How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle

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The summer holidays means the beach, sand, sea – and sandcastles! The list of things you need to build the perfect sandcastle is extremely short: sand, water, and a tool to dig with. So far so easy, no? But the reality is very different. It’s a highly skilled business building the kind of sandcastle that will have other people on the beach pointing and staring, and even winning you that coveted ‘best sandcastle in show’ award!

The wrong kind of sand

If sand is too dry it won’t stick together. Use moist sand, ideally from below the tideline. When you add water, the granules of sand stick together and you can carve and shape it. So you need to be near water, at least close enough to be able to collect the water in a bucket and add it to the sand. You can add loads of water to the sand as the excess will drain away. One part water to one part sand, mixed together, is said to be the best ratio.

Dig to Australia

If you are close enough to the sea the best way to get an unlimited supply of water is to dig a big hole. When the water starts to puddle at the bottom you can stop – there’s your water supply.

Treat it mean

The only way to carve a really complicated sandcastle structure is to compact wet sand. Stacking handfuls of wet sand, then squashing it down using your hands and feet (or tapping with a spade) will make sand harder, more solid and easier to shape.

Start small, build big

The best technique is to start with a densely packed mound of sand. Build it up gradually by adding a thick layer of sand, packing it down firmly with your hands and feet, then carrying on adding more layers. If it’s too dry, go on pouring water over the top of the base. You can’t add too much water as any excess will just drain away.

Sculptor at large

Once you’ve built up the sand to the right height, you can start to shave it. Using some kind of tool, shave away the sand in layers. A spade or stick is good. An empty Sunny D bottle, cut in half, is perfect. Don’t take off too much in one go. You can remove more sand but you can’t put it back! Work from top to bottom, that way the excess sand will fall downwards.

Leaning tower of Pisa?

To build a tower, use a bucket or even funnel if you can get your hands on one. Fill it half way up with sand, then add lots of water. Pack in more sand til the bucket is full. That will give you a good compact sand tower that can be shaped. Turn the bucket or funnel upside down and remove it by gently wriggling from side to side. Use your hands to smooth the surface into shape. Use a stick or other implement to add detail like windows and doors.