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Forum topic by Spoontaneous posted 08-14-2010 09:51 PM 1584 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Spoontaneous's profile


1335 posts in 3567 days

08-14-2010 09:51 PM

It is not unlike me to get knee deep into a project before I realize that I don’t know what I am doing. This time I’ve managed to get in over my head on two projects simultaneously. I could sure use a bit of direction to see if the first project is salvageable and hopefully some advice for the second project to avoid a similar fate.

The idea for the first project has been bugging me for years and finally I got started on it this spring. The idea was to glue up a panel of wooden match sticks to form a ‘black and white’ mosaic with the burnt ends of the matches providing the black ‘pixels’. After gluing each layer of matches I covered with wax paper and clamped between a board and a table. This was all done on the dining room table (what I call a ‘shop’ these days) and without making excuses I managed to have the whole thing out of plum and out of whack.

When the final layer of the panel was glued and clamped… and sat for a while, it was so crooked that I took it to a friend’s garage and sanded it until it was relatively square. Then I go out of town for work and when I come home it is all warped again!!

So my questions are: Is it possible to ‘unwarp’ it? I am afraid to moisten it as that might break the whole thing apart. I have been trying to reverse bend it with the board and table method but the board and table are the ones that are bending. Is it possible to glue the panel to a plywood backing to keep it from warping more?... or would the bond break from the pressure? My plan was to construct a simple wooden frame around the panel but I fear it would warp along with it. Below is a pic of the out of whack panel and a pic of it after sanding… almost square.

Out of whack…

Almost squared…

The second project evolved naturally out of the first: the empty match ‘drawers’ were inverted and painted with acrylics to create another ‘mosaic’ in the form of a ‘painting’. I have about 350 match boxes painted and I think that might be about half way finished to the size I am shooting for. (5’ x 3’). The question here is what could I use as a backer board? I plan to glue the boxes to some sort of panel, plywood, hardboard or what??? that will not warp when I spread the glue…. or even when the humidity changes. The final piece will have a light wooden trim around it, something like you would see framing a canvas. Any suggestions on what to use (and is wood glue the best to glue it down with? Any help here can help this one from becoming warped like the other.

Here is about a 1/4 of the final panel:

Thanks very much for any and all suggestions!!! (Hope these pics show up.)

-- I just got done cutting three boards and all four of them were too short. (true story)

9 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3312 days

#1 posted 08-14-2010 10:41 PM

On your first project, I have no idea.

On your second, I think you will find that MDF is your best option. It’s very stable and it is very unlikely to warp. It’s also heavy. To keep the weight down, I would probably use a thin piece of MDF (!/4” or 3/8”) and build a solid wood frame (oak) around the outside on the back, with a few cross pieces, to give is added rigidity.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11147 posts in 3666 days

#2 posted 08-14-2010 10:50 PM

Generally, the concave side is dryer than the convex. Or, dried faster. That’s true of solid wood and plywood. So, I’m wondering if judicious application of mist and slight pressure might work? Match sticks are pretty absorbent so it shouldn’t take much moisture or pressure.

MDF is flat and would serve as a nice backing for either piece. Titebond would be my choice of glue. They make a slow setting product, which I’d use in your case.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11147 posts in 3666 days

#3 posted 08-14-2010 10:53 PM

It’s odd how our minds seem to work sorta together. You should be scared…..very scared.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View groland's profile


212 posts in 3649 days

#4 posted 08-14-2010 11:41 PM

I really like your ideas—they’re very creative. The matchbox painting is very beautiful! Regarding the matchbox project, I would be concerned about applying glue to only one side of a panel of MDF, especially if it’s thin. Applying glue to one side will wet it and will likely result in shrinkage causing the panel to cup. I would suggest using a small paint roller to apply a layer of glue to the back of the panel—you could support it on some brads you could remove later—then flipping it over and applying the same amount of glue to the side where the matchboxes would go. With the same amount of glue on both sides any shrinkage will be equalized and the tendency to cup reduced. George

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3814 days

#5 posted 08-15-2010 12:16 AM

This ia a way cool idea . As far as the warp is concerned I would use a spray bottle with water and give the convex side a spray with water don’t drown it just a liberal spraying . It might take a couple of attempts to make it work. after it’s relatively straight put a couple of boards to hold it and clamp until it’s completely dry.
It would be best to have a frame around it to hold it flat long term.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View steiner's profile


284 posts in 3588 days

#6 posted 08-15-2010 08:14 PM

These are two of the coolest projects I’ve seen. I have no suggestions for your question – just want to say they’re incredible projects. Your projects are always amazing.

-- Scott

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3177 days

#7 posted 08-15-2010 08:19 PM

You’ve been given good advice. However…. I think what you are doing is just SOOOO creative! I’m pretty sick of the words WOW and AMAZING but they do apply!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Spoontaneous's profile


1335 posts in 3567 days

#8 posted 08-15-2010 11:22 PM

Hey Guys ~ I really appreciate the suggestions. I am going to try the misting idea on the first project… After reading the comments it makes sense that as I built the thing up layer by layer, the concave was on the ‘outside’ and so probably dried quicker.

George, I am going to try your idea of applying glue to both front and back of the mdf panel. That makes sense to me and I don’t want to see it warp.

Tom, I can’t really cut or sand anymore off as I have sanded most of the ‘free’ border away already. It hurt to glue up that many matches and then have to sand off a bunch of them.

Anyways, if this works, I will post the completed project and give some Hallelujahs. Also, thanks for the other kind comments. Yeah, my wife wonders why I have to pick the goofy projects that take so long, but I tell her it’s kind of like the project picks me. <grin>

-- I just got done cutting three boards and all four of them were too short. (true story)

View TulsaWoodSmith's profile


228 posts in 3594 days

#9 posted 08-16-2010 01:43 AM

I think Jim is right about building a frame around it after you manage to get it as square as you can. The matchsticks are so moisture sensitive they will warp and twist with every change in the humidity without the frame to make them behave.

I love the project! I can’t wait to see it finished.

-- TulsaWoodSmith, Tulsa, OK The tools aren't the problem-It's the organic interface!

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