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How to Make Sand Sculptures

How to Make Sand Sculptures

Have you been amazed by the excruciating details carved into sand sculptures, and marveled at the skill of the artist? Wish you could make something so beautiful, yourself? Then read through this article to find out how to make sand sculptures.
Gauri Huddar
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
There are so many fun things to do on a beach, it's one place where you'll never get bored! Making sand castles is a favorite activity when it comes to kids. Almost anytime you visit the beach, you can see someone making things out of the sand. Be it sand castles or sand sculptures, the beauty of these things cannot be denied. Building sand castles is comparatively easier, and a bucket and a spade will suffice. But making a sand sculpture is slightly more tricky and time-consuming, requires more tools, and demands a lot of patience and perseverance. This article will give you some tips on making sand sculptures, and the tools required for making them.
Tools Required
  • Sharpers (they come in small, medium, and large sizes, and you can choose one depending on the scale of your sculpture)
  • Scrapers (they too, come in all three sizes)
  • Sand Wedge Hoe
  • A scoop
  • A straw or a soft brush
You also get ready-made kits of sand sculpting tools, complete with a manual on the use of each instrument, which saves time and gives you all the tools you will require. Buying a kit is much simpler than assembling the tools separately. You can keep adding to the kit if you find new and interesting tools.
Using the Tools
  • It is important to remember, that the skill in making sculptures lies in the lightness of your touch and the intricacy of the details, so make you sure you use the tools properly. The best thing to do is to maintain a feather light touch on your tools while using them on the heap of sand, and remember not to start carving your sculpture as if you are carving a turkey!
  • Another important point to keep in mind is that, it's always better to use the tools at an angle to the heap, rather than vertically or horizontally. This helps in getting that extra detail and finesse in your carving.
Making the Sculpture
Making a sculpture is a time-consuming task and requires patience. Follow these steps to make your perfect sand sculpture:
Buying the Sand: Buying the sand is quite easy, once you know what to look for in the sand. The sand should have a little content of 'silt', so that it's easier to set (silt acts as a natural binder for the sand). Sand which is granular and with less silt - the kind that is usually found on the beach - is difficult to keep in place. The sand which professional artists use to make sand sculptures, is more squarish than round, thus fitting together more easily. You can arrange for sand from the local sand quarry. Sometimes quarries may offer to take the sand back when you are done. If they don't, you can just leave the sand on the beach, where kids can try making castles with it.

Tip: Always get more sand than you think you will need.
Wetting the Sand: While wetting the sand, remember to really saturate the sand with as much water as possible. Dry or loose sand is difficult to keep in place, and will crumble faster. Wet the sand till you have a dough like consistency, before packing it into a heap. Even if you think that there is enough water, keep adding, because sand dries up really quickly. So it's better to have more water than less water. Even if the sand gets saturated, the excess water will run out and you won't have to worry. But imagine finishing a portion of the sculpture, only to have it crumble when you are working on another part! Not good, eh? So, use water liberally. After all, you are on the beach, so you won't be falling short of water!

Tip: To check whether you have the right consistency, pick up a fistful of sand and drop it slowly. If it falls in lumps or breaks, then add more water. It should run through your fingers when you hold it, like honey would. Not very runny either.
Packing/Pounding the Sand: When it comes to pounding the sand, you have to literally pound the sand. Do what you must to get the sand packed compactly in the area you want to work in. You can try jumping on it, pounding it, hitting it, or whatever else you can think of doing to get it packed TIGHT! The tighter and more compact you make it, the better it will stay or hold when you begin carving. Also, make the pile bigger than what you estimate you will require, because sand sculpting is more about removing the sand from the pile, or carving the pile to make the sculpture, than about building one. And sand is not as easy to put back in place as clay. So start with a big pile, and remove the excess sand in small quantities.

Tip: Instead of just heaping the sand in a pile, try making small 'forms' to give the pile some basic shape. You can experiment with round, rectangular or square forms for starters, and then take it from there as you get more comfortable. A few small planks of wood, put together should make a good enough form for a small sculpture.
Carving the Sand: This is the tricky part. You have to be really delicate with the heaped sand, because the pile will just fall apart if you pounce on it. Use the bigger tools to start off, and use the smaller tools when you start adding the details. Start from the top and work your way down to the base. Similarly, start from the inside and work your way outwards. When you are working on the topmost layer, you can use the lower forms as scaffolding, to support yourself (this is for really big sculptures, where you cannot reach the top while standing on the ground. The lower forms will be quite big in size too, in such a case). Remove the excess sand first, then proceed towards making the basic shape. Follow it up with the detailing. After the carving is done, you will usually find some stray bits of sand on the sculpture. Do not dust these off with your hands. Use a straw, and blow through it gently to remove these grains of sand, or you can use the soft haired brush to dust the sand away. You can also try a method called dribbling to get some added effect. For dribbling, just make the sand really runny, and pour a bucketful of it slowly over the heap, and you'll have waves or layers on the heap!

Tip: Professionals swear by cooking and dental instruments, for achieving the perfect detailing for their sculptures! You can be innovative and use some other instruments/ objects to get the desired effects. (e.g. a comb would give a nice wave effect! You can try toothpicks, keys, and other such objects.)
Keeping the Sculpture in Place
Sand sculptures are very fragile. Rain and strong winds can bring it all down in an instant, literally washing away all your efforts. What can be done to make it a little sturdy, is spray it with a 'Windscreen Solution'. This is like creating a shell or a transparent cover over the finished sculpture. It can even make the sculpture last for months! After all, you wouldn't want your hard work to be destroyed immediately. It's nice to see people gawking at your sculptures in amazement! So use the 'windscreen solution' to make the sculpture last for a while.

Tip: Try using sand which has natural binders (like silt). If you don't find that, try mixing some clay or motor oil with the sand. This will make the sculpture quite sturdy by itself. Spraying the solution on this, should make it last for quite a long time.
Next time you are making a list of things to take on a beach vacation, make sure you put in some instruments for carving sand piles, building sand castles and making sand sculptures. Make good use of the sea-shells and other stuff you find on the beach. You will have fun while sun bathing, and how! Let your creativity flow...