On Matches and the Passing of Years

Do you have a match safe?

Years ago, matches could be struck on almost any surface. A couple of matches in your pocket could ignite just from rubbing against each other. So most houses had special match containers, usually metal, to help  reduce risk. There’s one of these containers in my house, tucked into a corner near the door to the cellar, within easy reach of the wood stove, which is our winter heat source.


The cast-iron match safe. For safety’s sake it’s placed past the edge of a brick wall, so no direct heat can ever reach it. 


My match safe is made of black painted cast iron, a material seldom used in these days of steel and plastic. It holds an entire box of 250 to 300 wooden matches, more than enough to start fires for an entire heating season. About once a year it needs refilling.

A brief digression:

Much of my working life has involved working with wood: finishing wood, carving wood, building with wood — a full list of what I’ve done with wood would take pages to tell.

As a young man, while working on centuries-old houses as a painter and refinisher, I developed an appreciation and love for the dark color that wood acquires over time. No stain can duplicate the look of old wood. and old stained wood seldom looks as good as it would have if left alone in the beginning. I seldom stain anything I make from wood. The passage of time will yield better results than any artificial enhancement.

Back to the match safe: either wooden matchbox sizes are different today or this safe has a design defect.  Even though there’s a flip-up lid, the opening isn’t wide enough to insert a new match box. You have to take the safe down to be able to refill it.

But I don’t mind, because of what is revealed when the box comes off the wall.


Where the match safe sits is much lighter than the wood that’s been exposed to air.

I love this.

Thirty years ago, this douglas fir one-by-four board was almost white in color. No sunlight has shone on this piece of trim since the house was built thirty years ago. Even so, the passage of time has turned the once-light wood to a dark honey color.

Except the part covered by the match safe.

Time’s Shadow does not have to be Dark.


One response to “On Matches and the Passing of Years

  1. What a delight to see this. It is wonderful to be able to experience the passage of time by living in one place. Although my Mom still owns the house I was raised in, constant updates and redecoration have eradicated most marks like this one that might have gathered since the house was built in 1957.

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