Beach Craft- Simple Sand Casting





Introduction: Beach Craft- Simple Sand Casting

About: I build cool things from trash and recycled materials. I like noise and sound circuits. I live with my wife, a chihuahua named Monkey and an awesome cat named Honey Boy. I'm a full time maker.

If you're like me sun, sand, surf and fruity tropical beverages are not enough- I need something to do at the beach. The beach is windy, sandy and wet, so most crafts are impractical. Luckily sand casting is wet, messy and not affected by wind. Here I'll show you how to make a simple sand mold and cast a model of your hand.

This project is simple enough for young kids to participate but detailed enough to satisfy the more experienced crafter as well. You can make a cool beach souvenir or a gift for someone back home.

You will need a beach, something to dig with, plaster or some kind of casting media, sandpaper, a mixing cup and some adhesive felt mat.

Step 1: Dig In!

First dig a hole in some moist sand that's big enough to fit your hand (or whatever you want to make a cast of) into. You want to use sand that's not too wet and not too dry- the kind you would use to build a sandcastle. Put your hand in the hole and pack sand back in the hole around your hand. You want to pack the sand tight so it will retain the shape of your hand. When the sand is packed firmly slowly wiggle your fingers and hand to make the hole a little bigger so you can pull your hand out without caving it in. You may have to try different hand positions to get a hole that doesn't cave in. When you have a usable mold in the sand go on to the next step.

Step 2: Let's Mix It Up a Little!

Now you want to mix your casting media. I used Durham's Water Putty. This is available at most hardware stores. It is a great mold casting medium as it doesn't shrink and it hardens quickly. Mix your media a little soupier than usual so it can be poured into the mold. Add a little powder and a little water until you have the consistency and amount you need to fill your hole. Slowly pour the mixture into the hole so as not to cave it in or destroy details. When the hole is full, cover it to protect it from debris and errant feet. Now grab a cold one, sit back and wait for it to harden.

Step 3: About As Fun As Watching Paint Dry...

Be patient- don't try to remove your casting until it's completely set. Curing time will depend on the material you use. When your cast model is completely hardened you can carefully remove it from the sand. I gently dug out the sand from around my hand model and carefully lifted it out of the hole. I brushed off the excess sand and then gave it a good rinse in the ocean. I set the hardened casting on the window sill to dry.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

When the hand is dry and cured you can sand the bottom flat so that it sits nicely on a flat surface. I used my bench belt sander when I got home, but you can used regular old sandpaper. When the base of your model is flat trace it onto a piece of adhesive felt mat so it wont scratch the surface you place it on. Congratulations- now you can give yourself a hand for a job well done!

So what do you do with it now? You can use it as a decoration but I had something else in mind. I'll use mine for propping up wet paint brushes in my studio. Of course this technique isn't limited to just making hand molds. Try casting your face or a footprint. Try casting other items like a favorite toy or whatever. Use your imagination- the sky's the limit! I like the look of the plain Water Putty but you can paint you creation if you choose.

You don't need a beach to use this technique. A box of moist sand will work just as well. Try adding a little bentonite clay to your sand mixture for a smoother finish and more detail. When you get the hang of basic sand casting you can try other materials such a molten aluminum, resin, cement or anything that will pour as a liquid and harden. Have fun and use your imagination!



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    21 Discussions

    I didn't realize that you could use water putty as a casting material; that's very interesting. How long did your cast take to dry, and how durable is it?

    Adding bentonite (10% by weight) helps hold it together. For more elaborate casts check out Google's free e-book "Concrete from sand molds."


    4 years ago

    I just used plaster.


    4 years ago

    I did this years ago, mine looks like a seal even has an eye.

    This is such a cool idea! I was just looking into making hand casts the other day! No beaches around these parts though..

    6 replies

    No worries- just go to a large construction site where they bring in sand by the truckload and ask really nice- they'll usually give you a bucket full. Worst case you can buy a bag of play sand at Home Depot.

    Hunh. I'm currently working with concrete and bought play sand. Next time I may try to hunt down some of these friendly sand-gifting construction folk.

    For what it's worth, we recently used a 5 lb bag of sand from the pet shop intended for use in reptile tanks. It was fairly cheap and great for smaller projects when you don't need a 25 or 40 lb bag of sand.

    Down here it helps to have a southern accent and be real polite but I've been really lucky. I once explained to a crew foreman that I was trying to build the cheapest boat possible and he kicked me down a few yards of Tyvek house wrap for a sail and looked the other way while I raided his dumpster for lumber. A good source of sand is pool installers and landscapers. They will often buy sand by the yard for a small project and have some left over.

    fyi- get the regular mason sand or the one for making concrete. The difference with play sand is that the granules are finer and microscopically smoother or rounded. The "sharp" builders sand is rougher which locks together making for a better mold. And taking a bucket of sand from the beach may be prohibited by law if it is protected under Federal Wetlands and conservation laws. Thanks for sharing your technique.

    "until it's completely set." how about a hint? are we talking an hour, 8 hours, 8 days? If I do this at the beach can I dig it up at the end of the day?

    2 replies

    Depends on the material and the proportions you mix it at. In this case I mixed the Water Putty to about the thickness of a milkshake. It was hard after about 2 1/2 hours. If you added even more water for a thinner mix it would take even longer. Humidity and the moisture in the sand also affect drying time. Plan for at least two hours of drying time.

    Very nice! This might be next: