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How to Make a Bucket Screen for Separating Ball Mill Media From Milled Material

This article on making a bucket screen, by Ned Gorski, is a side article that goes with the Ball Milling 101 article.

How to Make a Bucket Screen for Separating Media and Material

Here are the plans for a really useful addition to one's milling arsenal, a separating bucket-screen.

I start with 4 plastic, 5 gallon buckets, with the handles removed from them, and set one bucket aside. That will be the catch bucket that the milled material falls into as it is separated from the milling media.

Tools and 3 Buckets to be Modified
Tools and 3 Buckets to be Modified

Using the tape measure, a Sharpie (magic marker), drill and jigsaw, I then cut bottoms of two of the buckets off 9-1/2" down from the top. I cut the third bucket off down 3" from the top, just below the last 'rib' on the outside.

Then I mark and cut a circle out of the 1/4" mesh wire hardware cloth that I bought, about 24" x 48". This circle is 3" larger in radius than the bottom of one of the buckets, or 16-1/2" in diameter.

Cutting a 16 and a half Diameter Circle Out of the Screen
Cutting a 16 1/2" Diameter Circle Out of the Screen

I cut some slices 2-1/2" into the edge of the screen, about every 1-1/2".

2 and a half inch Long Slices Being Cut Into Edge of Screen
2-1/2" Long Slices Being Cut Into Edge of Screen

Then, using gloved hands, I mold the screen onto the bottom of one of the 9-1/2" long buckets.

Screen Folded onto One 9 and a half inch Long Bucket
Screen Folded onto One 9-1/2" Long Bucket

Now, I push the other 9-1/2" long bucket down over the one with the screen folded onto it, sandwiching the screen between the two cut-off buckets. I then slide the 3" tall bucket section down onto the whole assembly. I drill 3/16" holes into the middle of that 3" bucket section, about every 3" to 4", making sure that the holes penetrate all 3 bucket sections and the sandwiched screen.

I then install 3/4"-11/16" long x 3/16" diameter pop-rivets into those holes, from the inside. These rivets pull the whole assembly together and lock the screen in place.

Pop-rivets       Pop-riveting
Rivets and Riveting

When the media and material are being poured into this separation screen, the screen takes a beating. It can wear out over time. So, to preserve the life of the assembly, I make one more little component. I cut a circle out of the screen just a tad larger than the inside of the bucket where the screen is locked into it. Then I push this 'sacrificial' piece of screen down onto the embedded screen, locking it into place.

Cutting Reinforcement Screen   Locking Reinforcement Screen into Place
Cutting the Reinforcing Screen and Locking it into Place

And that's it, the completed separation bucket assembly. The final 3" bucket ring that was installed keeps the separation bucket-screen from settling too far into the receiving bucket so that it can be easily removed after the separation of the media and material.

Materials Needed
  • Drill
  • Hardware Cloth: 1/4", 24"x48"
  • Jigsaw
  • Plastic Bucket: 4 pcs., 5 gallons
  • Pop-rivets: 3/4"-11/16" long x 3/16" diameter
  • Tape Measure
  • Sharpie Marker
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