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

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Step 1: 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)

Step 2: Assemble Your Tubes

First, get out the saw-
  - Cut  the sewer pipe into 6 sections (each 19-7/8" long)
  - Cut the lumber into the following sections
        - (3) 2' 2"
        - (2) 1' 5-1/16"
        - (4) 6- 5/16"

Now, assemble the wood as shown in the diagram below, using the 3" screws (or nails) to hold the boards together.

Once you have your frame, you can see how you will slide the tubes into each hole.  You will need to put the 1-5/8 screws through the tube and into the sides where it touches the boards on all four sides. There should be two screws at each spot.  First, take your drill and pre-drill the 8 holes on each tube; one at 1" from the top and one at 2.5" from the top every 90 degrees. Now put the tube in the frame and put screws in each hole. The easiest way is with a right angle drill.

When all 6 tubes are screwed on, the tubes are usable. At this point, you can put on the optional top. The advantage of putting on the top is that it will prevent sand from falling down next to the tubes and pushing the bags down. If you are going to put the top on, cut the top to fit over the frame. Screw the top onto the frame boards. Now drill a hole and then using either a router or a hand jigsaw, cut the holes out for each tube.


Step 3: Using the Tubes

 To use the tubes, you just need to flip it over and slide a bag on each tube. Roll it back upright and start shoveling to fill the bags. By design it will fill each bag to about 35lbs. Once you have filled all 6 tubes, pick it straight up and the sand will slide out of the tubes into the bags. Then you will have 6 perfectly filled sandbags.

As you could see from the video in the intro, it was easy for two young kids with small shovels to fill sandbags, averaging about 15 seconds a bag. This is at a work pace that almost anyone can do.

So there you have it, an hour of prepwork can save countless hours of bagging. 

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    32 Discussions


    24 days ago on Step 3

    Hello, I am curious why the tube spacing is different in each direction. Is this for stability? Why not make it the same, so the footprint is smaller, and it will take up less room in storage and shipping? Just curious. Thanks!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    ... which is easily done with leather gloves and a hot air gun (paint stripper). PVC gets soft & pliable at fairly reasonable temps.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Absolutely excellent choice of background music!


    9 years ago on Step 2

    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.

    4 replies

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    i think it may be usefull to add handles to the frame for easier/quicker turning upside down

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.