How to Make Your Own Dirt Sifter

Posted on: 26 April 2017

If you enjoy collecting stones or even searching through topsoil for treasures that were left behind, then having a dirt sifter certainly comes in handy. However, these apparatuses can be quite expensive if you look for them in stores. An alternative is to make your own dirt sifter from wire mesh, some wood, and a few screws. Follow these steps, and you'll have a dirt strainer made in an hour or two.

You'll need:

  • One square of 18 mesh, measuring about 14 x 14 inches
  • One square of 40 mesh, measuring about 14 x 14 inches
  • 16 feet of 1 x 1 inch lumber
  • 32 1 1/2 inch screws
  • Wood glue
  • Wire cutters

If you're unfamiliar with how mesh is sized, "18 mesh" refers to mesh that has 18 openings per square inch. Similarly, 40 mesh has 40 openings per square inch. The higher the mesh number, the finer the mesh. So, in this case, you'll need one square of coarser 18 mesh and one of finer 40 mesh. Companies like Midwestern Industries Inc can help you further.

Pine is inexpensive and therefore a good choice for this project, but if you want your dirt sifter to be very durable, you may want to choose a harder wood like oak or hickory.


  1. Cut the wood into 16 even segments. Each should be 1 foot long.
  2. Make a square out of four of the wood segments. Apply wood glue to the edges of the wood that meet up.
  3. Put a screw through each corner to hold the square together. 
  4. Place one square of mesh over the square which you just made out of wood.
  5. Place another four pieces of wood on top of the mesh, forming another square frame directly on top of the first square frame. The mesh should be between the two square frames.
  6. Drive eight screws through the top pieces of wood and into the bottom pieces of wood. (Place one in each corner and one half way down each piece of wood.)
  7. You now have one filly assembled half of the sifter system. Repeat steps 1 - 6 to create another sifter using the remaining 8 pieces of wood and the other piece of mesh.

To use your sifter, place the strainer with the 18 mesh on top of the strainer with the 40 mesh. Place your dirt on top, and pick up both screens, shaking them back and forth. The largest items should get trapped on top of the 40 mesh, and the smaller treasures should get trapped on top of the 18 mesh. The dirt should fall through.