Make a DIY Fire Starter Kit With Waterproof Matches

   10.04.17

There are many gimmicks whose sole purpose is to separate customers from their money, especially in the market of fire starters. Looking through places like Amazon, one might deduct that the only way to build a fire is with store-bought items.

What if I told you there is a better way? This activity allows someone to learn and build his or her own fire starter kit at the same time.

This was one of my favorite things to do back around 1983-1985 when I was preparing to go camping.  I would also experiment with different ways of lighting matches. This was usually done in the garage or the back yard; somewhere that posed no fire hazard.

So, let’s put together some stuff to play around with.

Fire Starter Items

  • Various types of matches
  • Match box or match book (for the striking surface)
  • Sandpaper
  • Pill bottle
  • Dryer lint
  • Fingernail polish
  • Candle

The sandpaper is for experimentation to determine the grit needed to strike a match rough sandpaper will likely tear the head off a match before it lights. While in high school I took a wood working shop class, so I could get used sandpaper from there to play around with.

Strike-on-box matches require a specially-treated striking pad, like the one on the side of the match box. The striking pad is treated with red phosphorus, while sandpaper is not. Strike-anywhere matches have a phosphorus tip, which allows them to be struck on a variety of rough surfaces.

Playing around with various types of sandpaper gives you an idea of the texture needed for a strike-anywhere match. Once you learn the texture needed, you will be able to feel an item and determine if a match will light off of it.

Waterproof Matches

Between fingernail polish and wax, my best results have been with fingernail polish. Wax is just so thick that the match head will break off before the match ignites.

Whatever material the match head is dipped in for waterproofing has to be removed before the match will light. The thicker the coating, the more strikes/effort will be needed to light the match.

You will need something to set the newly-waterproofed matches on while they dry after being dipped.  Sometimes I use the handle of a crescent wrench or the handle of pliers.

  • Light the candle and let a pool of wax build up.
  • Dip the head of the match in the wax.
  • Lay the match on something so you can elevate the head in open air
  • Or open a bottle of fingernail polish and dip the heads into the bottle, then
  • Lay the matches on something to dry (same as you would with wax)

For a striker, cut the striker off a book of matches.

Dryer Lint

Dryer lint makes a great fire starter. However, manmade synthetics (such as nylon) melt more than they burn. For this reason, I recommend only using dryer lint from towels, jeans, and other stuff that is mostly cotton.

One thing I recommend, but is not required, is a tiny plastic bag. These can be found in the hobby section of various craft stores. Look where beads are sold. The bags are very small, no more than two inches wide and long.

Store the dryer lint in the baggie to keep it dry. We are building a waterproof fire starter kit, right?  That also means keeping the lint dry.

Finally

Put everything together in the pill bottle. Personally, I prefer pill bottles about one inch in diameter.

Before heading out on a trip, spend time striking the coated matches to get a feel for it. There’s a possibility you will be wet and cold when you use this kit “for real,” so you want to be familiar with it.

As strike-anywhere matches age, the phosphorus tip is likely to break off before the match lights. It has been my experience that as matches age, strike-on-box matches are more reliable than strike-anywhere matches.

The goal is to experiment with different types of matches, gain some experience, and have fun.

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