pool. The old marble crush stoned that surrounded the pool was dug up and thrown on the lawn and loose topsoil adjacent to the pool.

As I was picking through the topsoil removing the stones, I remember a contraption my father built decades ago. It was a soil sifter constructed out of some 2x3s, wire mesh and plywood. He would position the soil sifter over a wheel barrow and then shovel the soil on top of it.

Once he had several shovelfuls of soil on top of the soil sifter, the two of us would shake the soil sifter back and forth and side to side. In the process the clean soil would filter through the 1/4 inched spaced mesh and the rocks and debris would stay on top. In a relatively short period of time we could produce a reasonable amount of clean soil to place back into the garden or lawn.

Materials and Tools Required to Build a Soil Sifter

To build a soil shifter, again all you need for materials are a couple of 8 foot 2x3s, some 1/4” spaced wire mesh screen, a 4’x4’ sheet of ¼” thick plywood, some staples and 1-1/4” non-corrosive screws. For tools all you need is a skill saw, staple gun, screw gun, wood glue, wire cutters, measuring tape and pencil.

You can build a soil sifter as large as you like, however I remember the one my father built being about 3’x3’. This size was large enough to rest comfortably on the wheelbarrow yet small enough for us to lift and shake with a load of soil on it.

To build the soil sifter frame cut 4 lengths of 2x3s each 3 feet in length. Then using your skill saw cut lap joints on each end of the lengths of 2x3s so that you create a perfect frame. Apply some wood glue to each lap joint and fasten the pieces together with wood screws 1-1/4” in length.

Use the wire cutters to cut out a piece of wire mesh that is nearly as wide as the frame, preferably so that each end of the frame extends out beyond the wire mesh by about ¼ inch.

Attach the wire mesh to the wood frame using your staple gun and staples. In the process of fastening the wire mesh screen to the wood frame try to keep the mesh fairly tight.

To ensure the wire mesh is securely fastened to the frame cut strips of plywood so that they traverse the perimeter of the soil sifter frame and cover the wire mesh that rests on the 2x3s.

A soil sifter will ensure you have no large rocks or debris in your garden soil.

Again, use your screw gun and 1-1/4 inch screws to fasten the plywood to the 2x3s. Install screws every few inches along the perimeter of the soil sifter frame.

Once you’ve fastened the plywood to the 2×3 rails your soil sifter is ready for use.

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