A while back we discussed the shifting nature of beach sand. Most sand sculpture installations or competitions use quarry sand for this very reason. Well, quarry sand also comes in many different forms. Even sand from the same company branded as the same quality.

An international publication contacted me a few weeks ago asking “Have you ever built a sandcastle somewhere besides a beach?” The short answer was “No”. The longer answer is “I’m about to.” Just as soon as I figure out the sand.

You see I just made a small sandbox to test new sand sculpting tools that made (Much more on this later). I got the sand at the local, big box hardware store. It’s marketed as ‘Play Sand’ and is supposedly washed and screened. The (3) 50lb bags I picked up is very close to North Carolina Beach sand which is perfect for my tests.

Newly Designed and fabricated tools.

Fine ‘Carolina’ sand. Note the color.

So when the magazine said that they would buy the sand if I would build a sandbox and make a small sandcastle for them we decided it would be best to get the same sand. Unfortunately the local hardware store did not have the 3,000lbs needed so we went with the next closest hardware store that carried the same brand of washed and screened ‘Play Sand’. It all seemed so easy until we started emptying the bags into the sandbox.

Same brand… Not the same sand. Note the color.

About a third of the sandbags had sand similar to the kind I originally bought. The other two thirds was completely different. It was yellow and filled with rocks and silt. In other words it was neither washed or screened. We screened all the remaining bags through a 1/4” sieve but that was not good enough. After several tests we determined that, for the sand to be used, it would have to be screened through a 1mm sieve. All 3,000lbs.

Ok, no problem. We’ll build a screening box, drop a concrete vibrator into it and let the machine do the work. When that did not work we hooked up the reciprocating saw to mechanically shake the screen box. When that did not work we tried revving up the RPM’s on the tractor to screen into the bucket. When that did not work we tried using water to ‘Wash’ & ‘Screen’ the washed and screened sand. This did not work.

So, we went with what we call the ‘Egyptian’ method. Hand shaking the sand through the 1mm sieve. All 3,000lbs of it.

Sand screening process. Black crates are screens. White buckets are rocks screened.

This method worked fine as long as the sand was bone dry which it was for a day and a half. The sand absorbed the moisture out of the air even with a water proof cover. What was going to be a couple of days hand sifting  turned into a week of drying out the sand before hand sifting it through the 1mm sieve. We sifted through half of the 3,000lbs of sand in the first week and we ended up with 200lbs of aggregate (rocks) removed.

Screened sand.
Aggregate (rocks) screened.

With less than 5 days before the photo shoot it was time for an executive decision…

Life belongs to the living, and he who lives

must be prepared for changes.

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe