How to Make Self-Igniting Matches

Written by michelle pinti
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How to Make Self-Igniting Matches
Making self-igniting matches can be done at home. (matches image by Sergey Yakovenko from

When camping, the ability to make a fire is your greatest asset. In the past, this task was often dangerous, not to mention frustrating. The modern invention of self-igniting matches has been a boon to outdoor enthusiasts. Making self-igniting matches yourself is possible, but practice extreme care to ensure safety during the procedure. This project should only be undertaken by adults.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sharp knife
  • 1/8-nch wood dowels
  • 2 Pyrex containers
  • Potassium chloride
  • White glue
  • Baking tray
  • Red phosphorus

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  1. 1

    Preheat your oven to 65.6 degrees C.

  2. 2

    Gently score your dowel rods at 3-inch lengths, using a sharp knife. Carefully snap apart each section until you have the number of matches you want to make.

  3. 3

    Mix 2 tbsp potassium chloride with two or three drops of white glue in a sturdy Pyrex bowl. Add as much glue as needed to form a thick paste.

  4. 4

    Dip one dowel at a time into the potassium chloride paste, thickly coating the last quarter inch of your dowel rod. The potassium coating must thick to burn properly.

  5. 5

    Lay a long piece of dowel on the cooking sheet. This will act as a support for your matches. Carefully lay each matchstick on the dowel, keeping the potassium tip up to keep the paste from touching your pan. Bake the matches until the paste hardens completely, generally about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Allow to cool thoroughly before proceeding to next step.

  6. 6

    Using a new Pyrex bowl, mix 1 tbsp red phosphorus with a few drops of white glue; stir with an unused dowel rod until the mixture forms a thick paste. Use a gentle hand in this step -- remember that red phosphorus is the same substance that coats the striking area of matchbooks. It is a highly volatile chemical, needing only friction to light. Use extreme caution when working with this substance.

  7. 7

    Carefully dip the tip of your baked potassium matches into the phosphorus paste. You only need to cover a small area of the tip of the dowel rod with the phosphorus. One-eighth of an inch is a good rule of thumb.

  8. 8

    Bake the finished matches, again resting them over the dowels, for approximately 2 hours, or until hard. Let the matches cool.

  9. 9

    Strike a match on any rough surface to light. Store the matches in a glass jar away from children and animals.

Tips and warnings

  • Purchased phosphorous through a chemical supply company, which may require verification of age before fulfilling the order.
  • Never use the same bowl to mix both the potassium and the phosphorus. When mixed, they are extremely chemically reactive and can cause severe bodily harm.
  • Use protective eyewear and gloves when working with chemicals to avoid potential injury. Dispose of unused chemicals appropriately.

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