Build Your Own
Archaeological/Garden Shaker Sifter

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Many gardeners find the type of shaker sifter commonly used in archaeological digs extremely handy for sifting soil or compost. It's been called an archaeological sifter, garden sifter, compost sifter, sifting screen, or soil sifter, depending on the use to which an individual puts it.

The sifter operates by swinging the sifter box up parallel to the ground, balanced on the leg stand while the user holds it up (or braces it with one's hip to use two hands in the box). The box is agitated briskly back and forth to sift the contents.

I built this one for Michelle's 50th birthday after visiting Aly at one of her archaeological field schools. I searched the Internet for plans, but was unable to find any, so I made mine up as I went along, working off photos I'd taken of the sifters used in the field and adjusting as personal taste and need dictated.

If you're very handy, you can no doubt do the same. However, most people would prefer to work off instructions, so I've formalized the plans I created for sale here. My set of instructions produces a sturdy, handsome sifter that should provide years of use for less than $40 in materials. With basic carpentry skills and proper tools, it can be built in about 5 hours.

After building a second sifter for a friend, I improved the plans. They're now easier to use, more accurate, and offer an alternative bracing arrangement that allows the tool to fold flat for storage.

A set of instructions costs $19.99 and will be delivered electronically in Adobe PDF format, attached to an email from Yeldagalga Publications, LLC.

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Email if you'd rather send a personal check.


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