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Fun With Fire IV Matches

By Michael Short

This installment consists of three tricks to do with matches and matchbooks. As usual, be safe. Do these tricks in open areas and be careful when working with fire. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

Flaming Presidents


A ‘strike on box’ match

A U.S. currency note

What to do:

Strike it! While you’re only supposed to be able to light these matches on the striking edge, the roughness of the fibers on a $1 bill is just right to heat up and ignite the potassium chlorate in a match head. You can use any bill you want - it just depends on how much you value your money.

Smoky Fingertips


A quarter

A matchbook’s striking edge

A match

What to do:

Tear only the striking edge off the matchbook, leaving as little paper on the edge as possible. Fold it in half (like an upside-down ‘V’) and stand it on the quarter. Now light it on fire and let it burn.

Once it’s done, there will be a yellow, oily residue on the quarter. Take half of it on your index finger and half on your thumb and rub them together.

If you’ve got optimum viewing conditions, a small amount of smoke should be generated. Note: This one’s hard -- I still can’t get it right all the time.

Tennis Ball Conflagration


A tennis ball

A pocket knife

A buttload of ‘strike-anywhere’ matches

Duct tape

What to do:

Take the tennis ball and cut a small hole (1 cm) in the top. You heard me -- the top of the ball. Cut the heads off of a lot of strike-anywhere matches, and carefully put them in the tennis ball. Do not stuff them! Now replace the top part of the ball and duct-tape it closed. Now lob, do not throw, the tennis ball at a brick wall or concrete floor away from people. The strike anywhere match heads should ignite quickly, resulting in a little conflagration.

WARNING: Do not throw it hard! Reports have been made of a person who threw the loaded ball hard, and it exploded in his hand. Don’t let this happen to you!