You’ve seen them on the beaches of South Walton and elsewhere – ornate palaces and structures molded and carved from nothing but sand.
Anyone who watches a competition-level sandmaster at work is bound to get the sandcastle itch. You’ve probably even attempted a sandcastle or two only to find out it’s not as easy as it looks.
The good news is making an impressive sand castle requires only a few simple tools (OK, and maybe lots of practice.)
We can’t promise you’ll take top honors, but follow these simple steps and you’ll seriously step up your sandcastle game.
Gather the Gear
Building a sand castle is the original cheap thrill – you probably already have everything you need. You’ll be hauling a lot of water, so a 5-gallon bucket for each member of your building party is ideal. For shaping and molding, a small trowel, piece of 2×4, child’s plastic pail and a wooden spoon work well. And if you want to try some detailed carving, a spray bottle of water to moisten dry sand will come in handy. There are also some great sandcastle molds to buy these days for making towers and the like.
Location, location, location
Make sure you choose the right location. Fine-grained sand will compact better than coarse, so scout your beach carefully.
Look for bicycles: If you can bike on the beach, it’s probably suitable for building.
Now consider where you site your castle. You’ll want to be close to the shoreline –remember, you’ll need a lot of water – but build past the tide line. (You don’t want your creation washed away in a few hours, do you?)
Sketch the outline of your castle in the sand before you begin. This keeps your building on track, especially if you have a team of helpers on the project.
A solid foundation
And you’re ready to build! Start digging up wet sand from outside your perimeter line and mound it up inside.
If the sand isn’t wet enough, dig a hole to mix your own “sand cement,” using one part sand to one part water.
Now let the fun begin: Jump and stomp on your sand mound, packing it down. Keep adding wet sand and pound it down, until you have your first floor as high as you want it. Level it off with your 2×4 or trowel.
Walls and More
Mound up more wet sand for walls. Using your shovel’s backside, firmly pack the sand to form your walls to give your castle structure.
An extra 5-gallon bucket with the bottom cut out is perfect for building towers. Add smaller walls – like odd spaces between towers – by dropping in handfuls of wet sand. Let it harden for a minute, then firmly press with your hands or a small shovel.
Use your hand tools to smooth and shape surfaces, and add details like windows, doorways and wall texture. (Remember to give dry sand a good spritz with your spray bottle before you attempt to carve details.)
Let your imagination run wild. Keep practising and the sky’s the limit for your sand castle – after all, you’ve got a whole beach to build on.
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M.J. GRENZOW is a freelance writer who loves the beach and super-fast recipes that remind her of the water. When she’s not actually at the beach, she’s plotting her next escape to sand and surf.