A Few Simple Tools, Plenty of Sand and . . . Voila




PVC piping?


Hard hat?


Cathy Colvin is off to a construction site where--shore enough--building with cement and steel is a joke. Slathered in sunscreen, Colvin is taking her blueprint to the beach.

Colvin, a professional sand sculptor with the San Diego-based Sand Sculptors International, has constructed castles 40 feet high in addition to a variety of gargantuan creatures from the shores of Japan to Imperial Beach, the spot near San Diego where the annual U.S. Open Sand Castle Contest will take place later this summer.

But you don't need to be a pro to sculpt a prizewinning entry, Colvin says. "All you need is your imagination." And a few items from around the house to get started.


* The basics: Three 5-gallon buckets (two for carting ocean water to mix with the sand, the other with the bottom cut out for making pillars or other shapes in the sand); one 32-gallon rubber trash can, also bottomless to create a sand block that can be carved into any shape; a couple of 4-inch-wide, 1-foot-high PVC pipes.

* For fine-tuning: Miniature garden shovel for digging; pallet or cake-frosting knife for carving; melon baller for making decorative half circles; drinking straws for blasting out loose sand grains; a mist pump sprayer to help manage the wind.

How to Do It

In an hour, you can build a castle fit for a king. First, check out castle pictures for inspiration. Then:

* Start with the foundation by building a volcano-like shape--as big as possible but not more than 3 feet high. Keep the water coming as you shape the pile into a square or rectangle before you begin carving.

* Use the bottomless containers for making different shapes. You can stack them vertically and horizontally. Build towers with the piping. Tip: Fill the containers with slurpy wet sand. Once filled, tap the sides and slowly lift away. Whittle the tops of the towers into pencil points for a regal look.

* Always carve from the top down. Make windows about an inch deep to cast strong shadows and get great contrasts. Defy gravity and create arches, always misting as you work. Carve shapes into the walls and make a pathway to the castle. And last but not least, keep it simple.

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