Design & DIY

This DIY tin match dispenser is perfect for the cottage

Matchbox holders

I’ve always admired those antique tin match dispensers, but they’re too small to hold today’s larger matchboxes. Making one would usually require a piece of equipment, called a “brake,” to bend sheet metal precisely. The secret to this project is a DIY brake fashioned from three scraps of plywood and some piano hinges. Assemble your own using the provided measurements and the diagram, and the bends for this build become simple enough to do at the kitchen table.

Assemble your brake:

What you’ll need:
3 6″ x 12″ pieces 3/4″ plywood
2 12″ piano hinges
2 small C-clamps

Build your matchbox holder:

What you’ll need:
9″ x 12″ tin or copper sheet
Rubber-backed steel ruler
Utility knife
Tin snips
Drill and 3/16″ bit
Mill file
Metal epoxy
2 small C-clamps
Matchbox pattern
Bonfire pattern or firefly pattern

1. To build the matchbox holder, start by transferring the pattern to the sheet metal. Wearing protective gloves, use a rubber-backed steel ruler and a utility knife to measure and score all the layout lines.

2. Cut around the perimeter of the pattern with a pair of tin snips. Nip off the sharp corners of the metal, and drill the hanging hole in the top of the holder before starting to bend.

3. If you’re adding a punched design to the face of the box, do so before making the bends. Print out the pattern, and adhere it to the metal with a light spray of adhesive. Use a hammer to tap a drywall screw along the pattern. Practise on a piece of metal backed with a scrap of plywood to get a good feel for the force required—you want the screw to just barely penetrate.

4. Clamp the metal in your brake along fold 1, and swing the outside leaf of the brake up to make the first bend, which forms the top edge of the match hopper. Use your thumbs to press the metal down all the way over to create a double-thick edge on the hopper.

5. Folds 2 and 3 are where the brake really helps, allowing you to bend the sides and
the connection tabs 90° all in one go.

6. Folds 4 and 5 are partial bends. Position the metal at the edge of the brake so that only a portion of the metal is bent, leaving the sides of the hopper to extend beyond the front.

7. Use your hands to make folds 6 and 7.

8. Once everything’s in place, adhere the tabs. You could solder them, but it’s simpler to use
a two-part metal epoxy such as J-B Weld—just mix the epoxy, apply to the connections, and clamp in place until set. Use a fine mill file to soften any sharp edges.

9. If you opt for a painted design, cut a stencil from a piece of cardstock, and adhere that with spray adhesive. Mask the areas you don’t want painted, and apply a single shot from a spray paint can.

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