Crudely depositing a bucket of sand on the beach and calling it a ‘castle,’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. The bar has been raised by professional sand architects – with names like ‘The Sand Guys’ or ‘Archisand’ – that create enormous and fantastical tableaus out of sand and water. What’s more, they are making money doing so. Competitions, such as the U.S. Sandcastle Open in San Diego, offer over $21,000 in prizes each summer.
While a certain degree of artistic ability is required to make something that will get you recognised in the world of sand sculpturing, creating something for yourself that looks half-decent is still within the grasp of many of us. You will need tools, though, and the more thought you put into the ones you get, the easier the job will be. And while you might not like the attention you’ll draw to yourself by starting up a petrol-powered rammer on the beach (or the £1,800 price tag), you can get started with the bare necessities and just a few pounds of investment.
Step 1: Picking the perfect spot
The first job is to find the perfect spot on the beach to build your sculpture. You obviously want to do it where there’s enough space, and close enough to the waves so that getting up and down the beach with water isn’t a massive pain. Also, you’ll need to make sure that the sand is the right consistency to build on, try and aim for a spot that’s close to where the harder, wetter sand meets the finer stuff.
Step 2: It’s all about the base
When you’ve built up your base you’re then ready to start forming your structure. In our list of tools, we’ve recommended bringing a couple of buckets with you, and if you cut the bottom out of one of them then it makes the perfect tool for building towers. You can fill up the bucket (making sure the sand is damp enough to keep the structure’s shape, and then simply lift the bucket off of it.
Step 3: Adding the detail
Once you’re happy with the shape then it’s time to add detail, and that’s when your tools will come in handy. You can use the wider ones for shaping and smoothing the edges (and making pathways) and then the smaller ones are ideal for adding brickwork, patterns and doorways. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can use sand to retouch imperfections or use the brush to sweep the error away.
Step 4: Neat and tidy
As you’re cutting into the sand you’ll notice that a lot will be falling out, collecting at the edges and making everything a little messy, and that’s where the tubing comes in. The sand should be light enough to be blown out of the way with ease. If you need anything for more stubborn removals, though, or just need to smarten up some of the edges, then the brush is perfect for that.
Tools Of The Trade
Belle RTX Rammer
If you have oodles of money and are determined to become a pro then you might want to invest in a rammer, as the more compact you make the damp sand, the more likely it’ll all stay in one place.
The Belle RTX Rammer costs £1,800/$2,600. For more information, visit bellegroup.com.
Aqua2Go Water Sprayer
If you want your sandcastle to last more than a few minutes then you’re going to have to keep it wet. So you can use this sprayer to lightly douse your masterpiece and ‘glue’ it together.
The Aqua2Go Water Sprayer costs£110/$160. For more information, visit aqua2go.eu.
You can scoop out circles from your sculpture with a small spoon, sure, but a much neater, easier and mess-free way of doing it is with a humble, yet surprisingly accurate, melon baller.
You can pick up a melon baller for as little as £3/$5 from amazon.com.
Straws work fine too, but all the pros use surgical tubing to gently blow away any loose sand from their designs. The extra length lets you get into hard-to-reach areas.
You can pick up surgical tubing for as little as £6/$8 from amazon.com.
When you want to add some detail to your work then that’s when a palette knife will come in handy. If you’ve often pondered on how sculptors make such intricate designs, well, it’s by using these.
You can pick up surgical tubing for as little as £5/$10 from anself.com.
If you make a (small) mistake then the easiest way to cover it up is with a standard paint brush, like you do with painting. Lightly dust the area you want to cover up and your error will disappear before your eyes.
Buy a one-inch paintbrush for £5/$10 from farrow-ball.com.
If you invest in a sprayer, you’re still going to need a lot of water, so make sure you’ve got a supply of high-quality buckets to hand. You want heavy-duty builders’ buckets at 14 litres (three gallons) each.
You can pick up a three-gallon bucket for as little as £15/$20 from screwfix.com.