View Full Version : Lucifers/Friction matches

02-04-2004, 09:37 AM
This is my first time trying to post something on here, so I apologize in advance for anything I do wrong.
Anyway, I am looking for a recipie, vendor, any other kind of information on how to make friction matches or lucifers. I have seen old pictures and in museums, a type of match where they are "stuck" together and the soldier or whoever, had to "break" off a match in order to use it. Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Jim Pribula

Hank Trent
02-04-2004, 10:28 AM
There are two issues: Making matches in a sheet or brick (though not all period matches were like that), and duplicating the period formula used to make the tips on period matches. Making the wooden blanks is the easy part--an exacto knife, a fine-toothed saw and a wooden shingle will produce the blank sheets pretty quickly.

Reproducing the period formula for the heads is harder. I've not been able to find a source for the phosphorus, nor do I know what safety set-up would be necessary--I'd guess rubber gloves and ventilation and/or mask at a minimum. Hopefully someone with laboratory experience can offer advice.

Here are some recipes from an 1881 Household Encyclopedia at http://www.mspong.org/cyclopedia/pyrotechny.html#instant_matches . Some of these recipes appear so basic--phosphorus, nitre, glue to hold it together, and coloring--that I believe they'd duplicate 1860s matches.

Lucifer Matches.

These contain phosphorus in a finely divided state, to which it is reduced by agitating it in some warm solution of gum or glue, then adding the other ingredients, so as to form a paste, into which the wood or card is dipped. It is said that urine and artificial urea have the property of readily dividing phosphorus when warmed and agitated together. The following are some of the published recipes:

1. Form 6 parts of glue into a smooth jelly, and rub with it 4 parts of phosphorus, at a temperature of 140 or 150 Fahr.; add 10 parts of nitre, 3 of red ochre, and 2 of fine smalts. The matches are dipped in melted wax to the depth of 1-10th of an inch, first rubbing their ends on a hot iron plate.

2. Noiseless Congreves. - Triturate 9 parts of phosphorus with a solution of 16 parts of gum, and add 14 parts of nitre and 16 of vermilion.

3. Glue, 6 parts; phosphorus, 4; nitre, 10; red lead, 5; smalts, 2; the glue is soaked in water for 24 hours, then liquefied in a warm mortar, and the phosphorus added, taking care that the temperature is not above 167 Fahr.

4. Glue, 21; phosphorus, 17; nitre, 38; red lead, 24; proceed as before.

Hank Trent

02-06-2004, 03:58 AM
Hank, thanks for the help. I'm not sure if I can find any of these chemicals, but at least it's a start.

Jim Pribula