Wallace’s 42,000 match masterpiece

When was the last time you had an idea that needed to get out? Maybe you’re a musician, and an idea for a song popped into your head. Or perhaps you own a restaurant, and you think you’ve figured out a genius way to advertise your latest dish. Sometimes we have ideas that we are absolutely head over heels confident about, and sometimes we are not so sure. The funny thing is, regardless of whether or not our ideas are good or bad, a lot of the time we never find out what they could have amounted to. We might have a truly innovative idea but we’re so shy to share it with the world that it falls flat. And sometimes a person can think of something that others might not think is very smart, but because the person is confident about it, he spearheads the operation and makes his ideas into a successful reality. Wallace from Upstate New York had a strange idea – and he followed through with it. We are thrilled that he did.


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Wallace was playing around with some matches when he noticed something interesting about them. He realized that there was a lot more to them than meets the eye. Due to his intellectual prowess, and daringness to experiment, Wallace formulated a plan in his head and began to tinker away in his study. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and he wasn’t sure if anything of value would come from it. But maybe, just maybe, if everything went according to plan, his interesting idea could ultimately be one of the coolest things anyone has ever done.

Think about all of the amazing artists and inventors that have shaped the zeitgeist of our culture. From Thomas Edison to The Beatles, they are part of an elite group that we like to call pioneers. There is a reason that we call them that. And it isn’t because they are following the rules. It isn’t because they constantly know what they are doing. On the contrary, the definition of a pioneer is someone who paves a new road that no one has ever gone down before – including themselves. Pioneers, like Wallace, are the ones who have the wackiest of ideas and follow through with them. They are the ones who are taking chances, constantly pushing the boundaries of knowledge, and making way for a brighter future.

Wallace the magnificent

One of the most beautiful things in human existence is our supremely advanced intelligence. More than any other known creature on earth, us humans are the pinnacle of evolution. And to those who say that orcas or dolphins are actually smarter than humans in some ways, we’d like to see them do what Wallace the magnificent did. Wallace had an idea, and although others might’ve called it weird, he showed us hard wrong they were.

42,000

This is a story of a ten month project that Wallace from Upstate New York set out to do when he was just playing around with matches at home. Perhaps he was told as a kid that he couldn’t play with matches, and for this reason he was so determined to embark on a project that would illuminate them in such a radical light. Wallace was required to use an estimated 42,000 matches to complete his project – so you know it was good.

A lot of glue

Not only was Wallace required to use all of those matches, but the entire cost of the project altogether was around $500. This was an arduous process that involved the delicate task of gluing, gluing, and when Wallace was done with all of that – he would have to do some more gluing. It was essentially ten whole months worth of gluing matches together with the goal of creating something much larger than any of us could have hoped to expect.

Up in flames

And if there’s something that makes the undertaking of a project that much more beautiful, it is the moment it gets destroyed. Think about it: You’ve been working on something very important to you for almost a full year. Your blood, sweat, and tears are embedded into this thing. Now you’ve finally completed it, and what do you do? Set the whole thing on fire. In fact, that is exactly what he did, and wait till you see the slideshow of him doing it.

Beautiful process

In fact, we have the entire process of Wallace’s project documented and served on a silver platter just for you. The pictures are actually quite amazing, from before he started building it, to when he was two months in, to when he was halfway through. The pictures don’t stop there either, commencing to the point when he was so close and felt like giving up, but didn’t anyway because he had a goal in his mind.

Tables turned

We believe that the way you’ll experience best is if we start from the way beginning. Every step of Wallace’s process is very interesting, and we think you’ll enjoy it immensely. One of our favorite things about what Wallace did is that he took something that might seem silly or uncool, and turned it into something truly extraordinary. Now that the tables are turned, we aren’t surprised that people all over the world are falling in love with this story.

Something intriguing

Well, we won’t toy with you any longer – we are going to tell you what Wallace did, and when you read the rest of this story, you won’t be able to look away. Wallace was playing around with matches one day when an interesting thought came into his head. He noticed something intriguing about them that made him realize that there was a world of uncharted possibilities to be explored. He knew that he wouldn’t be satisfied unless he followed through with it.

Now that’s cool

Before we tell you what he did with the matches, let us fast forward a whole year after he had his initial idea. The project that he was so excited to do has now turned into an internet phenomenon, to the point where kids are wondering if they should pay better attention in science class. Because if there is one word that could probably best describe what Wallace did, it is “cool”. Make no mistake, it is one of the coolest things you’ll ever see.

Combine the matches

Now, we all know the way matches work – and more importantly, we all know what they look like. They have a thick head, where the match is meant to be struck, and they have a thin body, where you hold the match from. But unlike the rest of us, Wallace that piece of information and a whole vision erupted in his head. He thought himself, “What would happen if I combined the matches?” Due to their unique, he came to an interesting conclusion.

Spherical procedure

Wallace realized that if he kept combining matches, they would eventually make the shape of large sphere – or a ball, for those who aren’t sure what a sphere is. But how could that be possible? Matches that come together to make a sphere? It seemed almost outrageous to even suggest something like that. And what’s more, it was all in theory. Wallace wanted some backup research to know that if he went ahead and did it, it would actually work.

Visual benefit

But what exactly was this backup research he needed? The math that he had done seemed to work on paper, but it seemed that what Wallace wanted was something visual that he could reference, so that he could see with his own eyes that what he was doing would be worthwhile. Luckily, Wallace had exactly what he needed – a computer program called Rhino that would enable him to input his numbers and see how it would visually turn out.

Rhino modeling software

This computer program called Rhino was actually a modeling software that Wallace already had some experience with, so he knew exactly how to input the shapes and numbers into the system. In addition to him wanting to see if his project would actually end up looking like a sphere, he also wanted to get a good idea about how many matches he would need to buy from the store. He didn’t want to break the bank, as they say.

That’s a lot of matches

After crunching the numbers, Wallace came to a few conclusions. One of the conclusions was that if he kept gluing matches to each other, they would indeed eventually make the shape of a sphere. The other conclusion was that in order to actually reach that sphere, he would have to use an insane total of 62,654 matches! Of course, we already know that his calculations were off, and he didn’t end up needing that many. But one can only imagine Wallace’s thought process at this time.

Let’s do this

This is when Wallace had to make a real choice. It was now or never. There would be no shame in turning back now, especially since this was a project that most people would attempt to do in their wildest dreams. But there was something about it that intrigued him – he knew that it wouldn’t be easy at all, but he still wanted to keep on going. This would be one of the coolest things anyone had ever done, and Wallace wanted to be in the driver’s seat.

Start gluing

That’s when the gluing began. One can’t even comprehend what goes in to the painstaking process that gluing 42,000 matches together is like, but there is something to be said about the fact that every step of the way was probably a little bit different. Think about doing the same thing over and over again. Your mind is bound to wander off into all kinds of places – who knows, maybe there is something therapeutic in that.

Stage one

Wallace has said that this picture was snapped during a time where he was excited and very optimistic. This is because now he had concrete proof that his theory was correct. It’s one thing to see it on paper, and it’s another thing to see it visually on the computer, but the second it begins to get actualized into physical reality, the effect takes a wonderful new form. Wallace was ecstatic, so he kept on gluing.

Stage two

As he continued to glue, the sphere continued to grow. As it continued to grow, Wallace’s hands naturally began to get tired, as did his mental and emotional capacity to continue. He was happy with how everything was turning out but was slightly discouraged by how much time and effort it was taking to glue the matches. He wanted the process would go faster, and he was desperate to make a change in order to expedite the whole deal.

A faster workflow

That’s when he came up with a system that would enable him to move a lot quicker. He realized that if he aligned all of the matches on a table and pointed them all in the same direction, his overall workflow would become more efficient, and he could get the whole thing done a lot faster. Wallace said that once he incorporated this new process, he was able to take up to seven matches at a time and glue them simultaneously.

Midpoint blues

Finally, Wallace got to the halfway point of the entire affair. As you can see in this picture, it is truly amazing just to see half of the sphere completed. In case you have forgotten, these are matches we are looking at. Although Wallace was glad to reach the halfway point, he admits that it was a depressing time due to the fact that the diameter of the sphere was now so large that even an entire box of matches wasn’t enough to complete a whole layer.

Marathon runner

But even though it was getting harder and harder, like a well seasoned marathon runner who knows how to pace himself, Wallace kept on going. And slowly but surely, the big ball kept on growing. He actually started caring less about gluing the matches in their perfectly aligned spots because he was a lot more interested in just getting the whole thing done. Maybe the sphere wouldn’t be as perfect as originally planned, but it would still be super cool.

Almost done

As you can see in this picture, Wallace was now madly close to the finish line – in his own words, he was “so close but so damn far”. When one works on a project of this kind of magnitude, being so close to the end is an interesting time to be in. On one hand, you can smell blood – you are feeling the excitement of your ultimate victory. On the other hand, that’s all you can think about.

Giant avocado

Wallace has said that he really loves this picture because it displayed how funky the sphere got towards the end. At that point, it was clear that the sphere wasn’t absolutely perfect in the symmetrical sense, but all of us can agree when looking at its state right now that it is beyond perfect. It is so cool, and it actually looks like a giant avocado. Wallace was on the cusp, and was about to finish.

Finished product

Well there you have it. Ten months of a laboriously boring, yet possibly meditatively serene process of gluing matchsticks to each other and this is what you get. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the value of having a goal in mind, and setting out to accomplish it no matter what obstacles may come in your way. It can’t have been easy for Wallace to keep going, but he did – and here is his reward.

Shades of green

One of the cooler things about the finished sphere is the unique coloring of the whole thing. Wallace made sure to use the same product of matches for the entire project, and they always seemed to have the same green tip. But when we look at it now, we can see that the shades of green are different in concordance with the layer. It actually makes the sphere look like it could be a planet from outer space.

Matchbox 140

Have you ever heard of the band Matchbox 20? Maybe Wallace should have started a band called Matchbox 140, because that’s how many matchboxes he ended up needing to complete his project. He decided to save every single one of them, and here is a picture of them. It’s pretty amazing that the former contents of those boxes were able to produce something so beautiful. Speaking of the sphere, wait till you see the grand finale of its existence.

Closing time

If you think the sphere looks cool now, wait till you see how amazing it’s about to look – when it gets set on fire. Like everything beautiful, certain things must come to an end. And this is something that Wallace understood when he put the match to the giant sphere that took him ten months to create. It took Wallace a few takes to get the ball to light, but once it did – the effect was marvelous.

Uh oh

And off he went. He struck the match with gusto, cradled the flame from the rushing wind, and brought it closer to the giant sphere. But as he connected the flame to the heads of the city of matches, something seemed wrong. The sphere didn’t seem to want to catch fire. He tried a few times, but to no avail. Wallace even joked as it was happening, “Maybe they are all duds” – referencing the 42,000 matches. But don’t worry friends – eventually, his luck would change.

Flames a-catchin’

Finally, the sphere caught on fire. Such exhilaration must have been felt at this moment on Wallace’s behalf, because after watching the video that he took of the whole experience, we can tell you honestly that it was truly an exciting thing to watch. In this picture you can see how once the sphere caught fire, it took absolutely no time at all for the whole thing to begin to erupt. And it’s beautiful to observe the different stages of fire consumption the ball goes through.

Fireball in the wind

As you can see here, one the sphere of matches caught flame, there was nothing one could do but simply appreciate a work of art from afar. Little by little, the ball began to get encapsulated by fire, and the wind was rustling made it closely resemble a fireball. Remember when we said this project would deliver in its coolness? This right here is what we were talking about. And if you still don’t agree with us, well… Maybe you’ll like this next one.

Getting darker

This was the point of the fireball when it was nearing its very end. Once the flame passed the midpoint of the sphere, it started showing signs of blackness. It was almost as if the sphere was telling it’s creator Wallace that its time was almost up. Speaking of Wallace, one can only wonder what he was feeling at this time, and the project he had worked so long on was slowly but surely coming to its fateful end.

Different angles

Due to the fact that Wallace was setting his entire masterpiece on fire, he figured he might as well document it as proof. After all, he had been doing that for the previous ten months anyway, taking pictures of his “baby” through all of the stages of it’s evolution. And when he decided to videotape the burning, he made sure to capture it from multiple angles. We thought that you would particularly appreciate the angle in this picture, and how breathtakingly cool the sphere looks here.

Black sphere

As you can see, the poetic end to Wallace’s fireball was something he wanted to make sure was documented into history, and this is perhaps why he didn’t mind setting the whole thing on fire so quickly. He may have wanted to savor the moment a little bit, but thanks to modern technology, he was able to not only digitally capture the entire experience, but share it with all of us – and we thank him for that.

Brilliant ideas

How often do we come up with an ideas that seem so brilliant that they must be exposed to the world? Especially nowadays, what with the advent of the applications and startups, everyone is constantly trying to come up with the next big thing. This happens quite often for certain people, and they aren’t always the ones who you’d expect. Maybe it’s a fireman, whose heroics may garner him the title of someone important but whose late night brainstorms never get to see the light of day.

Making it happen

And isn’t this perhaps the biggest problem? We have so many ideas, and yet we are constantly shutting them down. And if we’re not shutting ourselves down, someone else it usually shutting us down. They’ll say that our invention idea is dumb, or that it will never work, or that embarking on such a conquest would be dicey or impractical. But Wallace didn’t listen to the outside noise when his awesome idea came into his head. He knew what he wanted, and he made it happen.

What this story is really about

Because this story isn’t just about how cool it looks when you glue 42,000 matches together. It isn’t about how amazing the entire process looks, when it’s a quarter of the way through, half of the way through, or even at the very end when the entire thing becomes a raging fireball. This story is about Wallace, and the emotional and mental resilience that must have been required from him to complete his entire task.

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