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‘Armchair traveler’ constructs Toothpick World

Stan Munro of North Syracuse, N.Y., began “toothpicking” as a hobby when he was in the fifth grade. Little did he know, then, how far he would take it 30 years later.

Stan Munro with his Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Eiffel Tower toothpick replicas.

For example, look at the detail in his replica of Fenway Park in Boston. You can almost hear the crowd cheering. The fact that it’s made from a pile of toothpicks is hard to believe. Yet this is what Munro does day after day with remarkable skill.

“I just finished the Trinity Church in Boston,” Munro says. “All of my buildings are 1:164 to scale. What people don’t understand is how long something will take based on the size of it. They will think the Empire State Building took a long time because it’s so tall, but it took less than a week. Trinity Church, which is only 15 inches long, took almost three months. The detail that really goes into some of the smaller ones is really challenging.”

About 10 years ago, Munro needed to be home more to care for his wife, Suzi, who was stricken with polycystic kidney-liver disease. He became an “armchair traveler” watching the Travel, History and Discovery channels and started replicating iconic buildings, monuments and historic sites from around the world. Suzi received a transplant and has recovered, while Munro has completed more than 200 replicas.

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

He has sold a few, but his main focus is traveling exhibits, called Toothpick World, Toothpick City and Toothpick Town depending on the size of the exhibit. Toothpick World is the flagship with more than 100 structures. Toothpick City, which is on permanent display at Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Baltimore, has about 50 buildings and Toothpick town has about 22 structures.

His latest exhibition, “Toothpick World: From Sliver to Skyline,” is currently running through March 27 at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass.

He researches his projects by looking at original blueprints, satellite photos and whatever he can find to create a faithful rendition of the original building. One of the best parts of what he does is the low overhead. Working from cases of toothpicks in his basement, which he buys from a wholsaler, he only needs a Dremel tool, scissors, clippers and glue to build his projects. On average, he says each building takes about 18 days to build.

Fenway Park.

“The quickest one was the Washington Monument, which only took three hours. Now the Golden Gate Bridge, at the same scale and 40 feet long that comes apart in 12 different sections, took almost a year.”

An abbreviated list of his past projects include the Eiffel Tower, White House, Big Ben, Stonehenge, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the International Space Station.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue.

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