Offbeat

Matchstick Marvel: City Created from 420,000 Matches!

Masterpieces and matchsticks may seem an unlikely duo, but in the case of Iowa artist, Patrick Acton, it’s all in a day’s (well 3 years worth of days) work! His Middle-earth’s Minas Tirith, which contains hundreds of city buildings and is topped with the Citadel, the Tree of Gondor and the White Tower of Etchelion, is composed of 420,000 matches and is truly breathtaking to behold.

No doubt, even Tolkien himself would have been impressed with Acton’s amazing eye for detail and accuracy. Truth be told, he did not break the record for a sci-fi or fantasy matchstick model made from match sticks, as last year, Brian Croucher built a full-sized Dalek utilizing 480,000 matches! (Can you imagine being the one to count how many matches there are?)

Wonders made from matches is nothing new for this immensely talented craftsman who has been supplying Ripley’s Believe it or Not with his private wooden conceptions for the last fifteen years. His incredible works are on display at many Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe. For the past thirty years, Acton has created more than 60 fantastic works of art using 3 million ordinary wooden matchsticks, including detailed sculptures, complex machines and famous architectural examples.

Acton has been fascinated with wood and tinkering since childhood. After nearly ten years of model building and cutting the heads off 100,000 matchsticks, a light bulb went off in his head and he contacted the Ohio Blue Tip Company, and learned that matchsticks could be purchased without the sulfur tip. This permitted him to work at a much faster pace, and the size of his models soon increased from inches to feet, and from hundreds of matchsticks to thousands. Through trial and error, over the years he has streamlined his construction techniques, but the basic process has remained the same; that is, gluing one stick at a time.

Many of his astounding works of art can be viewed through 2011 at the Matchsticks Marvels museum in Gladbrook, Iowa. They have attracted visitors from all over the country and internationally. Tiny, two-inch long matchsticks are the bulwark of his huge displays, which include: a 13-foot long true-to-scale model of the battleship, USS Iowa and a 12-foot lighted model of the US capitol. Admission to the museum is $3 for adults and $1 for kids, with all proceeds going to support the Gladbrook City Center.

Matchstick Marvels has garnered much media attention publicity in recent times. Featured on television programs: ABC’s Extreme Makeover, Home and Garden TV, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not and in magazines such as: Highlights for Children and Workbench.

While some may argue that there are seven wonders in the world, there are others who might claim that the works of Patrick Acton could and should qualify for number eight!

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