Hi, my name is Catalin Stefan and I currently live in Dresden, Germany. I have started this hobby of collecting sand with a sample from my trip to south Thailand in May 2007, then got addicted and added a few more hundreds by trading with other fellow collectors during my half-year journey to Israel.

…about collecting sand

Sand collecting is really a catching hobby. Sand costs nothing, is easy to collect (sand is almost everywhere) and the multitude of colors and textures is very rewarding. While some people chose to build custom collections (e.g. only sand from deserts or beaches, from historically relevant sites, capital cities etc), I personally collect just about everything. I usually prefer to store the sand as found in the nature although sometimes I remove big pebbles, stones or wood rests that do not fit through the neck of my vials.

Collecting sand at Ein Gedi Spa on the shores of Dead Sea in Israel

I also use to carry with me a small “collecting kit” which is a small box with several zip-lock baggies, a waterproof black marker, a self-made notebook for tracking down the location and date of collecting, a small magnet (to eventually check out the magnetite content), my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx and, since December 2010, an iPhone (often used as photo camera or for recording the exact GPS coordinates in case the Garmin runs out of batteries). Once I get back home I use to dry out the sand samples collected over the day. I just leave them under open air for 1-2 days and sometimes I check one more time to remove the wooden rests or bigger stones.

…about software to manage the sand collection

For keeping exact records of all samples I use at the moment MS Excel tables but there is also some other software available (see my post about Collection Studio, although I personally consider FileMaker Pro an absolute hammer).

Screen shots of my first draft template using FileMaker Pro 11 and MS Excel 2011 for Mac

In Excel I enter country name, region or province (the first country administrative division), city or island, exact location (e.g. “under main bridge”, “in front of hotel X” etc), the sand type (beach, river, desert, mountain etc), GPS coordinates, name of the person who gave me the sand, date of entry into database, and any additional comment I consider interesting. For several samples collected by myself I took a photo of the location so I also enter the full file name of the photo. But what I consider most important is the four-letter code: two for country, two for administrative division (see also Statoids website) which, together with the current number, turns each sample into an unique database entry (e.g. 2302 DE-SN). And in Excel I use one more trick: the COUNTIF function. This allows me to keep an updated overview on how many sands I have from that or that country and each subsequent sub-division.

…about storing my samples

When starting to collect sand you need to know at least one thing: you will need space! Most collectors collect about 30 ml of each sample (that is the volume of a full film can) but I personally consider this inappropriate: you will need A LOT of space to store all those samples (if we consider 3,000 samples – and this is rather common among sand collectors – you’ll have about 200 kg of sand in your apartment so – where do you put all that sand?). This is the reason why I decided to use much smaller jars: just about 6 ml vials which are also cheap, look very nice and are easy to store:

I use to store the vials in drawer boxes that I found at Gerstaecker but later I decided to build them by myself (and reduce thus the costs to less than 30%). The boxes fit excellent into our IKEA furniture so I don’t have bad feelings about occupying the whole house.

To see more examples about how other people store their sand just click on the Collections page on the top menu.

…about my website

A dedicated homepage represents a nice way to display your collection and share your hobby with others. Many collectors set up their own homepage and use it for different purposes: detailed listing of all samples (i.e. Daniel Helber), writing about (almost) everything related to sand (i.e. Michael Welland – highly recommended), presenting it’s own sand museum (i.e. Ralf Hermann), displaying great macro photographs of sand (i.e. Loes Modderman) but also small and pretty blogs (i.e. Siim Sepp).

At the beginning I started a photo gallery of all samples (see below the section about photography) but soon I realized that I cannot keep the rhythm: too many new samples in a short time so I cannot photograph them all. However, I still have over 700 photos from that time and here is one example on how the World Atlas of Sands looked in the past:

Screen shot of the World Atlas of Sands featuring the old design

Later on I decided to switch to a more flexible CMS format and started writing about sand. This is lot of fun since you always find new topics, there is no time stress and the reward is even bigger. I put all my articles into three categories: about sand collecting, travel journal and geology and mineralogy but I also have a new “Sand Photomicrography” section with sand photos (just click on the camera on the top right corner to activate it) and a small “news” corner. Since June 2011, the World Atlas of Sands is also available for mobile phones.

Screen shots with the actual website design

…about my sand photos

There are three types of photos on my website. The first type consists of thumbnails collected using a Canon Pixma MP800 scanner: on a transparent slide draw a 5 x 5 cm square where you uniformly spread your sand (leave no empty space). Put everything on the scanner and collect your image, then just crop it along the 5 x 5 cm markings.

Scans of sand samples using a transparent slide (all photos are 5 x 5 cm)

The second type is represented by the photomicrographs collected using my Canon 5D Mk II camera and a Canon EF 100mm/1:2,8 USM macro lens (you can see all photos in the Sand Photomicrography section). For this I use a more real-life setup: the camera software allows me to have full control of the settings directly from my laptop so I just take a screen shot from the sample magnified at 100%.

Macro photography using Canon 5D Mk II camera

The third type of photos are outdoor shots mostly from locations where I collect the sand. Since I do not always have my photo camera with me I am just using the mobile phone which gives me sufficient sharpness at 5 MP resolution.

…about sand trading

Since I cannot travel to all over the world I really enjoy swapping sand with other collectors. Most of the time a “trade list” comes into game with all samples available for trade. I must reckon that here I am not best prepared. This is due to the fact that most people who send me sand get actually rid of their leftovers; sometime this is exactly 6-7 mm, sometimes 10-20, always different. This kind of trade I enjoy most since we can trade A LOT of samples and still keep the package within a reasonable 2 kg limit. If you also collect small amounts, do not hesitate to write me since I estimate that I have small leftovers from more than half of my collection. However, measuring all those few ml and listing them on a trade list is a tremendous work, I just don’t have the time for it.

I also have several left overs from people who sent me a full 30 ml quantity. As I said, I used only 6-7 ml so if you collect in 15-20 ml jars just let me know, I may have some samples for you too. But I also use to trade full 30 ml sand collected by myself although I don’t have any “exotic” country (basically Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, The Netherlands, Portugal etc). Actually this is the most convenient trade for me: I offer you 30 ml, you send me back small amounts of 7-10 ml.

Interested in learning more about me? Then why not just dropping me a few lines using the contact page? I like to get in contact with anybody interested in sand collecting so feel free to write me about you and your hobby.

Disclaimer. I reserve the right not to be responsible for the correctness of the information presented on this website and also for any contents linked to or referred from the website.