Introduction: Giant Match

Picture of Giant Match

The wooden matchstick has a long and colorful history. According to Wikipedia the match was first discovered by Marco Polo over 5000 years ago in the vast rain forests of Nevada. When young Marco brought this amazing discovery back home to France, his father, Water, and his uncle, Segway, (both priests) declared the discovery of convenient fire to be heresy, and burned Marco, along with all the matches he had brought back, in a large bonfire (light by rubbing two sticks together, to prevent hypocrisy) . When the people of France discovered that their national hero had been killed, they rose up against the clergy and started the French Revolution.

History of the match began to fade.

History became legend, legend became myth, and for two and half thousand years the match passed out of all knowledge until, when chance came, it ensnared a new lighter ... Santa.

*blah blah blah

random nonsense

blah blah blah*

and, to make a long story slightly longer, that is the tale of how I single-handedly saved a large group of little people from Santa's sadistic elvish genetic modification experiments.

But seriously, why spend time making a coherent intro when I know you're all here for one thing

I was, of course, talking about pictures of me.

Step 1: Match Sizing

Picture of Match Sizing

To determine the measurements of a match I picked the most stereotypical looking match out of a box of strike anywheres.

The dimensions of a regular strike anywhere match are 2.5 mm x 2.5 mm x 57.2 mm.

The actual match head itself is 4 mm long and 3.7 mm wide. This means that the actual match head is .6mm thick on one side of the tip (3.7 - 2.5 / 2 = .6).

The ratio of the length of the match head to the length of the entire matchstick is 14.3

Scale this up to a 96 inch long 4x4 and we have a match head that is 6.71" long and .84" at its thickest point on one of the sides.

Step 2: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

4x4 - more on this in the next step

Matches- lots of matches. 15,000 to be (near) exact.

One matchbook contains 20 matches, one matchbook box contains 50 matchbooks, so each box (in the photo below) contains 1000 matches. About 15 boxes (or 15,000) matches are needed to complete the giant match. These boxes can usually be bought at a supermarket for under 2$ each. A box of strike anywhere matches is also needed to make the tip of the giant match.

Ping Pong Balls - About thirty

Acetone - A few liters

Spray paint - Apple red and white

Randomness - Scissors, glass mason jars, wire cutters, paint brush, mixing bowl

Step 3: 4x4

Picture of 4x4

**Warning: Make sure the 4x4 is not CCA treated (Copper, Chromates and Arsenic). CCA treated wood releases Arsenic when burnt.**

For the wooden part of the giant matchstick we are going to use a 4x4. The actual dimensions of a 4x4 are 3.5" x 3.5" x 96.

It shouldn't be too hard to find a source of scrap 4x4s somewhere, but if your search turns out to be fruitless (or if your just too lazy to sand down a scrapped one enough to make it presentable) you can always buy a nice shiny new one at Home Depot for under 10$.

Step 4: Acquiring 15,000 Match Heads

Picture of Acquiring 15,000 Match Heads

1. Cut off the head of a match
2. Repeat step one 15,000 times

I spent about 8 hours cutting off match heads to get enough for the tip of the giant match. Spending that much time doing a single repetitive task helps build efficiency, so heres some advice from my match cutting adventures.

(follow the photos)

- Open all 15 boxes and dump out the 750 matchbooks into a big pile on the floor

- Rip off the paper covers from the books, and make a second big pile of the coverless matches

- Separate the two rows of matches into individual rows each containing 10 matches. The individual rows are much easier for scissors to cut through.

- Hold a single row of matches over a container to collect them, and cut off the tips. Try to get as little cardboard with the match heads as possible.

Step 5: Prepping the Match Head Mixture

Picture of Prepping the Match Head Mixture

I use nitrocellulose secure the match heads to the tip of the giant match.

To prep the match head mixture:

- Get a large bowl. Wok size is perfect.

- Cut up about 15 ping pong balls into small pieces

- Slowly mix the ping pong ball pieces with the match heads (only use about 10,000 match heads in the mixture and save the remaining "dry" match heads for later) in the large bowl, while stirring and adding acetone

- It is ready when it is about the same consistency as the mixture shown in the video

Step 6: The First Coat

Picture of The First Coat

Lay the 4x4 out on a smooth flat surface. Draw a line 6.71 inches from the top. Everything above that line needs to be coated in the match head mixture; however, due to the drying time of the mixture, only one face of the giant match can be painted at a time.

1. Put some paper or a towel underneath the head of the match to prevent mess, and help collect all the matches that fall off the side.

2. Slowly pour the mixture onto the upward facing side of the match. This is only the first coat, so lay the mixture down as thin as possible while still making sure to cover all the wood.

3. Wait about 1 - 2 hours for the mixture to dry solid , then rotate the match and repeat until all four faces are covered.

4. To coat the top of the match head the entire 4x4 will have to be vertical. By placing it next to stairs I was able to easily cover the entire top without too many match heads falling off.

Step 7: Second Coating and Shaping

Picture of Second Coating and Shaping

The giant match should somewhat resemble a regular match by now, but a second coating and shaping is necessary to make it more realistic. The entire point of this step is to round the match head off so there are no visible corners.

Making nitrocellulose lacquer:

1. Fill a glass jar halfway with acetone (Mason jars, salsa jars, or any type of glass jar with a lid should work)

2. Cut up about 8 ping pong balls and put the pieces in the acetone jar.

3. Stir until the mixture is homogeneous.

Coating the match:

1. Using the remaining 5,000 "dry" match heads saved from before, paint down a layer of nitrocellulose on the giant match, and then sprinkle the match heads over it, and press down to secure them in place.

2. Make the center of each face thicker and have it slope downwards to the corners.

Step 8: Make It Nice and Purty

Picture of Make It Nice and Purty

Tape off the wood underneath the match heads with painters tape.

Spray paint the entire head of the match.

Step 9: STRIKE!!! Anywhere

Picture of STRIKE!!! Anywhere

The tip of the giant match will be coated in strike anywhere match heads. This gives it the ability to be struck anywhere, and I literally mean anywhere. So many strike anywhere heads were needed to cover the tip of the giant match, that any friction (whether it be against an abrasive surface or not) is liable to set off the giant match. This is because many of the strike anywhere tips are not facing directly upward, so even a blunt impact to the side of the match may cause one of the heads to rub against another and ignite. Only one tip going off is enough to set off the entire match, so practice extreme caution when attempting to glue the match heads to the top.

Gathering and attaching the strike anywhere tips

1. One box of 250 strike anywheres should be enough to cover the entire top of the giant match.

2. Using wire cutters clip the heads off each strike anywhere match.

3. Use a felt tip marker to trace an outline of where the strike anywhere tips will go.

***All work on the giant match from this point on should be completed outdoors, away from anything that will burn easily***

4. Coat the head of the giant match with the nitrocellulose lacquer.

5. Place each match head (strike anywhere tip up) into the lacquer.

*The goal is to get red part of the strike anywhere coated in the lacquer, but AVOID getting any on the white tip.

Step 10: 2nd Coating and Painting

Picture of 2nd Coating and Painting

Using the nitrocellulose lacquer paint a layer down around the perimeter of the strike anywhere tips (as shown in photos 2 & 3)

Wait for the nitrocellulose to dry, and then cover off the areas above and below the newly dried nitrocellulose with painters tape (INCLUDING the very top of the strike anywheres, as shown in picture 5)

Spray paint it white.


Step 11: Posing With the Match

Picture of Posing With the Match


Step 12: Lighting

Picture of Lighting

It is not necessary to build a surface for lighting it, as it can be struck against the street or the side of a building, but I decided to build a small something anyway.

All I did was glue some sandpaper to a piece of wood, and used C clamps to attach that to a forklift pallet which I rested against a fence.

It is a good idea to have something to light with the giant match, so we put out some smoke powder and gunpowder out in metal bowls.

To light:

1. As you can see in the video I was not expecting the flame to be that big, and had to push the match up in the air to lessen the intense heat which came off it. To avoid getting burned hold the match more the 4 ft away from the tip.

2. Swing the match steadily and forcefully against the abrasive surface.

3. Hold the match away from you and others while it is burning, as flaming match heads periodically drop from the top.

4. Light whatever you have set up to light with the giant match (pyrotechnics, Cuban cigars, or animals are all good choices)

Step 13: Unedited Video Footage


stephenmack (author)2015-10-22

I liked all the humor in this. Very well done. Aaaannnddddd, since I'm here. I must note that I just went on Wikipedia and it says that Marco Polo did not bring the match, and that he died of illness.

deluges (author)2015-02-24

Best thing I've seen in a long time :) Thanks for posting it!

tim_n (author)2013-03-16

Any chance of reuploading the videos to youtube?

Dusk Shadows (author)2012-10-22

Giant match.... equals giant fire???

james4 (author)2012-06-24

Ride 'em cowboy!

ilpug (author)2012-04-05

I just noticed that in the first unedited video the video quality make the distant city look like it it burning.

somebody12345 (author)2011-12-09


somebody12345 (author)2011-12-09

How much would this whole thing cost???

gunspyop2 (author)2011-08-18

you bring the match i bring the big chandel

ilikeleprechauns (author)2011-08-16

I'm going to use this giant mach to light a huge bundle of fireworks. You know. For SCIENCE.

Micizzle (author)2011-07-02

How was that not illegal?

bwells2 (author)2011-06-22


woody558 (author)2010-03-11

Marco Polo died from illness, and lived about 650 years ago.

Udon (author)woody5582010-03-11

If wikipedia said it, then it must be true.

woody558 (author)Udon2010-03-11

hehe, funny

Dr.Bill (author)woody5582010-03-11

yeah yeah. its written in wikipedia! its true! its true!

woody558 (author)Dr.Bill2010-03-11

All hail wikipedia!

Sylkhr (author)woody5582010-04-07

Everyone knows that everything you read on the internet is true. And, wikipidia is on the internet, so, it's true!!!

ilpug (author)Sylkhr2011-06-19

so true.

woody558 (author)ilpug2011-06-20

I quote Wikipaedia (gasp!), "In 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness. On January 8, 1324, despite physicians' efforts to treat him, Polo was on his deathbed."

Hmm, any relation to matches???

woody558 (author)Udon2010-04-14

According to wikipedia, Marco Polo died from illness, and lived 686 years ago.

venom1539 (author)2011-04-03

U should make an instructable on how to make a giant fire

ilpug (author)venom15392011-06-19

heres how to make a giant fire: get a lot of flammable stuff, and combine it with a lot of flammable stuff. put it all somewhere. burn it. ta-da, giant fire.

vandal1138 (author)2009-07-11

"Dissolve the balls". Worst quote ever....

Cronos Dage (author)vandal11382011-06-19


Was supposed to be a smiley

darn space loss

tynow (author)2011-06-11

now, you will tell us what we want or we will disolve the balls!!! mwahahahahaha!! okay coffee break now. (walks away while balls disolve)

tynow (author)2011-06-11

that was wood? i thought it was rubber :)

lightning r fun (author)2011-04-15

is that the double rainbow guy in the 2nd video?!?!

bugolf (author)2010-06-29

Where did you light it?

ducktape.mac (author)bugolf2011-03-26

it looked like he had a piece of sandpaper secured onto a piece of ply wood.

bugolf (author)ducktape.mac2011-03-27

No,Like i mean the place

dscel (author)2007-08-09

apparantly, make sure you have enough alcohol to complete the project...

xraver7086 (author)dscel2011-02-16

of course. what fun is fire without alcohol?

D00M99 (author)2011-01-06

Was it a school project?

And the flame does look quite like the outline of a baby...

D00M99 (author)2011-01-06

Looks like anemone. Very flammable anemone.

spray paint is flame able. explosivley falmable!OO

AlternateLives (author)2010-10-29

This slightly reminds me of that scene in "9" when 5 grabs a match to light a barrel of oil to destroy The Machine. though this match is slightly larger.

MrKazekage (author)2010-10-22

you sir are funny

L_L_L_L23 (author)2010-10-22

Lol reminds me of MythBusters. It would be a good idea to not do the match head cutting around New Years with all the sparklers and all

tarzioo (author)2010-10-11

wow..this is seriously awesome! =D

naruto the ninja13 (author)2010-08-02

Chuck Norris uses this to light his BBQ grill

sploge (author)2010-08-01

you have a giant match but only a normal sized fire crew on hand hahaha lol nice instructable

YoungPyro19 (author)2010-05-22

I wish I was creative.

An Villain (author)2010-05-15

Here is the match.

ookikies (author)2010-04-27

The one pic looks like a meteor is about to hit you. And that thing is sweet

cloggy01 (author)2010-04-11

Don't you remember people always telling you not to play with matches? Well I don't think thats the problem, it should be don't play with giant matches! But you do anyways. XD
Awesome Instuctable :-)

robotman3 (author)2010-04-11

looks like a big flare!

pyroninja21 (author)2010-03-28
and also acording to wikipedia this is how marco polo realy died

In 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness. On January 8, 1324, despite physicians' efforts to treat him, Polo was on his deathbed. To write and certify the will, his family requested Giovanni Giustiniani, a priest of San Procolo. His wife, Donata, and his three daughters were appointed by him as co-executrices. The church was entitled by law to a portion of his estate; he approved of this and ordered that a further sum be paid to the convent of San Lorenzo, the place where he wished to be buried.[8] He also set free a "Tartarslave" who may have accompanied him from Asia.[9]

He divided up the rest of his assets, including several properties, between individuals, religious institutions, and every guild and fraternity to which he belonged. He also wrote-off multiple debts including 300 lire that his sister-in-law owed him, and others for the convent of San Giovanni, San Paolo of the Order of Preachers, and a cleric named Friar Benvenuto. He ordered 220 soldi be paid to Giovanni Giustiniani for his work as a notary and his prayers.[8] The will, which was not signed by Polo, but was validated by then relevant "signum manus" rule, by which the testator only had to touch the document to make it abide to the rule of law,[10] was dated January 9, 1324. Due to the Venetian law stating that the day ends at sunset, the exact date of Marco Polo's death cannot be determined, but it was between the sunsets of January 8 and 9, 1324.[8]

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