Matchsticks, with their uniform length and shape, lend themselves to a wide variety of crafts. Children can use matchsticks to make simple photo frames and boxes. Talented adult model-makers have crafted ships, houses and musical instruments using just matchsticks and glue. One man even made a full-size Dalek from the BBC series "Doctor Who." It seems that the only limiting factor, as far as matchstick craft-making goes, is your imagination.
Model-making kits are ideal for the beginner because they come with instructions. Available kits include vehicles such as trams and trucks, along with farm equipment and ships. Other kits include famous structures: Landmark tourist buildings such as London's Big Ben or the Tower of Pisa in Italy are available to make. If a kit does not appeal to you, buy special model-making matchsticks in bags. Try starting with a simple model, such as your house, so that you learn the basics.
Provide children with a simple template that you can either make or source from a book such as "Children's Arts & Crafts Books: Matchstick Crafts." Simple objects such as a photo frame, a box or animal shapes are ideal to start with. Alternatively, let children loose with the matchsticks and allow them to use their creativity to make objects.
With some experience making models and simple objects with matchsticks, you might want to try something slightly more adventurous. Patrick Acton from Iowa started his matchstick model-making career with a small country church but progressed into making the frigate USS Constitution. He has subsequently built many other models, including Pinocchio. Advanced techniques include bending the matchsticks with pliers. Other ambitious projects include the matchstick ukulele made by Englishman Jack Hall. He used 10,000 matchsticks to create the instrument. Brian Croucher went one better, using 480,000 matches to create a life-size model of the TV character, the Dalek.
Matchsticks can be a safety hazard when children are working with them. However, you can buy special matchsticks, without the flammable end, from craft or hobby shops. There are also child-friendly safety scissors, so kids can cut off the heads when using ordinary matchsticks. To inspire children and adults, take a visit to a matchstick museum such as the Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center in Iowa. Models include battleships and the 12-foot-long United States Capitol.