How to build the perfect sandcastle
A day on the beach will never be dull again with our step-by-step guide to creating your own show-stopping sandcastles. Just add water Cool Minecraft Sand Castle and buckets of imagination

Sat 1 Aug 2009 00.00 BST
First published on Sat 1 Aug 2009 00.00 BST

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The sand sculpture festival at Blankenberge
The sand sculpture festival at Blankenberge Photograph: PETER DECONINCK/AFP/Getty Images
1. The basics

The list of ingredients for creating a simple sandcastle is misleadingly short: sand, Cool minecraft houses water and a few digging and carving tools.

Sand

The first and most important thing you need to know about sand is that you can't do a thing with it unless it's wet. Here's why: when you add water to grains of sand, the liquid forms "bridges" that connect the granules to one another. This is why damp sand sticks together, so you can shape and carve it.

Packing down or "tamping" wet sand drains more water more quickly, creating even shorter bridges and an even more solid clump. Sand that has been compacted in this way can be subjected to extreme carving.

Water

1 Use lots of water. Dry sand in its natural state is lazy stuff. It wants to lie down and spread out into all sorts of nooks and crannies. The good news is that as long as you keep gravity working for you, there is really no way to add too much water. Which brings us to our second rule.

2 Let it drain. If you've ever tried to make the base of a sandcastle by filling a plastic bucket with wet sand and then trying to unmould it, you've seen how important this rule is. With no place for the excess water to drain off, the sand makes a sucking, Cool Minecraft Roman Villa sticking, vacuum seal with the plastic and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to remove the bucket.

This is why successful sand sculptors do not use plastic buckets or other closed moulds but build their shapes by stacking handfuls of wet sand or by tamping it down in a topless and bottomless form.

3 Compact the wet sand to form structures. "Pounding sand into submission" is an intuitive and time-honoured method of strengthening and tightening those bridges that hold the grains together. You can use your hands or feet, or even a tamper, to compact wet sand.

Dig a water hole

If you're building at the beach, the best way to obtain an unlimited supply of H2O is by digging a self-replenishing water hole. Start digging.

Keep digging until you hit water. Don't worry about how wide the hole is – you're aiming for depth, not width. The hole will get wider as you pull wet sand from its depths. Keep in mind that you're digging a well here, not a moat. When the water starts puddling at the bottom of your hole, you can stop digging.

The fail-safe recipe for castle concrete is one part sand to one part water. Pour the water in the big bucket first, then shovel in the dry sand for easier blending. Mix thoroughly and you're ready to scoop.

Pile the sand you excavate for your water hole into a mound about 1ft from the edge of the hole. Pack your mound of sand into a round, level base that is 2-3ft in diameter. This will serve as the foundation for your castle, giving you some added height and providing drainage for all the water you're going to use in construction.
2. The Equipment

You can, of course, dig, shape, smooth and even carry water with nothing but your own two hands. But having the right equipment will make your sandcastling experience infinitely more pleasurable. Here are the essentials:

A long-handled, lightweight shovel

If your goal is to achieve any kind of altitude – and it is! – you're going to do some serious digging. If you have the opportunity to bring or buy one object, make it a shovel, ideally a long-handled model with a small scoop. The sand-sculpture task that feels the most like work is digging the hole and mounding up the sand. A little garden spade is better than nothing.

A bucket or two

If you can't dig down to water you'll need at least two buckets: one to mix the sand and water in and one to carry water.

Carving tools

You could probably find most of these buried in kitchen drawers and toolboxes. Smoothing and shaping tools: at a minimum, find yourself an old kitchen (or plastic) knife with the tip broken off. For basic shaping, almost anything with a thin blade and straight edge will work such as putty knives, paint scrapers and trowels. The best all-round shaping tool for your kit is something with an offset handle. A pastry knife with a squared-off end (they usually come rounded) is ideal. Finishing tools: at a minimum, find yourself a soft-bristled paintbrush and a plastic drinking straw. The brush will come in handy for smoothing surfaces and the straw works well for blowing loose sand out of detailed carving. In an emergency, you can make a pretty good set of tools out of plastic eating utensils.

3. The building methods

1 – Soft-packing

Soft-packing is how the majority of the uninitiated approach sand.

Step 1 Mound up a big pile of sand.

Step 2 Stabilise the pile. Using the long handle of your shovel, poke a lot of deep holes into the pile then pour buckets of water into the holes. Stomp on the pile until it feels very solid beneath you. If necessary, go back and poke more holes and add more water.

Step 3 Pack and shape. Working from the tallest element in your composition, pack the shape with your hands until it feels stable. Take handfuls of moist sand, push them into place and roughly shape them.

Step 4 Carve and smooth. Using your smoothing tool, smooth and define the elements of your composition.

Step 5 Moisten as necessary. The longer you work on your composition, the more your sand sculpture will dry out – you must keep it moist.

Step 6 Keep pushing and smoothing.

Step 7 Work your way down the pile.

2 – Hand-stacking

When you're tired of crawling around a soft-packed sculpture on your hands and knees, you will be ready to try hand-stacking. It takes practice but once you master the mix-scoop-plop-flatten-jiggle move, you'll be building the best castles on the beach. The method is just a modified dribble technique using larger handfuls of sand – very large, very wet handfuls.

Hand-stacking involves scooping out handfuls of wet sand and helping them settle into each other in order to form structures. It's the only building technique in which you mix the sand and water in advance. With soft-packing, you start moulding with dry sand and then add water.

The most difficult aspect of hand-stacking is that it's less intuitive than soft-packing; many people have an instinctual urge to pound the sand into submission. Hand-stacking is a great way to involve the whole family in a sand-sculpture project, with duties evenly divided between "stackers" and "carvers".

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