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I want to make some itty bitty wooden cubes, so I bought some crafting matchsticks and planned to cut them. However, when I cut them, they break up into strands of wood and become brittle. Any idea how I could reinforce them (like soak in in wood glue)? Or recommend a different material/brand?

I plan to cut them with a dremel tool. (: I want them to be close to 1/4 cm cubes and plan to paint them and glue them together to create pixel-esque designs, so making resin cubes is not a possibility.

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    What attachment are you planning on using on the Dremel? I haven't seen a blade for wood. Personally I'd go for a razor saw. Also how are you holding them? If you chop the heads off a lot, glue together at one end into a block, then cut starting at the other end, they'll support each other
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 20:36
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    Im thinking of using a carbide cutting wheel attachment. I will have to look into a razor saw for sure. The sticks I have are made for crafts (krafty kids matchsticks from amazon) so they have no matchheads already. (: My main issue it that they essentially crumble after cutting. I did use scissors for the first two trial cuts, though, so that may be a reason. The stability of the wood seems bad regardless though. I was also thinking of using clamps or forcepts/long tweezers to hold the wood while cutting. I'd prefer to have them be tiny cubes rather than glued together while cutting.
    – Zalimeow
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 0:44
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    The cutting wheels I have wouldn't do a good job on wood, and are also rather thick
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 8:52

2 Answers 2

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I've used wood from popsicle sticks and wooden coffee stirrers for model making. Matchsticks might be more fragile, but what I used would be a starting point.

My usual tool is a razor saw, like Chris H suggested, used in a tiny aluminum miter box. The saw I use is similar to this:

enter image description here Amazon

It has a very thin blade with very fine teeth that cut on pull. Very fine teeth will minimize tearing, so the wood will hold together better. The miter box looks like this, but mine is a different brand:

enter image description here Amazon

My miter box is sized to use with razor saws (important so the blade doesn't drift around in the slot, and it will be in the slot for the length of the cutting stroke).

For something as tiny as matchsticks, I would do them in batches. Make a block of aligned matchsticks. Gluing one end, like Chris H mentioned, will hold the block together (only the far end is glued to stabilize the pieces; as you cut the other end, you have loose cubes). The bottom of the miter box usually has some ridges, so you would want to line it with cardboard or something to level it for this. If you can, find a way to clamp the block in the miter box. These miter boxes usually have a lip so you can press it against the edge of the worktop to keep it stable while you cut.

Don't try to speed up the process with more pressure on the saw. It should make a clean cut with minimal loss of wood.

If you want to use a Dremel tool, a carbide blade wouldn't be the best for this. You can get circular saw-tooth disks. They come in different diameters and different teeth.

enter image description here Amazon

The ones pictured are a little thick. I use ones that look like they're cut from thin sheet metal. They make a clean cut in small soft wood and don't remove much (couldn't find a picture). A large diameter disk might have too much drag if your rotary tool doesn't have a strong motor. For something as small and fragile as matchsticks, use one with a lot of fine teeth.

Another type of disk that would work for this is resin cutting disks:

enter image description here Amazon

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  • Good find on the tiny circular saws
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 8:54
  • It appears from the photo that the circular saw blades are 0.8 mm thick, rather thin and well suited for the matchsticks, especially the high tooth count versions. I've used this type of blade and the results are impressive on soft materials. Important to maintain a stable position while cutting!
    – fred_dot_u
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 9:07
  • @fred_dot_u I'd want a jig of some sort, though my (pseudo) Dremel really isn't shaped for mounting
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 19:03
  • I agree with the jig suggestion, which would keep the disk on plane with the cut, a certain safety feature!
    – fred_dot_u
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 20:08
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I use a lot of this type of material for making dolls house style furniture and accessories. What I tend to do is to soak the wood in warm water, and then I split it along the grain using a regular craft knife with a good quality stainless steel blade.

When the wood is damp it brings out the grain which makes it much easier to add texture to by dry brushing, and it makes the wood more likely to split than to splinter as it is soggy. You just need to score the wood and then apply firm pressure to it along the line of the grain.

If you need to cut across the grain, try a hand held miter cutter on dry wood. It's easier to apply more pressure than you can from a craft knife, and it's more precise than a rotary cutting tool.

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    And you think that would have the same effect for cutting wood against the grain?
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 11:24
  • @Joachim, no, it would have the opposite effect. The wood swells up so you have a less well defined surface to get a purchase on with a toothed saw, and additional friction for a smooth bladed knife. The OP does not mention cutting across the grain, so it wasn't a requirement. The only solution that I'm aware of for cutting across the grain it to either have a really sharp tool or to use a force magnifier like a miter cutter. These are generally better with dry wood. Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 18:52
  • I'm confused. The question asks how to cut matchsticks into 1/4 cm cubes. Can you clarify what you're suggesting that they do to accomplish that?
    – Dolly
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 5:24
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    I assume all matchsticks are produced the same way (cut along the grain) and, seeing that the OP mentions wanting to cut them into small cubes, I think "against the grain" is very much implied. That was my point :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 10:01
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    I don't want to downvote this; it would be my first one, plus it might look self-serving since I have an answer, too. But honestly, it doesn't seem like a useful answer. Cutting something like a matchstick, nobody thinks in terms of grain. You can guess that it runs the long way, but to get 1/4 cm cubes, you have to cut that off the end of the matchstick. So you think in terms of cutting across the matchstick, not which way the grain runs (and you don't say). The answer suggests wetting, but also talks about not wetting, and the choice is tied to grain direction, which the reader may not know.
    – Dolly
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 17:17

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