Woodcraft Skill Project ~ A Birch Bark Matchsafe

My birch bark matchsafe

One of the aspects of woodcraft and traditional camping that really appeals to me is crafting and making some or even much of your equipment.   If you enjoy working with your hands, if you are handy with tools or even a tool buffoon like me, you can make some of your own gear.

I made this birch bark matchsafe a few years ago and have been very happy with it.  It has proven to be sturdy and waterproof enough to keep my matches dry.  While the waterproof qualities may not equal that of a commercially made metal or plastic matchsafe with a rubber gasket, mine beats all of them hands down for beauty and rustic elegance.  And, every time I use it I think – WOW! I made it myself!

I live in Oklahoma, where we only have River Birch.  We are not a region known for significant birch forests.  If you do not have ready access to birch bark, I suggest you buy your bark from this site.  I purchased a large sheet of bark from them years ago and am still using it.  I have made lots of bark objects from that single large sheet.

At the time I made the matchsafe I’d never thought of blogging so sadly, I did not take photos of the steps I used in making it.  However, I see that some guy named Ray Mears has now copied me on YouTube (just kidding Mr. Mears).

I essentially made my matchsafe exactly as Ray did but made two mistakes –

1)      I stupidly miscalculated the length of the interior and made the matchsafe too short.  When the bottom and top plugs were inserted, the insides weren’t long enough to hold standard strike-anywhere matches.  To solve this problem, I cut a deeper birch plug for the bottom and hollowed it out on the inside with a crooked knife.  It worked but was more effort than just starting over again.

Bottom of birch bark matchsafe

Bottom of matchsafe and underside of stopper. Both are made from a birch branch and finished with raw linseed oil.

Interior of birch bark matchsafe

Here is the interior of the matchsafe showing the carved-out plug. Not a bad job if I do say so myself.

2)      Unlike Ray, I never thought of using an interior wedge/exterior compression string to hold everything together.  Thus, the notched, pointed end that fits into the slot came loose before the glue dried and it eased out of the slot a bit.  It didn’t really matter because the glue holds everything in place but it’s not perfect.

One more thing – Ray doesn’t mention doing this, but I thinned Elmer’s Wood Glue down with warm water and gave the interior and exterior of the bark part of the matchsafe a couple of coats, with an overnight drying time between coats.  I also oiled the stopper and bottom plug with raw linseed oil to bring out the grain.

 

Exterior of birch bark matchsafe

I gave the bark of the finished matchsafe two coats of thinned Elmer’s Wood Glue to enhance the waterproofness.

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