1/8 inch hardware cloth is perfect. See if you can find this at a hardware store. It used to be pretty common, but it is getting harder to find in this smaller size. Just nail or staple it to a simple wooden frame and you have a great and inexpensive sifter.
Make three frames and use different sized screens, then stack them, the larger sized screen on top and the smallest on the bottom. In this way you do it all at once, and if you catch the fines on the bottom, save them for mame, moss, and muck.
I went to several hardware stores, a different Fleet Farm, and a Wild Birds store looking for the 1/8" size hardware cloth. I must've talked to twelve individuals who looked like they would know about such things. Not one had ever seen that size. Must be a midwest thing. I'll keep looking though, I'm sure I'll come across it eventually.
That's a great idea, just as soon as I find the right screen.
I found 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch hardware cloth at both Lowe's and Home Depot here in NC. I've found the cloth in two different places. Sometimes it's outside in the Garden center with the dog kennel and fencing and I've also found it inside in the lumber section and the hardware section.
I built two wood frames as Brent suggested. I also stack them as Will mentioned. Instead of three different size screens I'm only using two. To screen the fines I actually use the screen cloth used for screened doors or screened porches. I believe this is about 1/16 inch probably. So, for instance, when I screen pine bark soil conditioner I stack the 1/4 inch screen on top of the 1/16 inch screen and sift. Lift out the big stuff with the 1/4 screen and let the fines fall through the 1/16. Seems to work fairly well.
This is a set of sifters and rocker base that I built a while ago. I used 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 inch screen. I found all the hardware cloth at True Value Hardware. I thought about making a fourth using 1/16 screen but thought material this small would be too fine.
Should I rethink this? Is material 1/16>1/8 usable?
I've found it here in Austin, TX at Home Depot and Lowe's. Keep looking, you'll find it.
I screwed fence pickets (after sawing off the pointed tip) into a frame shape and stapled the screen on with a staple gun. I made 4 different sized frames so they would nest and I could store them easily. Screen sizes are: 1/2", 1/4", 1/8" and window screen. The window screen is on the largest frame so I can set the larger screen size on top (catty-corner) and catch the "good stuff" in between, just like Will suggests.
Thanks Irene. The nesting was a matter of necessity in the tiny duplex I used to live in.
The smallest frame is about 1 foot square. I built that one first and then built the bigger ones around it leaving about an 1/8th to a quarter inch clearance all around. The garden pickets are about 1 1/2" x 3/4" in width and thickness. These are light weight and I can process an amazing amount of material quickly. My arms and back suffer though . I really like the rocker frame that Pioneersnt built! My wife saw me looking at the picture and said "Uh oh, guess we're going to Home Depot".
The soil sifters that I have seen that are sold from Japan you can only use one screen at a time, by making your own you can use 3 or more screen at one time.
I made frames with 1/4", 1/8", and screen wire (1/16"), 12" square and 2" deep, to sift soil many years ago and they are still being used today. I stack them up 1/16" on the bottom, 1/8" in the middle and the 1/4" on top, put the dry, must be very dry, soil component in the 1/4" shake well, get rid of what remains on the 1/4" hardware cloth and what goes through the screen wire (1/16").You will end up with 1/4" soil components and 1/8" soil components, you can mix them together for main soil or use the 1/8" for small trees.
Each soil component is done separate and mixed as needed ( 1/3 turface, 1/3 composted pine bark, 1/3 river sand ETC.).
Window screen and 1/4" hardware cloth are easy to find at you hardware store, Lowe's and Home Depot, here is a link for 1/8" hardware cloth that is used for Bee hives, it is much harder to find and you do not need a whole roll of it. http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/sto....html?osCsid=3d2a968ef94b892ef5ba525d77312c65