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.

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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.

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Kiteman (author) 7 months ago

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.

Kiteman (author)  Cats Science Club7 months ago

Thank you!

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

Kiteman (author)  Cats Science Club7 months ago

Thank you!

natciqzxc219 days ago

cool :D

Kiteman (author)  natciqzxc218 days ago

Thank you!

nkrishna320 days ago
is it okay if we use 35gauge copper wire
Kiteman (author)  nkrishna320 days ago

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

JM19994 months ago

Would a 9 volt battery work?

Kiteman (author)  JM19994 months ago

It should.

TamS17 months ago

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

Kiteman (author)  TamS17 months ago

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

Bosun Rick7 months ago

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 Rick7 months ago

Yes, that would work.

riff raff7 months ago

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

Kiteman (author)  riff raff7 months ago

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

jweinstein jr7 months ago

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 jr7 months ago

Thanks for the comment!

jweinstein jr7 months ago

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_Bro7 months ago

"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_Bro7 months ago

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_Dan7 months ago

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_Dan7 months ago

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.

mworrall7 months ago

Does it matter what type of match you use?

Kiteman (author)  mworrall7 months ago

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

mworrall Kiteman7 months ago
DIY-Guy7 months ago

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

Kiteman (author)  DIY-Guy7 months ago

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 Kiteman7 months ago

"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)  daofgeek7 months ago

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

daofgeek Kiteman7 months ago

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)  daofgeek7 months ago

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 DIY-Guy7 months ago

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)  jarikcbol7 months ago

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).

krazykane7 months ago
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 :)
ToolHoard7 months ago
The part where you had the scouts all shout to 'inspire' the fire to ignite, now that's just a charming idea!
Kiteman (author)  ToolHoard7 months ago

Thank you.

gravityisweak7 months ago
I'm convinced if we put our heads together we could hash out a wireless method that would be reusable. Also Kiteman if you don't mind could you explain how voting works? Ive read contest rules and don't see where votes factor in to judging.

That is what I want to come up with next. I have created a fireworks ignitor where I connect the small wire, in my case one strand of multi-strand picture frame wire directly to the fuse (bypassing the match part) when connected to a solid cell battery delivering 12 DCV at 1.5 amp the wire quickly got hot enough to ignite the fuse without a match. The problem is that the longest length of wire I can use is about 5 meters, while this gets me a bit further away from the fireworks, I would like to stand back with spectators and launch them from there. Any suggestions on how to wireless create about the same power at the fuse end would be aprreachiacted.

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