Introduction: Display Vintage Matchboxes!

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

Matchboxes! Who would have thought that vintage matchbox designs were so damn cool. I remember the designs I used in this 'ible as a kid and never thought twice about them, Some things just get better with age I guess and these matchboxes definitely fit the bill.

I got a whole bunch of these on eBay and thought - great, now what? I wanted to display them and checked out Google on how others were displayed them. I must be the only one who wants to as there was virtually nothing on how to display matchboxes. There were plenty for ideas for matchbooks but these wouldn't work for boxes.

After a little brain storming and more Google searches, I decided to display them as specimens like you do bugs in display case. The back of the display case I added some acrylic so it looks like the matchboxes are floating!

The overall builds wasn't too difficult and you only need basic tools to make it. I learnt a couple of new techniques whist making the case like how to age wood which i will also go through. I'm really happy with the end design and the case could be used to display just about anything.


Step 1: Things to Hunt and Gather


1. Vintage matchboxes - eBay

2. Wood. I used some old trellis I had lying around.

3. Wax - for the wood

4. A sheet of 3mm acrylic

5. 6 x 8mm x 30mm x 20mm pieces of acrylic. If you don;t want to use these you can always just use wood.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar - for ageing the wood

7. 0000 steel wood - for ageing the wood

8. Nails


1. Wood glue

2. Saw

3. Plastic glue

4. All the other usual things you need to make things with

Step 2: Getting Started - Cutting the Wood

So now you have some awesome, vintage matchboxes, it's time measure up the wood to make the display case. It's up to you how big you want to make each individual section.


1. Sand down the wood.

2, Cut 2 equal lengths of the wood you have chosen. As mentioned in the intro, I used some pieces of pine trellis . These will be the top and bottom. The lengths I used were 300mm

3. Next cut 3 equal lengths of about 200 mm. These will be the sides and middle section.

4. Lastly, cut 4 x 90 pieces of the wood. These will make up the individual cells for the display case.

Step 3: Nailing and Gluing the Case Together

I wanted to make the display case look like it had been around for as long as the matchboxes themselves! To do this I aged the wood and rusted the nails. I probably should have aged the wood before I cut and stuck it together but it worked just the same.


1.To rust the nails, add a bunch into some apple cider vinegar and leave for 24 hours. Pull the nails out and let them sit for a few days and they will end up rusty. Probably a better way but this worked for me.

2. Nail together the frame of the display case

3. Next nail the middle piece of wood

4. Lastly, glue in the 4 pieces that make up each individual cell.

5. Leave to dry fo 24 hours

Step 4: Age the Wood

Check out this site for more details on how to age the wood. You don'y have to do this part, you may have some aged wood already, or just want to keep the wood as is.


1. Get a jar and fill it 3/4 with vinegar. I used apple cider vinegar but I think any type will work ok.

2. Add some 0000 steel wool to the vinegar and leave for 24 hours.

3. Now the solution is ready to paint onto the wood. To get a darker look to the wood, just add a couple of coats. Leave each one to dry first before adding each coat.

4. Lastly, you can give the wood a coat of wax of clear stain. I used wax and it came up great.

The end result will depend on what wood you use. I used pine and it can come out a little grey but the vinegar / steel wool stain really brings out the grain in the wood.

Step 5: Adding the Acrylic

To be able to mount the matchboxes, I added some acrylic to the back of the frame.


1. Either cut the acrylic yourself or find a place that can do it for you.

2. Use some plastic glue and attach the acrylic to the back of the frame. Leave dry for 12 hours.

3. To be able to mount the matchboxes to the acrylic, I added a small piece of 8mm acrylic to each of the display sections and glued them into place.

4. Once these are dried, glue the matchboxes to the acrylic pieces.

5, Leave to dry for 12 hours.

Step 6: Mounting

When it comes to mounting, you can either use some double sided tape or those frame mounting tabs you can get. You could also not mount and just have it sit on a shelf!


1, Cut the tape to size and add it to the back of the frame. You obviously don't want to see the tape so make sure you attach it to the wood sections.

2. Sit back and enjoy your creation