Lately, I’ve been doing some experimenting with converting tiny matchboxes into miniature keepsake boxes — once altered, the boxes are surprisingly strong and they can hold a wonderful little collection of goodies.
So that you can make your own keepsake boxes, I’ve designed a number of keepsake box templates that I’m offering them here as a free download. Check out the download links at the bottom of this article.
Supplies and Tools
- 32 Count Matchbox
- Paper of your choice (even standard printer paper works)
- Paper Glue (stick glue, white glue, Mod Podge®, etc.). If using white glue or Mod Podge, you will also need an applicator such as a popsicle stick or sponge brush.
- Bone Folder (or any hard object that can be used to smooth out glued paper and improve creases)
- Various pens, markers, inkpads, wood stain pens, acrylic paints, etc. for coloring the drawer.
- Aerosol Sealant (optional)
- Two clothespins and a popsicle stick (optional)
Disassembling the Matchbox
Yes, it’s possible to cover a matchbox without disassembling it — just wrap a strip of paper around the sleeve. But that leaves the edges uncovered and I like covered edges.
Remove the drawer from the matchbox sleeve and set aside. If you think of something interesting to do with a bag of unused matches, lol.
Locate the seam in the box (overlapping edges) and gently pry the ends apart. The glue is fairly weak and this step is not difficult. The separation may result in some minor tearing of the cardboard, but don’t be concerned — small tears and imperfections will be covered by the artwork you’re adding. Set the matchbox sleeve aside.
Once you have separated that overlap, you’ll be left with a a simple rectangular piece of cardboard that is glued together by overlapping
Prior to cutting out your design, consider if you want to coat it with a layer of Mod Podge or spray it with an aerosol sealant. I’ve found a coat of Mod Podge makes the paper easier to work with and does provide a protective coating (particularly helpful if, like me, you’re a very messy crafter!).
Allow appropriate drying time for your choice of sealant and then cut out your design.
Glue Design to Matchbox Sleeve
Place the pattern blank side up on your work table. Get the disassembled matchbox sleeve and apply your glue of choice to the outside/colored side of the sleeve. Note: it’s important to pay attention to which side you glue because of the pre-existing folds in the sleeve.
Place the sleeve (glue-side down) on top of the pattern (as show in the image to the left).
Wrapping the Sleeve
Once you have the correct placement on your pattern, coat the visible/gray side of the matchbox with glue. Fold over edges, ending with the largest flap.
When folded correctly, the edges of the large flap will not overlap the creases in the matchbox. The large flap will overlap the opposite, previously folded flap. Make sure to apply glue and fasten down the edges.
Use a bone folder or other similar tool (such as the wooden tool in the picture) to ensure there are no air bubbles and the edges are flattened.
Set aside covered sleeve and allow time for glue to dry.
DO NOT fold the sleeve back into it’s original shape while the glue is still wet. Wet paper is extremely fragile and if you don’t allow the glue to dry, the paper may separate (see pic). This is particularly likely to happen when using white glue.
Coloring and Lining the Drawer
My favorite method of coloring the matchbox drawers is with a Minwax® Wood Finish Stain Marker. These are the “markers” designed for touching up scratches on wooden furniture. The darker colors (such as “Red Mahogany” and “Dark Walnut”) work best. Lighter stain colors (such as “Golden Oak” and “Provincial”) just darken the gray box, rather than truly changing the color.
Decorating the Drawer
Sharpie Markers, acrylic paints, and inkpads are great choices for coloring the drawer. The drawer pictured to the left was colored using a Stazon inkpad (on the outside) and a Minwax Red Mahogany pen(on the inside). So far, using different colors (with no liner) is my favorite method of decorating the drawer.
As to lining the drawer, even though I’ve provided matching liners for all the patterns offered here, I’ve come to the conclusion that lining the drawer is going to be one of two things:
1) a pain to get right; or,
2) a pain to deal with because you didn’t get it right.
The matchbox fits together well before adding layers of paper. Layers of paper make the fit… snug.
So if the liner edges are folded over and glued to the rim of the drawer, the paper may catch on the box. If the liner is cut flush with the rim of the drawer, the paper may catch on the box. Or, cut the liner just below the rim and part of the drawer is left unfinished.
If you still want to line your box drawer, I recommend: 1) Crease the liner along fold lines prior to placing in the drawer; and 2) apply your glue of choice to the drawer not the paper (particularly important with the “wetter” glues).
Re-assembling the Matchbox Sleeve
Once you’ve allowed the sleeve to thoroughly dry, it’s time to fold it up (it should fold easily) and re-attach the ends with glue. The top flap should be close to flush with the edge of the bottom flat, but not completely.
At this stage, the box should hold together on its own, but I like to give it some extra support during the drying period. Luckily, a clothespin is the perfect size to work as a clamp (see pic). I had a broken popsicle stick to provide even more support and to ensure the “clamping pressure” is evenly distributed.
And at this stage, it’s quite likely that the cardboard is still a bit swollen from all the glue. Allow the sleeve to dry overnight before inserting the drawer.
Finished Miniature Keepsake Box
And there’s the finished box — just waiting to be filled with tiny treasures!
Free Miniature Keepsake Box Templates
All templates are .pdf files which require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to open. Click on the picture to download.
This post inspired by the Matchbox Swap #4 Gallery at Craftster.org.