Matchbox Monsters




About: Graphics designer by day, maker and tinkerer by night. Proud dad, geek and coffee aficionado. I hope to have a versatile library of contributions. Anything creative - I'm up for it!

Imagine that inside every matchbox lives a tiny monster, each with its own distinct personality. Imagine an entire world built around these tiny monsters. That was the original premise of Matchbox Monsters, an instructible over 2 months in the making, making it the longest project of mine so far. Most of that is caused by a hectic life, and delays in getting all the parts.

Inspiration for this project came from looking at other LED projects, some huge, some normal sized. I wanted to try making something tiny, and the idea for it to fit in a matchbox was born. The goal was not necessarily to break any limits and go as tiny as possible, just to go small-ish.

My monster family consists of three individuals: Capt. Jack, the Gremloblin and Nedward F.

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Step 1: Supplies


  • Hot glue gun
  • Soldering iron
  • Wirecutter
  • Craft knife

General supplies:

  • Empty matchboxes
  • Various paper/cardstock
  • Electrical tape
  • Spray glue
  • Glitter
  • Yarn
  • Soldering wire

Electrical supplies (I got all mine on eBay):

  • Voice recorder module
  • CR2032 3V batteries
  • Battery holder
  • Various LEDs
  • Flashing LED
  • Wire
  • Conductive copper tape

Step 2: Capt. Jack

The first monster is Capt. Jack. He is a jack-o-lantern in a box. All monsters are created from empty matchboxes, with various electronics inside. I use 3 volt CR2032 button cell batteries for all monsters, and a combination of electrical wire and conductive copper tape for wiring.

I started by covering the inside of the matchbox with orange paper. I then used conductive tape to make two terminals on the bottom of the drawer of the matchbox, with connection points on the inside. I also added a strip of tape on the inside of the outer part of the matchbox. This will allow the two terminals to make contact when the drawer is pushed open.

I soldered three orange LEDs in parallel, connecting them to a battery holder, and finally hooking it all up to the terminals. I did not bother with resistors in this project. All LEDs light up fine, and battery life was not an important factor. All exposed wiring was finally insulated with electrical tape to prevent a short circuit.

The electronics were added to the matchbox, and I added a layer of thin orange paper (slightly transparent) on top. I sprayed this with spray glue and added glitter. I then cut one final piece of orange paper, with a jack-o-lantern cutout, and added this, again spraying on glue and adding orange and green glitter.

Step 3: Gremloblin

This gremlin/goblin hybrid uses a neat trick for blinking eyes. A flasher-LED that controls 2 regular LEDs. No fancy chip needed. But let's start from the beginning shall we...

LEDs will be wired in series for this one, so an optimal voltage would be around 9 volts. Since a tiny matchbox would not (or just barely) fit a regular 9V battery, I used 3 3V button cells, stacked. Soldering directly to these batteries are a pain, so the wires are secured with electrical tape.

2 red LEDs and one flasher-LED (blinks about once every second) are wired in series. The color of the flasher-LED is unimportant as it will be hidden anyway. You could use 1 or 2 red flasher-LEDs for this project, but the idea that one flasher can control any number or regular LEDs hooked in series is nice. Regular are cheaper, so if you are building something with a lot of LEDs, you could save some actual money by using this method.

When working with LEDs, or any electronics for that matter, it is always a good idea to connect components on a breadboard before soldering, to make sure everything is properly configured.


LED circuit is affixed to the terminals in the matchbox, which are identical to previous matchbox. All exposed wiring is covered with electrical tape. The flasher-LED is also covered up, as it is only used to control the other 2 LEDs in this project.

Add it all to the matchbox, and cover with some black yarn.

Step 4: Nedward F.

Nedward has a voice recorder module, playing back a spooky soundtrack. This takes up quite some space, so a larger matchbox was needed. See image for comparison. Again I created terminals on the drawer of the matchbox, notice a slight variation compared to previous monsters. As with the rest I also made a conductive "path" on the inside of the outer box, to connect the terminals when the drawer is sliding out.

I created a soundtrack by using audio editing software, and mashing up multiple sounds found at I then played this back through my computer speakers, and recorded in on the voice recorder module (it has a microphone). After recording, I used a wire cutter to cut off any superfluous components on the voice recorder (microphone as well as record and playback buttons). I hooked the wires that were originally for the playback button, up to the terminals of the matchbox.

Next I soldered 2 green LEDs to a battery holder, along with some wire. This was also connected to the terminals in the matchbox.

The final step was to cover all the components up with dirt/sand (I used couscous), and adding body parts (LEGO mini figure). I also added some green glitter, for that eerie glow.

Step 5: Presentation

I created new designs for the matchboxes, and printed this on thick cardstock paper. I glued the matchboxes on with spray glue, and then cut along the edges with a craft knife. Voila!

Design is also attached as a PDF.

Step 6: Lessons Learned

My original design, using conductive tape as a sort of on/off switch, might be good for many purposes, but was quite faulty in this instance. There simply was not enough pressure between the two layers to make consistent contact. In the end I added a length of soldering wire to the outer box instead. This created enough tension to create a good connection.

As always, I would love to hear what you guys think! If the project itself didn't appeal to you, perhaps some of the techniques can still be applied in future projects?

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    15 Discussions


    Very Nice, I liked it very much and also give a vote

    please tell me how will it on i can't understand that.



    4 years ago

    Hi , does it work even without ground connection (the touch sensor) ??

    1 reply