How to Make a Homemade Match


Until the mid-1800s, lighting a fire was a painstaking and frustrating process. Tinder---shredded wood pulp, dried grass or wool---had to be ignited with sparks created by striking a coarse stone against steel then stoked with oxygen into a small flame until hot enough to light firewood. Matches were an improvement but often dangerous, because they were made with highly combustible yellow phosphorus. The safety match was invented by a Swedish professor in 1844 and is still in use today. You can make your own strike-anywhere matches, but exercise the utmost caution: the chemicals used to make them are extremely hazardous.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/8-inch wooden dowels
  • Pyrex or Kimex safety glassware
  • Potassium chloride
  • White glue
  • Red phosphorus
  • Preheat your oven to 150 degrees F.

  • Cut your dowel rods into matchsticks by nicking with a small knife and snapping into 2- to 3-inch lengths.

  • Mix a small amount of potassium chlorate with white glue in a Pyrex or Kimex beaker to create a thick paste. The ratio is not important, so long as the mixture does not drip.

  • Dip the end of each matchstick into the potassium chlorate mixture.

  • Set the matches on an old pan, keeping the paste-covered tip off the pan's surface by resting each match against a length of dowel.

  • Bake your matches for two hours or until the potassium chlorate paste hardens.

  • Make a paste of white glue and red phosphorus in a new Pyrex or Kimex beaker, and stir gently. Do NOT use the beaker in which you mixed the potassium chlorate paste; the two chemicals are explosively reactive and, if combined, can blind, disfigure or even kill you.

  • Dip the baked head of each match in the second paste, and set it on the pan again.

  • Bake the matches for another two hours. When the second paste has hardened and cooled, you can ignite your homemade match on any surface.

Tips & Warnings

  • Potassium chlorate and red phosphorus are extremely reactive. Exercise the utmost caution when working with the two chemicals, and ensure they are kept separate.
  • Always wear safety eye goggles, work gloves and an apron when working with volatile chemicals.
  • Do not mix chemicals in regular drinking glasses or any beaker not labeled "Pyrex" or "Kimex," as they can shatter or explode in the event of a chemical reaction. Pyrex borosilicate glassware is resistant to heat and pressure, making it safe for laboratory use.


  • Photo Credit match image by Henryk Olszewski from
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