Introduction: The Remote Match

Picture of The Remote Match

I recently had a need to "magically" light a bonfire at a Cub event. Other recent campfires had been dramatic, but obvious in their mechanism (burning things sliding down a wire or people pushing flaming brands into the fire). I wanted something more subtle, that the Cubs wouldn't notice happening. Something I could do from a distance.


So, I turned to the electric match.

As I describe here, the electric match is quite versatile - as well as lighting campfires, you can use it to precisely trigger pyrotechnics, stage effects or model rockets.

Please be aware, though, of your local laws - in the UK, home-made pyrotechnics, solid rocket fuel or explosive mixtures are absolutely banned without special licenses.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

Electric matches are surprisingly easy to make, all you need is thin wire, a match, and some electricity.

When you research electrical matches, they will tell you that you need special nichrome wire, designed to heat up quickly., when really all you need is something thin. The more electricity you have available, the thicker the wire you can get away with.

The wire I used was a single strand from some multi-core electrical wire, the sort of stuff you buy for home electronics. I stripped it, and pulled out individual strands a few centimetres long.

You will also need tape - cheap stuff is fine, and it's better if it is clear, so can check your wiring before using the match.

Tools-wise, just use whatever you are comfortable with for cutting and stripping wire.

Step 2: A Note on Not Getting Dead.

Picture of A Note on Not Getting Dead.

Obviously, you'll need electricity for your electric match.

Do not plug your match directly into the mains electrical supply! This is a very efficient way to remove yourself from the gene pool, but so stupid your death wouldn't even make it to the local papers.

I used an old laboratory power pack, putting out 4VDC for the tests you see in the video, but cranked up to 8VDC for the actual event (longer wires need more voltage to push current through). If you don't have a similar device, a car or motorbike battery is ideal, as is a charger for those same batteries. In fact, the charger is probably a better idea, as you can control the match with a switch, and not by clamping things on wires (which might cause a shower of sparks and curses, giving the game away a bit).

Step 3: The Basic Make

Picture of The Basic Make

Wherever your wire came from, all you need to do it wrap it around the head of the match.

The trick is to avoid shorting the wire, or the parts that heat up will not be near the match-head. That's where the tape comes in - when you are happy with the placement of the wire, fold a piece of tape around it.

That will fix the wire in place, and also let you see if mishandling has shifted the wire.

Step 4: More Power!

Picture of More Power!

If you watch the video of the tests (step 5), you will see that a single match lit electrically will go out quite quickly. That's not a problem, if you are lighting something rather sensitive, like gunpowder or rocket fuel, but normal kindling takes a few moment to catch.

I solved this by bundling matches together. Three seemed to be a happy compromise - not too fiddly to wrap properly, but enough of a flare to keep the wood of the matches lit.

Testing with a small bundle of kindling (tumble dryer fluff) and fuel (from a model steam engine) proved the efficiency of this bundle.

Step 5: Using the Match

Picture of Using the Match

The electric match is not something you can just chuck under a pile of logs and watch it go. It needs preparation, just like any proper campfire.

I bundle my final versions with a mixture of highly-flammable kindlings - tumble dryer fluff, loosely-bundled tissue paper and more matches. They're packed loosely in a fold of corrugated card - this protects the match from being squashed and smothered by the weight of normal fuel stacked above. Placed in the heart of the fire, it is also surrounded by screwed-up newspaper, more than we would normally use when lighting a fire the traditional way.

I had to connect mine via about ten feet of wire (see my earlier comments about increasing voltage), running under the fuel and out to the concealed power pack. A normal extension cord ran through undergrowth to the Cub Hut, where my accomplice was ready to throw the switch.

All our Campfires start with the actual lighting of the fire, so we made a big fuss about forgetting matches, and trying to light the fire by the warmth of the welcome we got. When their shouts of "welcome to our campfire" were loud enough, the hidden accomplice threw the switch, and, with a quiet fizz, a small flame formed in the centre of the fire. The newspaper caught quickly, making a bright flame that soon ignited the normal fuel.

Unfortunately, I was unable to video the actual campfire starting (I was unable to get the appropriate legal permissions from some of the parents involved), but you will get a small idea of it from this video of my matches in action:

Enjoy, and use responsibly.


Kiteman (author)2014-07-24

I am, of course, entering this in a few contests.

If you can see the "vote" banner up at the top, I'd appreciate a click or three.

I will be back to vote. Banner not up yet.

Thank you!

Voted! Even if it was against our instructables lol Good luck!

Thank you!

buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Ideal for all your arson needs while you are establishing an alibi across town!!

Kiteman (author)buck22172015-07-02

Um, yeh, I guess...

dmagryta124 (author)2015-06-25

Hi Kiteman! Nice instructable. Very handy for 4th of July fireworks. I found that a bit of wire removed from the inside an old twist tie works quite nicely. I coiled and bent it in such a way that it grips a fuse just barely enough to fall away once the fireworks fuse ignites. I didn't need a match. I used a very high current 7.4v battery from a R/C boat, but a 9v battery should work too. I acquired the twist tie from the grocery store - it came with a bag dispensed to carry fresh vegetables.

Kiteman (author)dmagryta1242015-06-26

That's a good idea, it's nice stiff wire.

(You don't need a match because the fuse is nice and flammable.)

Edbed (author)2015-06-01

This is great.

Kiteman (author)Edbed2015-06-01

Thank you!

daniel.gordon.9674227 (author)2015-04-01

ok now the tough question what are some good ways to make that as small as possible?

if placed directly against the match contacts would a cell battery produce enough power to ignite the match(es) obviously i dont intend to keep said battery/cellphone.

Short answer: I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know - batteries are not good things to put in fires, as they can explode.

nkrishna3 (author)2015-02-10

is it okay if we use 35gauge copper wire

Hi nkrishna3,

Since you got it working, I have a newbie question -- how do you attach the long wires (in the picture, the long yellow wires coated in plastic) to the single-strand, uncoated wire that's wrapped around the matchstick head? Since that step is missing from the instructable.

The first time I tried doing something like that, I just hand-twisted the strands from one wire together with the strands from the other wire, but that didn't work because the connection was too loose and introduced too much resistance. I got the connection working using some little plastic knobs from Radio Shack where you insert the ends from the two different wires, and twist the knobs tightly to form a secure connection.

I assume the other common way to do it is with a soldering iron.

How did you do it?

Kiteman (author)bennetthaselton2015-03-28

Obsessed much?

Dude, give it a rest, it's bad enough you going on about this in the forums!

Kiteman (author)nkrishna32015-02-10

That should be fine - all it has to do is get hot when you put a current through it.

nkrishna3 (author)Kiteman2015-03-22

thanks for your reply.. Instead of adding the whole matchstick I made small balls filled with matchstick powder,, like a lollipop I was really amazing & It worked within 67seconds.thank you kiteman

nkrishna3 (author)nkrishna32015-03-22

sorry" it was really amazing"

Kiteman (author)nkrishna32015-03-22

Hehe, that's great, thanks for sharing!

Mr AbAk (author)2015-03-06

Truly Cool and Awesome idea...

Kiteman (author)Mr AbAk2015-03-07

Thank you!

Kiteman (author)2015-02-12

Thank you!

JM1999 (author)2014-10-08

Would a 9 volt battery work?

Kiteman (author)JM19992014-10-08

It should.

TamS1 (author)2014-08-04

Very cool effect. What was the reaction from the amassed cubs?

Kiteman (author)TamS12014-08-04

They weren't so impressed as the parents...

Bosun Rick (author)2014-08-02

What about using 'book' matches? there's usually 20 or so matches in one of those, and a single wire ran through them to start a fire.

Kiteman (author)Bosun Rick2014-08-02

Yes, that would work.

riff raff (author)2014-08-01

No model rockets in the U.K.? Tyranny! :)

Kiteman (author)riff raff2014-08-02

We can have model rockets, but we have to buy the motors from companies like Estes. We can't make our own fuel.

jweinstein jr (author)2014-07-30

I've done the same using steel wool. It cuts down on the prep time and can be lit with a series of 9-volt batteries. Really fun to do. Thanks for the great upload!

Kiteman (author)jweinstein jr2014-07-31

Thanks for the comment!

jweinstein jr (author)2014-07-30

I've done the same using steel wool. It cuts down on the prep time and can be lit with a series of 9-volt batteries. Really fun to do. Thanks for the great upload!

Nate_Bro (author)2014-07-28

"I was unable to get the appropriate legal permissions from some of the parents involved"

that is truly sad, I mean its not a beach outing with kids running around in bikini's (I could see that) its a dang camp fire! I imagine it was quite the site! :)

Kiteman (author)Nate_Bro2014-07-28

No, it was my fault - I forgot to get the appropriate forms signed.

If we were using the film & images within the group, or within scouting, there wouldn't have been a problem. Using the images beyond that isn't about inappropriate images, it's about Child Protection (sometimes children are being kept safe from certain individuals knowing their whereabouts) and Data Protection (adult permission is required before data is transferred outside the UK, and Instructables' servers are most certainly outside the UK).

Toga_Dan (author)2014-07-28

Nicely done. I imagine that keeping the flame going was the trickiest bit.

On your video, I see you using a baking tray under tests. If you need something non-conductive for stuff like this, try a scrap of drywall. The surface may char, but it wont ignite.

Kiteman (author)Toga_Dan2014-07-28

It's a very old tray, so warped that it only touches the surface beneath at about three points, so there's a nice, insulating air-gap.

I found that the flame stayed alight if I used three or more matches. To be sure, I placed them head down, do that the rising flame stayed in as much contact with fuel as possible.

mworrall (author)2014-07-27

Does it matter what type of match you use?

Kiteman (author)mworrall2014-07-27

Not as far as I'm aware. As long as it lights when you heat it up.

mworrall (author)Kiteman2014-07-28


DIY-Guy (author)2014-07-25

This is a fair alternative to commercially available nichrome wire and/or model rocket engine igniters. Thanks for showing another method.

Kiteman (author)DIY-Guy2014-07-25

Hehe, I modelled my first version on a DIY rocket igniter (it's the only legal part remaining of what used to be a regular science demo, until amateur solid rocket fuel was made illegal in the aftermath of the WTC attack).

daofgeek (author)Kiteman2014-07-27

"amateur solid rocket fuel was made illegal in the aftermath of the WTC attack" - because amateur solid rocket fuel had SO much to do with that attack . . . .Jeez, is there nothing that our legislatures see or touch that they won't make it illegal or somehow screw it up? While courts have made sure that intelligence tests for voters is illegal, it'd be nice if we could require a minimum IQ of those who run for elective office.

BTW, nice project - my son's at a scout camp right now so it was enjoyable reading about a person using their skills and intellect to make a camp fun!

Kiteman (author)daofgeek2014-07-27

It's because solid rocket fuel is, to the lawyers, and explosive.

daofgeek (author)Kiteman2014-07-27

Funny you should say that. I actually am a lawyer, but I don't think solid rocket fuel is an explosive. :-D It burns too slowly.

Kiteman (author)daofgeek2014-07-28

I meant the ones that write the law (you know, the "experts"...).

I have looked into this, including visiting on our local police station and having a word with a firearms officer, and the manufacture of even a tiny amount of solid rocket fuel is illegal enough to land me in court. I'd be contravening the 1875 Explosives Act, the 1883 Ammendment, the more recent Anti Terrorism Laws and I would also attract the attention of the Health & Safety Executive (the most scary of the set!).

It's annoying as both a Maker and a Science teacher - even zinc/sulphur, a long-time standard mix for school rocketry demonstrations is now illegal - and the only non-traffic law I have seriously considered breaking.

jarikcbol (author)DIY-Guy2014-07-26

Cool build. When you mentioned the lab power supply, (which is something many may not have access to) my first thought was to find/scavenge/buy a cheep toaster, and use the heating element from it, as well as whatever it uses to step down from mains to drive it. I'm sure most thrift shops have toasters for a few dollars at most, so thats another route to go for a trick like this.

Kiteman (author)jarikcbol2014-07-26

Toasters don't step the voltage down, they use it directly (that's why it is a really bad idea to get stuck toast out with a knife).

krazykane (author)2014-07-27

I have made these, the Xmas bulb and the prostyle ematches. I bought some 4 channel remote relays on eBay to ignite them from far away :)

About This Instructable




Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
More by Kiteman:Fallen Astronaut 2Custom laser cut metal business cardsDashboard Phone Stand
Add instructable to: