Sand Maps


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Daisy Bates


Building Up Maps in Sand

Sand-modelling has always been a great feature of the annual seaside holiday.

Every boy and girl, young and old, feels a keen delight in building a fort or castle, and then watching the incoming tide creep closer and closer, until the first tiny wave washes the outer wall, and the whole building is at length swallowed up by the sea.

There is no reason why sand-modelling should be enjoyed only at the seaside. Many of our public parks have sand-pits expressly built for this pastime; and sand is so clean that, with care, it can be used even on a table indoors. We can spend a very enjoyable time by modelling in sand at home, either in the garden or in the house; and the models that we can make will teach us how to build larger ones on the beach during the holidays.

We have all seen maps of countries which are called relief maps; these look as if a photograph of the country has been made in such a way as to show very plainly the mountains and valleys. Such a map, made out of sand by two boys, is shown on this page. Usually these maps are made of clay or plaster, and much skill is required in their construction. Those of us who have tried to make such maps know how stiff and unnatural our attempts have looked. But we need not use clay or plaster. Sand, we shall find, is well suited for this work; and the way in which we shall use it will give everyone a map that really looks like a model of a country.

First of all we will try a little experiment, so that we may understand thoroughly this newer method of modelling.

With a pair of scissors let us cut out any irregular shape having edges that, like a coast-line, are more or less indented. We now place this irregular shape flat upon the ground, or on a board, or a table. Underneath the edges of the shape slip a number of small sheets of paper in such a way that they project, or stick out, and cover the whole of the board or the table for some little distance round our cut-out shape. Now sprinkle some dry sand over the shape until it is completely covered. Carefully remove the loose sheets of paper one at a time without dropping any sand off them, and what shall we find? Before us is a perfect model in sand of the shape which we cut out.

(Click on the thumbnails to see the pictures full-size. When you have finished, click back to return to this page. )

Having grasped the idea, let us get to work to make a real map. We shall want some fine sand, and, in most cases, this can easily be procured by sifting. But, should there be any difficulty in obtaining it for nothing, the best silver sand can be bought at a painter’s, and a few pence will provide enough to make a large map. We must now divide the sand into two fairly equal parts. The one part must be kept thoroughly dry, and any lumps must be broken between the fingers so that the whole is a fine powder. This dry sand may be kept in a tin, and, as we shall use this tin as a sprinkler, some tiny holes must be made in the lid. The other portion of the sand is to be used in a wet state, and must be kept in a glass or earthenware jar. Wet sand kept in tins very quickly becomes unpleasant owing to the iron of the misnamed tin beginning to rust.

Our sand is now quite ready; and we can begin to cut out a map which will this time be our irregular shape. Though rather a difficult map to cut out, we should all rather like to start with our own country. Perhaps we can find a large map of the British Isles in the front of a book of railway time-tables, or it may be that some advertising firm has been distributing maps. In either of these cases we can start right away to cut round the coast-line, but otherwise we must first draw or trace the outline form of a map.

We must remember that this cut-out map will, with care, last for many models, so that it will really pay us to make a good one. Having cut out the shape of the country, we will protect it from injury by fastening it to a larger sheet of paper or cardboard. The little projections will now be less likely to get torn, and the map itself will not be able to slip while we are modelling. This protecting sheet may be fastened to the map by paste or gum, or by one or two stitches of thread or silk; but such fastenings must be at a spot as remote from the coast-line as possible, so as not to intefere with the pieces of paper which we must slip underneath the map. One brushful of paste in the centre of the map will be found ample for this purpose. If this protecting sheet is one of blue or green paper, a better effect will be given to the finished model; but this is by no means necessary.

Another way is to fasten our cut-out map to a drawing-board by a few drawing-pins.

Before beginning a model in sand, slip the loose sheets of paper between the map and the protecting sheet. The success of the model will largely depend upon the way in which these sheets are place, so the following rules should be carefully observed.

In the first place, these sheets should not overlap one another; in the second place, a separate sheet must be employed for different coasts. That is to say, the same piece of paper must not be used for the east coast and also for part of the south coast. A glance at the picture will show how these sheets are to be placed. It will be noticed that Ireland has been omitted. The space between this island and Great Britain is so small that we shall do better if we model Ireland separately and slip it into place when finished—it would be almost impossible to model them together.

Now take some of the wet sand, and model the mountains by pinching it up into little pinnacles with the fingers. The dampness will enable these mountains to be moulded into characteristic shapes. If a good relief map is available for a copy, even well-known peaks may be indicated, and some idea of the highest points in the several ranges of hills can be given.

Having finished the mountains and hills, sprinkle the whole lightly with dry sand, taking care to keep all sand within the limits of the loose sheets of paper. Draw these away singly, moving them away from the coast-line whenever possible in a direction at a right angle to the coast-line. A slight to-and-fro movement will help the superfluous sand on the map to drop clear of the coast-line, and will give the map a clearer appearance. There remains a perfect outline of the country, such as cannot be easily obtained by other means, and we have an excellent model, or relief map, of our country. The photograph below shows what the map will look like.

River-courses may now be traced in the sand by means of a match-stick, or represented by lengths of blue cord laid into position upon the map. Ports and other towns may be shown by coloured beads or marbles, while the railway-lines connecting town and town may be indicated by matches placed end to end. The various railway systems may be distinguished by painting these matches different colours.

Should we wish this sand map to keep its shape for some little time, we must lightly sprinkle its surface with water. But the shape once cut out, the map can be so quickly modelled that such a precaution will hardly be necessary.

This shape should, if possible, be kept flat; but if this is impossible, it can be made smooth enough for modelling by slightly damping it or by ironing it over.

In the same way animals, flowers, portraits, and other modelling exercises which require a correct outline, may be reproduced in sand. All we have to do is to cut out the outline and lay loose sheets of paper under it, as in the case of the map. The modelling of the raised parts may now be carried out in clay, and the dry sand sprinkled over the whole, as before.

To keep the sand from littering the table or reaching the floor, we can make a modelling-tray out of the lid of a large cardboard box. The sand, especially that which has been moistened, should be spread out occasionally in the sun to dry, for by this means it is possible to keep it perfectly fresh and clean and convenient to handle.


From the "Things To Make and Do" section of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia
[Note: This article is copied from an edition of the Children's Encyclopedia dated c. 1940. It is not included in the 1953 (Burgundy) edition.]


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