Magical Matchwork

by Donald Willsher

The Wolf picture created by Don whilst travelling

When my mother died I was very young. We had a housekeeper whose husband made coffee tables with match designs as the top.

Many years later, when I was laid up with a carbuncle for a couple of weeks and looking for something to do, I remembered the matchwork and made a tray during that time. That was in the early 1960’s.

Since then, I estimate that I have made more than 40 coffee tables or trays and more recently, I have turned to pictures and clocks and have even replicated a wedding photo. By invitation, I have exhibited my work at ‘Working With Wood’ shows in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra in 2014 and 2015.

My wife and I spent nearly 14 years full time in a caravan travelling and this was an ideal hobby for those times as it requires no workshop, simply a folding table, some matches, scraper blades and some glue!

I only use Redheads (earlier on it was Bryant & Mays matches actually made in Australia) and for a time, Woolworths Home Brand Matches. Home Brand matches were made in Indonesia from a brown timber and were thus good for obtaining contrast without having to stain the matches as seen in this chessboard.

Two of the major works were made during the years we were travelling—the village of Donnsville and a picture of a wolf (top image). More on these in later editions.

To anyone interested in getting started in this hobby, I suggest keeping to simple designs until you develop your skills and techniques. Geometric designs are easiest as you only have to worry about straight lines and edges—no curves! Another tip is to make sure you do NOT use too much glue and don’t try to set too many matches at one time as they will move!

For the jobs I do, I have to cut off the head of each match unless I want that black head to highlight something in the design, for example, the minutes on the clockface seen in the picture below.

If any readers are interested in taking up this hobby, please get in touch with me  by emailing

The Clockface picture

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