It’s sand. Who knew there was so much info on sand. Especially the kind that works best for great sandcastles. Well, good thing you stopped by today. Read on, then impress your friends and family this weekend.  :)))))

Now that I hold the title of “grandpa”, I get to do all sorts of fun things with the grandchildren. Silly hide and seek, playing with toys, and taking them to fun places.  In my neighborhood, I have access to one of our beloved Metroparks, Huntington Beach.  Jackie and I love taking the kidos down there, splashing in the waves, watching sunsets and of course playing in the sand. I get to lug the gear – towels, blankets, chairs, sunscreen, snacks, and of course I had to bring some shovels and pails and molds to make shapes.  We have been constructing sand “castles” since the girls were able to stand – one of our ladies actually learned to walk on the beach!  The majority of our structures had to also have an elaborate moat for protection.  Little water, little sand, and presto, a castle. I have to say once finished with the castles,  their next choice would be to bury me in sand!  That did make for a nice nap!   My curiosity got to me back at the office, to learn a bit more about why the sand sticks sometimes, and crumbles other times.  I went online and found this cool article written by Joseph Scalia – Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University (to understand why some sandcastles are tall and have intricate structures while others are nearly shapeless lumps of sand, it helps to have a background in geotechnical engineering). I also found some amazing designs from beaches all over – must say WAY more than my pail domes. Thanks to and YouTube for the info and song.


  • The size of particles, or grains, also determines the way sand looks and feels. The smallest sand grains have a texture almost like powdered sugar. The largest grains are more like the size of small dry lentils.
  • Most sand will work for building a sandcastle, but the best sand has two characteristics: grains of sand in several different sizes and grains with angular or rough edges.
  • Sand grains that are more angular, with sharp corners on them, lock together better, making the sandcastle stronger. It’s the same reason a pile of angular wooden blocks will stay in a pile, but a pile of marbles will go everywhere.
  • This is also why, surprisingly, the best sand for sandcastles is not typically found on an island or a coastal beach. More angular grains of sand are usually found closer to mountains, their geologic source. These sand grains have not yet had their edges rounded off by wind and water. Professional sandcastle builders will go so far as to import river sand for their creations.
  • Water is key – Without water, sand just forms a pile. Too much water and sand flows like liquid. But between dry sand and saturated sand lies a wide range of moisture levels that enable sandcastle construction.
  • Water is cohesive, meaning that water likes to stick to water. But water also sticks to or climbs up certain surfaces. Look at a half-full glass of water and you will see the water going up the insides of the glass a little. This tiny power struggle is what makes sandcastles possible.
  • If the glass were much skinnier, like a straw, the water would rise higher and have more surface tension. The narrower the straw, the higher the water would rise. This phenomenon is called capillarity (think celery stalk).
  • Water behaves the same way in wet sand. The pores, or spaces, between the sand grains are like a bunch of very tiny straws. Water forms tiny bridges between the grains. The water in these bridges is under tension, pulling the grains together by a force we geotechnical engineers call suction stress.
  • Just enough water – The quantity of water in the sand controls the size and strength of the water bridges. Too little water equals little bridges between the sand grains. More water, and the size and number of bridges grows, increasing the suction holding the sand grains together. The result is perfect sandcastle sand.
  • Too much water, though, and the suction is too weak to hold the sand together.  A general rule of thumb for building great sandcastles is one part water for every eight parts dry sand. Under ideal conditions in a laboratory, though, with dense sand and zero evaporation, one part water for every one hundred parts dry sand can produce wonders. At a beach, sand with the right moisture level is near the high tide line when the tide is low.
  • Incidentally, salt from seawater can also be a boon for sandcastle stability. Capillary forces hold sand grains together initially, but capillary water will eventually evaporate, particularly on a windy day. When sea water dries up, salt is left behind. Since the seawater was forming bridges between the grains, the salt crystallizes at these points of contact. In this way, salt can keep a sandcastle standing long after the sand has dried. But be careful not to disturb the salt-bonded sand; it’s brittle and collapsible.
  • To build a strong sandcastle, compact sand and a little water as tightly as you can. I prefer to create a dense mound and then scoop and carve away to reveal the art within. You can also compact the sand into buckets, cups or other molds, and build from the ground up. Just be sure to get the sand dense and place the mold on a compacted foundation. Hands make for both a great compaction and carving tool, but a shovel or a seashell will allow for more precision.

Have fun, and don’t be afraid to get sandy!

Oh, and check this out before you go:
5 cool sandcastles in the making






Black. White. Brown. Pink. Stand on it. Lay on it. Lay in it. Sand—sometimes it’s how it feels in your hands & between your toes. Sometimes it’s just how it makes you feel. Bonus points if you can name those beautiful people in the little photos under the “feet” photo.  : )

Me and my wife Jackie’s summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the sandy shores of Kiawah Island, SC. We have been visiting since 1984. Kids have been coming long enough that a couple of them learned how to walk on the beaches of Kiawah.  Now, I’m not taking anything away from the “north shore” and all great beaches here in NE Ohio, but to be honest, there is really no comparison to getting away and digging my feet into the powder white beaches of the island.  Enjoying the ocean breeze and aromas, it got me to wondering about sand – why so many different varieties, textures and colors – and especially why so many variations along the eastern coastline of good old US of A. So, I did some digging with my laptop (and my feet).  As the warm gritty stuff gets in between my toes, I wondered why beaches become distinctive sandy stretches and why sand looks and feels the way it does – some powder white, some light brown, some darker brown and some black. Here’s some helpful tips from, funsciencedemos and YouTube.  Enjoy.  And be sure to use your sunblock!

  • A sandy beach is essentially where pulverized, weathered rock along with some fragments of shelled creatures and other biota have collected, tossed up by the waves and as sediment from inland areas.
  • Sand is basically the material you get when you get a breakdown in rocks, when the rocks weather and decompose over hundreds of thousands and millions of years. Not every rocky mineral is equally built to last. So, over time, the weathering process yields certain common compositions for sand as the stronger materials persist.
  • While some of the minerals are very unstable and decompose, others such as feldspar, quartz and hornblende are more stable because they are harder, more resistant minerals, and so they tend to stay behind.  These minerals — abundant in Earth’s crust — in ground-up form constitute a lot of the sandy particles comprising beaches. Probably the most common composition would be quartz sand with some feldspar.
  • This most common mineral formula gives beaches that sort of typically, well, “beachy” complexion of a light brown found in many places in the continental United States and elsewhere. The iron staining on the quartz and iron oxide on the feldspar gives the sand that tan or brownish color but can vary greatly.  Every beach is essentially a product of its regional and local environment and is accordingly one-of-a-kind. For example, in the Florida panhandle, the sand is often very white because of its high quartz content over feldspar and hornblende.
  • Tropical regions have more of this shell-derived sand than temperate regions, where the sand is mostly silica-based in the form of quartz.
  • South Carolina beaches are made up of a fine texture, but when looked at under a microscope one will see it is dominantly comprised of Quartz. Quartz is in the sand because the sand is deposited as it erodes from the Appalachian Mountains. There are also small bits of shells, as well as browning due to a rusting effect from iron. Some samples contain a mix of broken rocks as well as the shells and bodies of previously living organisms, including Quartz, Mica, Bivalves/Clams, Magnetite, and more.
  • Many of the beaches in Bermuda have not only white sand but have pink or reddish sand particles. The origin of this famous coloration is the remains of tiny, single-celled creatures called Foraminifera that have pink or reddish shells.
  • Hawaii, meanwhile, is well-known for its black sand beaches, the result of ground-up, dark volcanic rocks. Some beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island even have a greenish tint, thanks to the presence of the mineral olivine.
  • Consider the fact – sand on most of our beaches, especially on the East and Gulf Coasts, is rather old: some 5,000 years or so.  Very little new sand reaches the coast nowadays from the continental interior as it once did.
  • Beach erosion, due to changes in water patterns, wind, and sea level rise is impacting most oceanfront property.  The construction of roads and dams, especially in Florida, is another reason. Development along the coastline impedes the natural transport of sand from the interior to the coast.
  •  The general rise in sea levels over the past approximately 10- 12,000 years, which has flooded river valleys and created large estuaries such as Charleston Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the Hudson River trap would-be sand before it reaches the coast.  The erosion of beaches, especially after major storms, often requires beach nourishment, or replenishment projects when sand is dredged up from offshore and deposited on the shoreline to rebuild lost real estate.

Great Video – Natural Coastal Erosion

Simple Science Demo – Sand and Wave Action



Me, too.

As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I.  Love.  My.  Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!  
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good.  :-))))
Have fun!!