Sieve Analysis is probably the most commonly known method of particle size analysis. It can be used both for dry or wet samples. In general, dry sieving can be used for analysis of coarser sand and larger-sized particles, whereas wet sieving is generally used for smaller silt and clay particles (<45 microns).
In Sieve Analysis, a disintegrated sample is placed in a sieve containing openings of a fixed size, and is agitated in the sieve in such a way that particles that can pass through the openings do so. To speed up the process, several sieves are stacked on top of each other, with the sieve containing the larger openings on top. A closed pan (receiver) is placed at the bottom of stack to collect the fines and a lid is placed at the top to prevent the loss of material. This stack of sieves is mechanically shaken (vibrated) if dry, or the particles are otherwise manipulated to pass through the sieves if they are wet, and the residual weight of material on each sieve is determined. The results are usually expressed in the form of cumulative percentage of the corresponding sieve aperture. A smooth curve is drawn to represent the grain size distribution.
This method is relatively simple to use. It however requires a large amount of sample (up to 500g may be necessary), and there is a chance of losing some fines if present through the sample handling process. The sample process time required increases when wet sieving is required for fine particles.