Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sailboat Sandbox Tutorial

Ahoy!  A few years ago, my mom gave us a book with plans for backyards for kids.  I FINALLY convinced my dear husband to build our son a sandbox.  Joseph loves sand sooo much.  In fact, during the school year, there is usually a small pile of sand beside our back door where he pours out his shoes after preschool.  
We slightly modified the plans to fit our backyard better and to make it easier to move the sandbox when we move to another house.  The original plan said to build a foundation for the boat out of 2x12 planks and then dig a 12" hole in the ground to set the foundation of the boat into.  Since we are planning to move in the next year, we opted to skip this step... plus, what 4-year old needs a sandbox that's 2 feet deep?! Instead, we added a plywood bottom to the boat to make it easier to transport when the time comes.  
This was one of the simplest plans in the book.  Anyone with with a few power tools can do this in a day.  I did not take step by step pictures (forgive me!).  Here's what we did:

sides: (2) 2x12x8' planks pressure-treated wood -- bevel ends to 45 degree angles
ends: (1) 2x12x8' planks pressure-treated wood -- cut in half
ends: (2) 2x4x8' planks -- cut in half
bottom: (1) 4x8' piece plywood 
mast: (2) 2x4x8' pieces pressure treated wood
         (1) 1 1/4" x 4' closet rod
(2) 1/4" x 4" lag bolts
(2) 1/4" cut washers
(4) 1/2" x 1 1/2" screw eyes
(4) gear ties (see picture)
(6) 3/8" x 3 1/2" carriage bolts with 12 washers and 6 cap nuts
Box of 3" galvanized deck screws
Four yards 45"-wide outdoor fabric
Roll of thread (heavy duty)
(4) large grommets

We built this in our carport and then pushed it into its final resting place before filling it with sand.  Wherever you choose to build, you should consider access to electricity (for power tools), stability of your building service, and easy clean-up.  It was very convenient for us to be able to use the leaf-blower to clean up all the saw dust!

Building Instructions:
1. Bevel the Sides:  We used a table saw to cut 45-degree angles on each end of 2 of the 2x12x8' planks.  Then, we assembled the boat upside down.  Here is a photo of the beveled ends and sides as outlined in step 2:

2. Building the Hull: Using deck screws, attach the end pieces to the sides.  Bevel the 2x4 to match the side pieces and create a seamless fit.  If there are any gaps, use caulk or wood putty to fill in.  Sand can be pricey and you don't want it pouring out the sides!

3. Prepare the Masts:  In each 2x4, drill a 1/4" hole 1 1/2" down from the top.  At the other end, drill three 3/8" holes.  Locate them 4, 15 1/2, and 19 inches from the bottom.

4: Raise the Roof! er, mast: After bolting the masts to the boat frame so they are straight, cut the closet rod (if needed) to fit the distance between the tops of the masts.  Ask your partner in crime to hold one end of the closet rod while you secure the other end of the rod with a lag bolt.

5. Secure the Benches: Space the bench boards about 1/2 inch apart and fasten with deck screws.  Then insert one screw eye at each corner.  Use the shaft of a screwdriver to tighten.

By this time you should have something that resembles this:

6. Fill 'er Up!: It's definitely worth it to shop around for sand.  If we had bought sand at a home improvement store, we would have spent close to $300.  Instead, we called a ready-mix concrete company and they were able to help us out for much less.  They filled the bed of my husband's truck for about $60 and we had sand to spare!

7. Set Sail: Spread the fabric over the closet rod and attach the screw eyes with the gear ties (pictured below).  

You can also use bungee cords, but we had a hard time finding cords that were the right length.  I found gear ties at Target.  They are fabulous!  They're like industrial twist ties.

Sewing the Sail
The sail was made from outdoor-rated polyester upholstery fabric.  I've seen this stuff priced as much as $25/yard and as little as $9/yard, so it definitely pays to shop around.  I bought mine online at and had a wonderful experience ordering from them.  I also ordered heavy duty polyester thread there.  You'll also need to buy a larger gauge needle, usually intended for denim and other heavy-weight fabric.
Hem the edges -- fold and iron 1/4", then fold down and iron another 1/4" each long side of the sail.  I pinned these folded edges to hold them in place until I could sew them down.  Sew a straight line along the long sides about 1/4" from the edge.
Hem the ends -- I totally messed up this step.  This is what you're SUPPOSED to do: fold and iron 1", then fold and iron another 1" along each end.
Once the ends are folded and ironed, sew a seam 1/8" from the edge of the end.  Then sew another straight line about 2" from the edge.  You'll place the grommets in the space between these two seams.
Insert a large grommet at each corner, following the instructions on the package.

Here's a picture of our finished "sand boat!"

If you have cats or if there are any strays wandering around your neighborhood, you'll want to build a cover for your sandbox either out of plywood or extra sail fabric.  If cats begin to use this as a litter box, it will make your kids VERY sick!  Also, you don't want your sand to get wet when it rains.  However, if you don't want to cover up your creation, I suggest getting a ferocious guard dog such as ours.

This is a great weekend project!  It can also be very easily adjusted for the amount of space you have.  Hope you and your little sailor enjoy!


  1. How much was the total material cost on this project?

  2. Id also like to know total material cost


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