Project: Sandbox Sifter

I could never figure out how to keep our sandbox clean.  We even have a cover for it, but somehow, it still gets filled with pine needles and leaves and other random debris.  It usually looks like this:

debris-filled sandbox

As I played in this filthy sandbox with my kids, I thought, “if only we had a really big version of those toy sifters.  I could sift all this crap out and the sandbox would be good as new.”  And then I got a bee in my bonnet, and I wouldn’t rest until I had BUILT myself a sifter.

Now, I am NOT handy.  I am willing to give things a go and can often cobble something together that is workable, if not aesthetically pleasing.  And that’s kinda what happened with the sifter.

I figured, how hard can it be to make a sifter?  Basically, I figured I just needed a frame to which I could nail some screen.  So I headed to Home Depot, where I got a 4′ x 6′ piece of pine that I had the guys there cut into 4 equal pieces (of 1.5′ each, if you are doing the math), two metal drawer pulls, some “common nails” (I love this term; it sounds so medieval), some thumbtacks, carpet nails, and a roll of screen.  And I was off.

Supplies? CHECK.

First step: make the frame.  The first connection is the hardest, since I didn’t have a vice or a carpentry table or any helpers other than my 3 year old.  So I piled up a few bags of compost on which I leaned the end of the board I was nailing.  And I ended up with this start:

the first connection

The next board was a bit easier.

not too shabby

The final board was a little trickier since I had to make sure I lined it up correctly.  The key is to make sure that each board is attached on one end to the outside of another board and on the other, to the inside.  I don’t know how else to explain this, but here it is.

frame complete!

The next step was attaching the screen.  I recommend attaching a larger piece to be trimmed later; I tried doing it starting with the edge, and inevitably I didn’t line it up straight enough and I couldn’t get the opposite side to match.  Once you lay the screen over the frame, attach it in each corner with a thumb tack, stretching the screen tightly as you do.  Then you can add more thumbtacks around the frame.  This part was so simple that my 3 year old helped.

attaching the screen

Who am I kidding? He did most of the work.

Then, I used the carpet tacks to fill in the rest of the outline.  I used a combination of the thumbtacks and the carpet tacks because the thumbtacks covered more surface area, although they weren’t the most grippy fasteners ever, and the carpet tacks really held on but didn’t hold quite as much surface area.  I know, I really thought about this when I was in the fasteners aisle at Home Depot.

After the screen was attached, I trimmed it flush with the edge of the frame, and I was almost done!

thumbtacks and carpet tacks, yay!

Now, just because I wanted to be fancy, I decided to put some handles on this puppy, to make it easier to sift.  That took a little maneuvering, but I finally got it right:

Is ta da one word or two?

Impressive, yeah?  It really only took me about an hour, if you count only the time I was working and not the time I was pretending to be a tiger chasing the 3 year old on his tricycle or the time I spent trying to stop the dog from going in the neighbors yard.  And I spent about $10 on it at Home Depot, so I figured, hey, win win.

I’ll be inserting a photo here of the cleaned sandbox as soon as I, uh, sift it.

UPDATE!  We sifted.  Here’s my husband doing the honors:

sand through the homemade sifter

This was towards the end of the sifting, and look at all this junk we sifted out:

toss that debris!

And, VOILÀ, sandbox good as new.  And it only took about 10 minutes of sifting.

muy limpio