Introduction: How to Make a Matchbox Rocket Launching Kit

Picture of How to Make a Matchbox Rocket Launching Kit

Here's how to make rockets, that shoot over 40 feet, with aluminum foil and a wooden match.

These desktop rockets might be tiny, but they’re impressively powerful, and leave a cool trail of smoke. Surprisingly, they’re only powered by one single match head.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

WARNING: Although these rockets are only fueled by one match head, they do get hot enough to burn fingers, and leave scorch marks in carpets. This project should not be attempted without adult supervision, and if done indoors, safety precautions should be in place to mitigate any fire hazards. Misuse, or careless use, may result in property damage. Use of this video content is at your own risk.

Step 2: Some Things You'll Need

Picture of Some Things You'll Need

In this project you'll need aluminum foil, a wooden skewer, a box of matches and my rocket template, which you can get for free here. You can use green or red “strike on box” matches because they both work the same.

Note: Make sure to set a few matches to the side, because you'll still need a bundle of those, for your kit when it’s finished.

The rockets are powered by one single match head. But they only work, if you get rid of the stick first, so grab a pair of scissors.

And if you try lining your container with something like a sock, the match heads won’t bounce out. Instead they just collect conveniently at the bottom.

Step 3: The Soda Cap Container

Picture of The Soda Cap Container

Here are all the match heads I got from this box. To store them, I'm using one of these soda cap containers made in a previous project. These things have all kinds of applications, You can see how to make them in the project video below.

Step 4: Prepare Your Skewer for Tooling

Picture of Prepare Your Skewer for Tooling

To start making your assembly kit. You're going to need a single bamboo skewer, and this template. Just click on the link below to get that.

Transfer the marks from the diagram onto the skewer, then carefully cut the ends off.

Step 5: Rocket Body Template

Picture of Rocket Body Template

If you tape the body template to a piece of paperboard, like the side of a cereal box, and cut the edges as cleanly as you can, you'll end up with a nice tracing template.

Cut a square to use as the guide for tracing the rocket’s fins from aluminum foil tape, which you can find at the hardware store.

Step 6: Point to Point

Picture of Point to Point

Each square will make one set of rocket fins, so cut as many as you want, then fold them “point to point” from both directions.

Pinch them at the base and push your fingers together, so that when you crease them down it looks like a little x-wing.

When you snip off the point at the very tip, the rocket fins are ready for application, and by now you should have an idea of how this is going to work.

You can make a whole bunch more and load them into the other side, of the soda cap container, so you have them on hand whenever you need one.

Step 7: The Rocket Bodies

Picture of The Rocket Bodies

Ok, bust out the aluminum foil, and tear off a sheet to start creating the rocket bodies.

Lay a sheet of paper towel over top, then carefully fold the stack up 3 times, so it’s 4 layers deep and just a bit larger than the cardboard template.

Trace around the edges, then cut the shape out of all the layers, all at the same time.

Normally the edges would stick together after the foil’s been cut, but the paper towel solves that problem, and makes it super easy to separate.

Step 8: The Portable Assembly Station

Picture of The Portable Assembly Station

I tried making 13 pieces at the same time, and it worked. So you can see how quick and easy it is to make a whole stack in no time flat.

The assembly station is completely portable as well!

The patterns, and the template are designed so they fit perfectly inside the matchbox, and there’s a little place for the skewer in there as well.

To finish your rocket factory the only thing left to do is make a small hole in the top of the box, about half an inch from the end.
Now bring back any matches you saved from earlier, and add a candle, you've created a portable assembly station, that you can take just about anywhere.

Step 9: Building the Rockets

Picture of Building the Rockets

Alright, get to work and build some rockets. Here you can see what the finished rocket will look like. It’s light as a feather, but surprisingly stable in flight.

You might have noticed there are two markings on the template that indicate how to roll the body tube.

With the skewer in position, place a single match head on top, and make sure it’s pointing upward, without any gaps.

Now slowly and carefully roll the foil tube, as tightly and neatly as possible.

When you get to the end, pinch the tube right above the match head, then push the foil down flat. There should be about half an inch of foil at the top, and this gets rolled toward the match head.

The most important part here is crimping the tip with something like a pair of pliers. You should crimp multiple times, and from different angles just to make sure it’s completely sealed.

Step 10: Finishing the Rocket

Picture of Finishing the Rocket

At this point, attach the rocket fins you made earlier, by peeling off the sticky stuff on the back, then pushing the rocket body through the hole in the center.

Work the fins around until they stick firmly in place near the bottom of the rocket, and with that final step, you’re done.

That’s how easy it is, to make a matchbox rocket.

While you’re at it, why not make a few more?

You have the option of building rockets on location as you need them, or creating them in advance so you can just show up and start shooting, within seconds.

I just made 13 of them, in about 10 minutes, and you can see they fit perfectly into the kit as well.

Step 11: Ready for Launch

Picture of Ready for Launch

The rockets get loaded by pushing the tapered end of the skewer into the nozzle, then twisting upward until it touches the match head inside.

Push the skewer through the hole in the matchbox, and now if you push the box together, you can adjust the launch angle to whatever you need it to be.

Light a candle and position the flame just under the tip of the rocket, it will quickly warm the foil until the match head reaches its auto-ignition temperature .. which, will shoot it off with an impressive amount of speed and power.
The rockets leave a satisfying trail of smoke when they blast off, but you do need to be careful because they get hot enough to burn your fingers, and put scorch marks in your carpet.

Step 12: Outdoor Use

Picture of Outdoor Use

Now of course the safer option is to launch your rockets outdoors. But you’ll probably find the flame on the candle won’t hold still in the breeze.

You can use a wind resistant BBQ ignitor to keep a steady flame, which works pretty well.

The rockets shoot from the front porch all the way to the street, and in some cases up to 40 feet away. So it’s important to use common sense, and avoid the temptation to point them at people or property.

Step 13: More Projects

Picture of More Projects

Now you know how use matches and some aluminum foil to make a fully portable rocket factory, so you can manufacture and launch, your very own matchbox rockets.

If you liked this project, perhaps you’ll like some of my others. Check them out at


John T14 (author)2017-07-11


John T14 (author)2017-07-11

i love it thank y

demccl1328 (author)2017-03-31

Do you need to remove the bit of skewer that you rolled with the match head?

MadMadscientist (author)2016-06-19

these are too cool! simple,fast,and super cheap!

fraser02 (author)2016-03-27

That is so awesome!!

and the carry-round kit is handy too...

Logan302 (author)2016-03-25

these are the best rockets for their size

robyn.denson.5 (author)2015-04-26

I can't get them to launch! They "poof" and smoke comes out the back and they move like a 1/4 inch but that's it. What am I doing wrong? Thanks!

Dr-SJ (author)robyn.denson.52015-12-29

i think because you wrapped them too tight

wrap them tighter pull them off the skewer you wrapped them on put it back in to the rocket twist the opposite direction you rolled it it will loosen it up enough to launch

Dr-SJ made it! (author)2015-12-29

it is AMAZING.. but it will be better if you use paper sand to shape the lunching side of the stick

rounakvyas (author)2015-01-24

How does it work? The mechanism?

J SquaredA (author)rounakvyas2015-12-29

I think the gas released propels the rocket, which he made to be hollow. The way he positioned the match head forces the gas to move through the body and propels the rocket up and away! :)

PhilippeG1 (author)rounakvyas2015-10-13

par surpression des gaz résultant de l'inflammation du souffre de l'allumette, lesquelles n'ont que le tuyau d'alu pour s'échapper par en dessous de cette mini fusée.

gaz de surpression résultant de l'inflammation du soufre du match, qui ont seulement le tuyau d'aluminium pour échapper par en dessous de ce mini-fusée

ReNeGaDe_WaR (author)2015-05-07

wrap them tighter pull them off the skewer you wrapped them on put it back in to the rocket twist the opposite direction you rolled it it will loosen it up enough to launch

folktrash1 (author)2015-01-26

I've made about 8 of these so far, but can only get them to go about 12 feet. Really wanting to see one go 40! Anyone have any tips?

use the big box, the matches are larger and have faster ignition.

Make sure you are using larger than normal matches....camping matches.

Angelbane (author)2015-03-16

The template is not being mailed from the link that you give. can you just attach it to the instructable instead?

well if you look at the video its in the description below.

JCklinger made it! (author)2015-03-26


牛逼 会玩

CorgiCritter (author)2015-02-12

I need to build some of these! nice job. :D

mattman2048 (author)2015-02-06

juan.louw.16 (author)2015-01-31

savageeuge (author)2015-01-31

hey did anyone ever tell you that your voice is cool. You should try to get into voice overs for tv. I bet you could have an awesome career. You are quite the actor. Look into it, seriously.

tamleez81 (author)2015-01-29

Thats so cool looking forward to havin some fun with it...cheers.

noc99 (author)2015-01-28

If you stick steel wool at the end and light it when it passes through the air it looks pretty cool the air feeds it and it lights up cool project thought

john.grimoldy (author)2015-01-27

'Did this back in Jr. High with simple book matches, small scraps of foil, and a paper clip as the launcher. Not quite as impressive, but same amount of fun with much less work.

bill.andritsch (author)2015-01-26

we had fun as kids making tennis ball cannons from soup cans and duct tape fueled by lighter fluid, I can't wait to try this! BTY, I'm 60 but twelve at heart!

dpiccine (author)bill.andritsch2015-01-27

I'm 32 and my children (3 and 7) went crazy with me doing this! hahaha!!! I DO recommend!

dpiccine (author)2015-01-27

I made it! :D

This was awesome! Did some without guides just for a try and kids joined a lot! Ideal for a quick fun time!

bachar.hassoun.3 (author)2015-01-27


Actually when I was kid I used to steel my father’s old
shaving machine and make it a bomb using the heads of the matches.

fstalkie4152 (author)2015-01-26

Just made 16 of these little guys. I didn't have the tape so I had to make the fins with foil and hot glue them in place. Very excited to try them out, make me feel like a little rascal again! Ps I did make one with three match heads... See how that works out!

ecsaul23 (author)2015-01-26

This is totally awesome!!! Voted in all contests, good luck!

shazni (author)2015-01-25

I love this and all your rocket projects! My son is going to love your project to bits when he old enough :-D.

I of course would then be a worried mom :P

NathanSellers (author)2015-01-25

Totally awesome. thanks for the cool project.

rebeltaz (author)2015-01-23

lol... when I was a kid, my dad taught me how to make these, only for ours, we'd straighten out a paperclip and place that along side a match, all the way up to the tip of the head. We wrapped that with a few layers of foil and then pulled the paperclip out. This left a channel for the gasses to escape. The sick of the match acted just like the stick on a bottle rocket does. Once we had enough made, we bent the paper clip into a little stand that the rocket match could lay on so it was at an upward angle. Then, just like yours, we'd heat the head with a match and swoosh! I'm sure your's probably goes farther, but our were more simple. :) Good times. Good times!

plantprof (author)rebeltaz2015-01-25

That's exactly what we used to do in the early 60's [and into the 70's, 80's.......etc. Still waiting to grow up -- King of Random is one of the best aids to never growing old. Kudos again to his work.

andrew.mead.1253 (author)2015-01-25

I'm a responsible, 50-ish yr.old business owner, head of a large family and respected member of the community-- until, that is, I smell my intoxicant: Sulfur. At that moment a devilishly grinning 12 yr.old boy is instantly reborn; mischief and mayhem dictate the new order of the day; "fun" becomes serious business. Your "ible" is tempting me to insobriety...and I thank you for it.

Ditto to your comments with slight differences: I'm 68 and this instantly took me back to 8th grade when I learned to make these, but with one regular match head [cardboard], no fins and less spectacular results. I just sent my life-long "partner in crime" the link to this so he could reminisce too. These led us into model rocketry and some less noble pursuits. Sulfur was less an intoxicant than was/IS the smoke of the sugar/potassium nitrate smoke bomb mix which we used in various ways, including as a propellant [the subject of another 'ible on KOR's video list]. Wonderful memories. Many thanks for another of Grant's first-class videos. Now off to the hardware for that aluminum tape!

Kenef100 (author)2015-01-25

You've taken me back to my youth, we used to make something similar. Great fun! Great project! Well done!

AwesomeM1 (author)2015-01-25

Saw this youtube video a while back, pretty cool!

NomadHobbyist (author)2015-01-25


angelob1 (author)2015-01-25

great fun project

dmeier3 (author)2015-01-25

we made matchbook rockets 40 years ago. ,with matchbooks. Cut the fins out of matchbook covers 4 triangles ,roll up 6 matchbook worth of match heads cut like in this video with foil about 10 inches of foil,1-2 heads in a row till bottom. With only 1 sticking out of bottom , Fuse is same heads rolled up except open

ON on both ends. About 6 in long Lite an off they go about 150 feet up

Wrap with scotch tape

khamari (author)2015-01-25

This is very cool

khamari (author)khamari2015-01-25

Look'at this cool thing

Khauber (author)2015-01-25

Fun project, can't wait to make these!

anovikov (author)2015-01-25

We did this in my childhood, but we used table tennis ball cutted into small pieces as a fuel (it burns with lots of smoke).

mtairymd (author)2015-01-24

Very cool project! Voted!

About This Instructable




Bio: Random Weekend Projects
More by The King of Random:5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water How to make a Batarang like "The Dark Knight"How to Make Ninja Stress Balls
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