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Published on Feb 13, 2011
Just a quick video of how to mine sand and gravel quickly. It's an ancient technique, but not everyone knows it. Note that this is harder to do on a server without much lag, harder still in single-player. One somewhat easier way: dig with a torch! (thanks, cotp)
To pick up the torches when you're done, pour out some water - this knocks the torches loose. (thanks, GamerXR72)
Another technique is to simply dig under the sand, put a torch under the single block of bedrock holding up the sand, then knocking the bedrock out and letting the sand collapse.
You can also use this to build tall columns which you can then knock down easily. Place a torch, put a gravel on the torch (aim for its tip), get on top (you'll have to build a block step up) and elevator up (jump, drop gravel, repeat). Once you get back to the bottom of the column, just knock out the bottom block of gravel and the rest will come tumbling down and turn into little blocks.
One downside (if you like flint): gravel falling on a torch will not produce flint. (thanks, PD711)