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Sand Table Showroom


The sand tables shown here are primarily used as a platform for delivering Tactical Decision Games. It is important to remember that sand tables can also be used to present briefings, conduct AARs, and teach topography map interpretation. You can build a table as elaborate as a fine piece of furniture or as basic as a hole in the ground filled with sand. All serve the same purpose. Keep it simple and build the table that best suits your facilitation needs. Basic considerations are: mobility requirements, exposure to weather, storage needs, and scale of landscape to be shown. Rule of thumb - the larger the table, the more terrain that can be shown, but the less mobile the table.

photo of basic 4'x8' sand table

Basic 4'x 8' Sand Table
Best used for medium to large landscapes. Use a full 4' x 8' sheet of 1" plywood along with 2"x 6" planks for the sides. Ensure the legs are reinforced to support the weight of the sand and that the joints are sealed to prevent the sand from leaking.

Portable 4'x 8' Sand Table
Same as above except this version can be broken down for moving or storing. Note the handles on the side for easier handling and the buckets to transport the sand. Four saw-horses were used to hold approximately 300 lbs of sand. Sand table could also be set on typical training room tables instead of saw-horses.
photo of portable 4'x8' sand table
photo of portable 4'x4' sand table Portable 4'x 4' Sand Table
Best used for medium to smaller landscapes features. Use a half sheet of plywood and 2"x 6" planks for the sides. Use the remaining half of the plywood for a cover. The table is easier to set up and take down, but more difficult to show detail for larger landscapes.
Outdoor Sand Pit
The simplest sand table to build is a basic sand pit. Find a large area of ground to dig a hole and fill with sand. Contain sand with a wood or concrete perimeter such as the parking barriers shown here. Covering the pit area with a simple pole shed roof will provide shade and rain protection, making the pit more usable.
photo of outdoor sand pit

Picnic Sand Table
Here's a dual purpose adaptation for a standard sand table.

photo of picnic sand table photo of picnic sand table
photo of picnic sand table

Folding Sand Table
4x4 table folds in half for ease of transport.

photo of folding sand table
photo of folding sand table
Large Group Versions
Sand tables can be built for use by large groups and to display large areas of terrain.
photo of large group version of sand table
This 12'x12' sand table is set on blocks in a dedicated classroom space.
This 8'x8' sand table was used for planning and briefing at an ongoing incident.
photo of 12'x12' sand table
photo of sand table used for large group briefings at incident
This is the sand table room at the McClellan Training Center. In this room, six groups can run sand table exercises at the same time.
Marines view a sand table representation of the operating area of Exercise Desert Punch constructed on the desert floor near Yuma, Arizona.
Other Options
Special options can increase the utility of your sand table.

photo of sand table options

photo of sand table options

photo of sand table options

  • Built-in side containers for props
  • Base painted blue for water features
  • Spray-on truck bed liner for all-weather use
  • Use dust-free kitty litter instead of sand to reduce weight
  • Hole and plug in floor for easier removal of sand
  • Removable lid can double as flip chart display


The Original
And the classic turtle sand box, beautiful in its simplicity.


image of original sand box


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January 2005

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