How to Make Matches

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Things You'll Need

  • Safety goggles

  • Chemical-safe gloves

  • Apron or lab coat

  • Laboratory-safe equipment for mixing chemicals

  • Potassium chlorate

  • 2 tablespoons white craft glue

  • Thin dowels, 1/8-inch wide and 2 inches long

  • Cookie sheet

  • Aluminum foil

  • Oven

  • Red phosphorus

Matches are made from potassium chlorate and red phosphorus.

The heat and glow of fires draw people to them. Using matches is one of the most ideal ways to make a fire. The first friction matches were made of pieces of pine, which contains a lot of natural oil, and sulfur. According to the "Encyclopedia Britannica," France's Charles Sauria created matches made of phosphorus 1831. However, it was not until 1835 that Jànos Irinyi of Hungary replaced potassium chlorate with lead oxide. Matches sold commercially today, called "safety matches," are made with red phosphorus.

Step 1

Wear the safety equipment: the goggles, gloves, and apron or coat.

Step 2

Mix the potassium chlorate with a tablespoon of white craft glue, the kind children use for school projects, until you form a thick paste that does not drip.

Step 3

Dip and roll the tops of the dowels in the paste mixture. Place the coated dowels on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Step 4

Bake in a 150-degree oven until the paste is hard, approximately two hours. Let the matches completely cool once they are out of the oven.

Step 5

Mix the red phosphorus with a tablespoon of white craft glue and form a thick, no-drip paste.

Step 6

Apply a small amount of the red phosphorus paste to the top of the match head, as recommended in "Popular Science."

Step 7

Place the re-dipped matchsticks on to an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet and bake them in a 150-degree oven until the paste is hard, approximately two hours. Allow the matches to cool before igniting them.


Add the potassium chlorate or red phosphorus to a tablespoon or less of glue at first; it is simple to make more of the mixture if you need it later. Although exact ratios are not vital to the success of this project, make sure you add enough of either chemical to the glue to form a thick paste that does not drip.

Exercise extreme caution when making matches.

Do not let children and teens attempt to make matches without the supervision of a responsible adult.

Always wear protective equipment when making matches.

To keep the tips of the matches from touching the cookie sheet, prop the ends up on a length of dowel that will not roll around.

You may need to cut the dowels down to size with your own tools if the hardware store does not sell short dowels. However, a hardware store may cut the dowel to size for you for a fee.


Always mix the potassium chlorate and red phosphorus separately and in separate glue mixtures. “Popular Science” states that mixing the chemicals together would cause an explosion because they are reactive and unstable.

Do not use white phosphorus to make matches; it is lethal.