A job that sticks to you

GLADBROOK – Believe it or not, you can make a full-time job out of gluing matchsticks together.

Just ask Pat Acton of Gladbrook.

The man whose amazing matchstick model pieces are on display at Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook, retired from his job as a career counselor and now makes his models full-time.

“It’s been my passion,” Acton said. “I don’t think too many people get an opportunity to have their hobby as their actual source of income. It’s been a blast.”

He has signed a three-year contract with Ripley Entertainment to make three models for its Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums throughout the world. He has sold models through the years to Ripley’s and currently has work in 14 of its museums in several different countries.

“I get a lot of feedback from all over the world,” Acton said. “A lot of people ask for advice.”

His current project for Ripley’s will be completed by July and is a model of the new World Trade Center in New York City including four towers, the museum and reflecting pools. The total project will include a whopping 500,000 matchsticks. Tower One of this project is complete and stands 15 feet tall. Since the project in New York is still a work in progress, it’s made for some adjusting on Acton’s part.

“One of the problems I’ve had is the plans for the buildings keep changing,” he said.

It’s uncertain which Ripley’s museum the World Trade Center project will end up at when it is complete.

When he is completed with his projects, he typically rents a U-Haul or van and takes the work to a Ripley’s warehouse in Orlando. He says the structures are sturdier than you might think, but he still is wary of their safety during the trip.

“Let’s just say we drive carefully,” Acton said.

A hobby that started 35 years ago when he built a small country church out of matchsticks on his kitchen table, has taken Acton and his work to places he never dreamed.

“I didn’t realize then what it could turn into,” he said.

He is unsure what the future will hold after the three-year contract with Ripley’s.

Well, he is sure about one thing.

“I won’t quit building, I know that,” Acton said.

Acton has 17 of his major matchstick pieces on display at Matchstick Marvels including the U.S. Capitol, the battleship USS Iowa and the space shuttle. For more information on the museum, visit www.matchstickmarvels.com or call 641-473-2410.