Take a sandcastle building lesson and feel like a kid again.
I decided to take a sandcastle building lesson after feeling inspired by the sandcastles and sculptures at the Imperial Beach Sun & Sea Festival,
I knew there must be secrets that would transform my drip tree creations into royal edifices. San Diego Sandcastles offered lessons so I signed up for one with J.T. Lessons typically last 2-3 hours, depending upon how many people are working on the castle.
I was thrilled with the final result–a castle with gables, cornices, turrets and eight staircases.
Step 1: Select the Sandcastle Building Site
Build your castle in the air…Scratch that. Build your sandcastle near the shoreline, but check the tide chart to make sure it won’t be washed away as you build.
You will need to haul buckets of ocean water so you don’t want to be too far up the beach.
Step 2: Begin with Wet Sand
The building secret that I searched for was revealed straightaway. The secret to a sand sculpture is using saturated sand–not just wet from the surf–but completely wet, drenched.
Another secret is to make sure you don’t have seaweed, kelp, shells or litter in your sand or water. Pull these out as they surface or they will create holes in your sculpture.
Step 3: Make and Fill Molds
Using “bamboo barriers,” plastic designed to block bamboo roots in the garden, we made cylindrical molds. We shoveled damp sand into the bottom third. We poured two buckets of water on top of the sand.
Similar to folding the ingredients while making banana bread, we mixed the sand and water together with our hands. We were thorough because dry sand would have created a weak spot in our sand cylinder.
Using a tamping tool from the hardware store, we pounded or “tamped” the sand. We repeated the steps twice, until the bottom cylinder was full and hard enough to stand on.
Step 4: Stack Three Cylinders
We created two additional cylinder molds and filled them with wet sand using the same process.
Step 5: Start Carving at the Top
Sand debris tumbles downward, so we made all our cuts and decorations starting at the top and worked our way to the bottom of the castle.
This rule was easy to forget once we got into our carving groove. I ruined my staircase when I decided to decorate the wall above it. Luckily it was easy to clean them up using a balloon pump.
Step 6: Practice in the Back to be Perfect in the Front
The front of the castle is the side that the sun shines directly on, or will be once it is finished. Spend the most time on the front and think of how the shadows will help accentuate your architecture.
By practicing on the back of our sculpture, we learned how to carve sand and use the tools.
J.T. taught us how to make pyramids, dormers, staircases, columns, balconies and corbels. We learned a trick for making those little squares on castles which called crenellations and are on top of battlements. As a bonus, he showed us how to make little doors.
We could decorate vast expanses of sand with details such as bricks and columns, and even replicate cannonball damage with exposed bricks.
We learned that the pros give their castles a final touch by blowing small debris off with a straw and lightly fluffing the sand with a duster.
Step 7: There are no Mistakes only Happy Accidents
I had to leave my perfectionism on the street. Working with sand requires a flexible attitude. “Mistakes” can be turned into new features on the castle and no one else will notice.
I thought errors could be repaired by sticking more sand on–similar to what I’ve seen with chocolate sculpting. But this rarely works with sand. When a chunk fell off my turret, J.T. demonstrated how we could turn it into an arch with a little clock in the center.
It was fun to see my mistake become a new feature that added variety to my castle.
At the end of our 3 hours, I felt sunned-out but exhilarated. My head swam with ideas of what I could do for my next castle. I felt inspired to research architecture and take my sandcastle buildings to a new level.
Sandcastle lessons are a great date, family or group activity. San Diego Sandcastles offers team building activities and party classes. Sandcastles aren’t just for kids–book your lesson today!
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