Instructables

Filling Sandbags the Easy way, with Sandbag Tubes

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Picture of Filling Sandbags the Easy way, with Sandbag Tubes
Sandbags are still the best way to put up a quick dike in times of need. They are useful for many things, but the main focus of this is for those fighting floods. It's easy to get a lot of sand delivered quickly, sandbags themselves are cheap, and with a little labor, anyone can protect their home.

Filling the sandbags is the bulk of the work; holding the bags while someone shovels is time consuming, back breaking and tedious. There are many inventions that can help with the process, but most of the ones that work well are expensive.

The Sandbag Tubes are a cheap, simple to make, tool that will reduce the amount of effort required to fill bags and speed up the process. Anyone can use them and they can be used over and over. Because they are so cheap and easy, many sets can be made and used simultaneously.


Advantages include-
- No one stuck bent over holding bags
- All participants can shovel
- Does not require lifting the shovel any higher than necessary
- All bags filled correctly and consistently (no heavy/light bags).
- Faster than many machines




Step 1: Buy the Materials

Picture of Buy the Materials

First you need to make sure you have all the required parts.

Parts needed:
   - One 6" x 10' thin walled sewer pipe
   - Two 8 foot 2x4s
   - 1 5/8 construction screws (for attaching tubes)
   - 3" construction screws or nails (for frame assembly)
   - 2' 5" x 1'5"  1/4" or thicker plywood (optional but recommended)

Tools Needed:
  - Saw to cut the tubing and 2x4
  - Drill bit to pre-drill the holes for screws (right angle drill is easier)
  - Powered screwdriver
  - handheld jigsaw or router for cutting plywood (for optional top)
 
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digimancer4 years ago
 Add a lip to the outside edge.
... which is easily done with leather gloves and a hot air gun (paint stripper). PVC gets soft & pliable at fairly reasonable temps.
panks4 years ago
Outstanding!! thanks so much for sharing your idea. I need to build a retaining wall from earthbags and I just love this :)
5 stars for you!
temper4 years ago
Absolutely excellent choice of background music!
akgooseman4 years ago
Very nice. One could add a 1x4 or 1x6 hopper on top to help catch the shoveled sand and drop it into the tubes instead of shooting off the side.
RiverOakRanch (author)  akgooseman4 years ago
Ideally, if these were manufactured they would have a rounded top so the sand natuarally falls into tubes that are tapered. But realistically, that only works if they aren't home made, and that is one of the big advantages of this design. We had looked at putting somethign on the top, but the problem is sand would get stuck there and make it heavier to lift. You wouldn't be able to get all the sand out of the corners, so that sand would fall on the ground when you dumped it, and a little sand falling off the sides when you fill isn't that big of a deal because sand gets spilled when filling sandbags, so you just pick it up on the next scoop. Your mileage may vary, but I don't think the added weight and complexity are offset by any gains.  Everyone is free to try whatever mods they like though.
What about using a sheet of heavy pvc plastic instead of plywood? The only kind I can think of readily available is those "roll up" plastic toboggans. That would make the unit lighter and you might be able to "form" it with hot water.

I'm offering this as a possible minor tweak to an already brilliant idea.
RiverOakRanch (author)  billrehm4 years ago
That’s a great Idea. I had considered using a thin wood paneling for the top plate to cut down weight, but hadn't yet tried it because I was concerned about the longetivity of paneling in a wet environment. The plastic would be stronger, lighter and waterproof. Now I just need to find a readily available source
You could perhaps use one of the plastic floor mats like those used under chairs in places which have rugs. (Like I have in my home office.) Office Max or Office Depot will carry them. They're not real cheap, but you could get several top plates out of one mat.
laycockr4 years ago
You could just drill 2 holes in the frame and use some rope to form a handle..

This would not add anything else to width of the project.
Arano4 years ago
i think it may be usefull to add handles to the frame for easier/quicker turning upside down
RiverOakRanch (author)  Arano4 years ago
We have tried adding handles, and they do make it easier to grab. Unfortunately, they make it a little more complex to build (because you need to cut out more different sizes of wood). Additionally, These just barely fit in the trunk of most cars as it is, so making them wider would hurt thier portability for some. The one other issue with handles is when I use them by myself, I grab the middle of each narrow side to lift and tip, and then the handles are just additonal weight and get in the way.

But, for those who will be carrying them in a hatchback or truck and will be using them with 2 people, having the side 2x4s about a foot longer so they stick out 6 inches on each side makes nice handles.

This is our "refined" design that we feel is best for the masses, but for anyones particular instance, feel free to customize to your hearts content. The design is pretty simple, so mods are easy.
Couldn't you just use a drill and form a handle in the 2x4 frame?
tyknappy4 years ago
Nice idea, I wish I had that when I was fighting the flood last year, I used the ones made out of cones and they are hard on the back

I also live in Fargo : )
This would be great in a war actually, i mean, if you need quick cover. I bet it'd save loads of time. So, where do you get the bags exactly? I can't seem to find any (probably not looking hard enough)
Judith7564 years ago
I wish the state of Louisiana officials would see this.  Since many times every year sand bags are filled over and over.  Great idea and you should probably patent it before some "yahoo" does and makes millions.  Thanks for the design.
Well done! This is needed right now, nationwide.  Good Job friend.
Sorry im being a prick, but I live Washington state, and almost every year we get floods and such. But oddly enough while most of the country is having flood problems, our rivers are scary shallow. And its only march im pretty worried about the summer because we got little to no snow in our mountain area.
thepelton4 years ago
I live in a high part of Colorado Springs, so it would be a major national disaster before that area flooded, but for someone in a low area next to a river, this sounds like a must have.
luvit4 years ago
 thanks!! i surrounded my house with this. just inside the razor wire fence.
chaosrob4 years ago
I must say, very good idead. You see, I am a techie and I am (just now) training myself to NOT look for the most difficult way possible to do things. There is something to say about 'quick and dirty' (pun intended). :-)
ToniRose4 years ago
Awesome. And great crew you've got there!
l8nite4 years ago
Looks like a great tool. Ive often wondered why when it starts looking like flooding is coming the gov't doesn't commandeer all the plastic bags of fertilizer, mulch,rocks etc that so many stores sell. OK it would probably cost $$ but think of how ez it is to unload a truck full of ready filled bags
RiverOakRanch (author)  l8nite4 years ago
I think there are a couple problems with that approach (although in some cases it might work).
     First, they can only take things that aren't water soluble, so fertilizer is out. Rocks, sand, gravel would be ok.
     Second, the quantity just isn't there. In Fargo, ND this year for a major but not extreme flood, they have 1 million sandbags for just the city, not including the surrounding area. My house used 3000 last year, that would have likely cleaned out all our local home improvement stores right there.. 
     Lastly, disposal of the bags would be much more labor intensive someone would have to manually sort all the bags. 

So it would be a good idea on a small scale with little or no advanced warning, but if you have even a small time to prepare, sandbags are going to be the answer.
sarahfish4 years ago
Very cool. I wonder how you could get these/this technology out to developing countires, perhaps through d-lab @ MIT?  Seems like it could really help in major floods around the world.

http://d-lab.mit.edu/ 


 egh, sandbags... bad memories. (Iraq)
Johenix4 years ago
I have seen photos of Traffic Cones (Witches' Hats to you Brits and Ausies) mounted between 2x4s for sandbag funnels.

Could someone come up with a sandbag filling machine, say a double decker rotary table where the sand goes on the top table and the bags rest on the lower table and one person puts a bag on the snout, the table revolves, the bag fills, and another person removes the bag for a third person to close?

Timely as Fargo, ND is starting to flood. 
RiverOakRanch (author)  Johenix4 years ago
Traffic cones work, but require lifting the shovel considerably higher and someone needs to hold the bag while someone else shovels. The tubes are roughly twice as fast.

There are a lot of designs of complex filling machines that work well (similar to your table idea). The problem with them is they are not mobile, expensive to build and finicky. All reasons why I am such a big fan of tubes.

The timing is no coincidence. I live in Fargo Also. :-)
CaseyCase4 years ago
 Quite a great idea but isn't child slave labor against the law? (Chuckling)
roadieflip4 years ago
Awesome idea. I am surprised nobody has thought of this before.

A great thing to make if you live in an area prone to flooding.(which seems to be happening more and more these days)

5 GOLD stars. Possibly one of the most useful instructables I have seen recently.
Jayefuu4 years ago
This is fantastic! Saves so much time and pain :D You should put the video in the first step in my opinion, a lot of people don't have the attention span to get to the last step if they don't understand immediately. :D