Block of the Week: Sandstone

Don't get all sedimental on me

The very first time I played Minecraft, I built a sandcastle. It was dark, I was getting swarmed by zombies, and I needed some place where I could hide until morning. I'm sure many of you experienced something similar when you played the game for the first time. But I had a problem - I couldn't make a door. The sand kept falling when I dug out below it. I needed our block of the week - Sandstone.

Sandstone is pretty easy to find in Minecraft. Find a desert and start digging. The upper layers of the ground will be regular sand, but below that the weight has compressed the sand into tougher sandstone blocks that hold their shape and won't fall. If all that digging sounds like hard work, then track down a desert village, well or temple instead - all of which are made of different kinds of sandstone. Or - for the very laziest amongst you - just combine four sand in a crafting grid.

Sandstone comes in lots of different types. Put four blocks of regular sandstone in a crafting grid and you'll get a variant called smooth sandstone back, with - you guessed it - a smoother texture. Or, if you want something a little fancier, then put a line of three regular sandstone blocks in a crafting grid to make six sandstone slabs, then two of those slabs on top of each other to make chiselled sandstone.

Chiselled sandstone - the kind you find in temples - has a little creeper face on it! It’s one of the few things in Minecraft that implies a grander story - who carved these blocks? Like the abandoned mineshafts, too - you wonder who’s been there before you. I love that stuff!
Markus ‘Junkboy’ Toivonen

You can also make stairs out of sandstone, just like you would make wooden stairs, and - best of all - you can swap regular sandstone for red sandstone in any step to make a red variant. Very handy if you live in a mesa and don't have a desert nearby. Or just like red things.

Photo credit: Etan J Tal. CC BY-SA 3.0

Real-world sandstone is made in exactly the same way that Minecraft sandstone is. Big rocks are broken down into sand over thousands of years by the weather, then that sand is buried and the weight of the materials above it is enough to make it turn into rock, with the gaps in between the particles filled up by minerals as water flows through.

As a result it's pretty common - you'll find sandstone all over the world. Red sandstone is real too - it's created in places with lots of iron in the ground, like the southwestern United States, central Europe, the southwest of the UK, and Mongolia. In a few places, like Monument Valley in southern Utah, the wind has carved the sandstone into incredible natural sculptures that inspired Minecraft's very own mesa biomes.

Photo credit: Adc0317. CC BY-SA 4.0

So the next time you're trying out a desert survival experience, give sandstone a shot as your building material of choice (perhaps paired with acacia wood?). You'll be surprised how versatile it can be!