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MEET THE PEOPLE

Editors note: This is an occasional series highlighting people in your neighborhood.

George Troester, 72, has no burning desire to set the world on fire. But he does like to play with matches.

In fact, he burns whole boxes of wooden kitchen matches at one time. Then he uses them to create "Matchstix Whimsey by George": a variety items such as birdhouses, jewelry boxes, guitars, tissue box holders and even lamps.

Troester first saw a matchstick guitar on a friend's wall about 10 years ago. About 6 years ago he put his hand to the task.

"I thought it was something I could do," said Troester.

With a back ground that includes being a cabinet maker, doing antique wicker repair for 15 years and refinishing antiques, making matchstick collectibles was another way to express his creativity.

Not being a smoker, Troester buys his matches, generally at Wal-Mart. He estimates the cost to him at 3 matches for a penny.

To prepare the matches for use in his unique art, Troester first aligns all the matches so that the sulphurous heads are arrayed on one side. Opening the box about an inch or so, he lights on match, and drops it into the box. If there is time, he'll close the box. If not...WHOOSH!

The lack of oxygen in the box prevents the box itself from igniting, but burns the match tops.

After breaking off the ashy top, the blackened tip provides an interesting patterning to his projects. One guitar is reminiscent of a cat's silhouette. He searches books and uses the library internet to find ideas for his projects.

"Sometimes I have a vague idea," said Troester, admitting that, "it's time consuming."

From start to finish, a project may take up to two weeks to complete, "If I keep at it.

"I have to put each one on by hand, then let it dry. You've got to have patience," he added. "I don't know where I get it from."

After the project drys, Troester evens the edges, places it on a backing made from scrap wood or heavy cardboard, sands and varnishes or stains the piece.

Outside of the matches Troester purchases, everything else comes from "Dumpster diving. I'm the world's greatest Dumpster diver," Troester bragged.

His children, grandchildren, other family and friends have all benefitted from his hobby.

Although his pieces are all for sale, "I've given away more than I've sold," he said.

Perhaps that will change when he sets up shop at the Bluegrass festival in early November in Dunnellon. From banjos to Greek bouzoukis, from bird houses to lamps, Troester has something for everyone in his repertoire of matchstick whimsey.

Rita, his wife of 11 years, enjoys the fruits of his smoldering passion for pint sized kindling, proudly displaying the pieces within their home.

Besides, "It keeps him out of my hair," she said.

George Troester moves quickly when lighting a box of matches to produce the burned matches for his matchstick creations. He has never suffered a burn in the six years he has been making his matchstick art.

Rita and George Troester sit in his work room surrounded by a few of the matchstick instruments he has created from burnt matches.

Editors note: This is an occasional series highlighting people in your neighborhood.

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