Fire Starter Kit with Waterproof Matches

Fire Starter Kit with Waterproof Matches

There are a lot of gimmicks whose sole purpose is to separate the customer from their money.  One such example is the market of fire starters.  Looking through places like Amazon, one would draw the conclusion the only way to build a fire is with store bought items.

Rather than buying various items, what if I told you there is a better way?  This activity allows someone to learn, and build their own fire starter kit at the same time.

In the 1980s, (1983, 1984, 1985) one of my favorite activities before a camping trip was to make a fire starter kit and waterproof matches.  I would also experiment with different ways of lighting matches.  This was usually done in the garage, or backyard, somewhere that posed no fire hazard.

So, let’s put together some stuff to play around with.

Fire Starter Items

  • Various types of matches
  • Match box or match book.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Pill bottle.
  • Dryer lint.
  • Finger nail polish.
  • Candle.

The sandpaper is for experimentation of grit needed to strike a match.  Rough sandpaper will likely tear the head off a match before it lights.  While in high School I took a wood working shop class.  So, I would get used sandpaper from the shop class to play around with.

Strike on box matches require a specially treated striking pad, like the one on the side of the match box.  The striking pad is treated with red phosphorus, while sandpaper is not.

Strike anywhere matches have a phosphorus tip.  Which allows them to be struck on a variety of rough surfaces.

Playing around with various types of sandpaper gives an idea of the texture needed for a strike anywhere match.  Once you learn the texture needed, then you will be able to feel an item and determine if a match will light off of it.

Waterproof Matches

Between fingernail polish and wax, my best results have been with fingernail polish.  When striking the match, the wax is so thick, the match head will break off the stick.

Whatever the match head is dipped in, it has to be removed by the striker before the match will light.  The thicker the coating, the more strikes will be needed to light the match.

You will need something to set the matches on while they dry.  Sometimes I use the handle of a crescent wrench, or the handle of pliers.

  • Light the candle, and let a pool of wax build up.
  • Dip the head of the match in the wax,
  • Lay the match on the pliers, with the head in open air.
  • Or, open a bottle of fingernail polish and dip the heads into the bottle.
  • Lay the matches on the pliers to dry.

For a striker, cut the striker off a book of matches.

Dryer Lint

Dryer lint makes a great fire starter.  However, man made synthetics melt more than they burn.  One example is nylon.  It melts rather than burns.  Of this reason, I recommend drying towels, jeans… stuff that is mostly cotton, and using the dryer lint from them.

One thing that I sometimes recommend, but is not required, is a small plastic bag.  These can be found in the hobby section of various stores.  Look where beads are sold.  The plastic bags are used to separate beads used in making a necklace of bracelet.  The bags are very small, and are no more than two inches wide and long.

Store the dryer lint in the baggie.  This helps keep the dryer lint dry.  We are building a waterproof fire starter kit, right?  That also means keeping the lint dry.


Put everything together in the pill bottle.  Personally, I prefer pill bottles about one inch in diameter.

Before heading out on a trip, spend time striking the coated matches.  Get a feel for which coating works best.

Play around with different striking pads, some work better than others.  Keep in mind, strike on box matches require a specially treated striking pad, while strike anywhere matches do not.

Experiment with strike on box, and strike anywhere matches.  As strike anywhere matches age, the phosphorus tip is likely to break off before the match lights.

It has been my experience, as matches age, strike on box matches are more reliable than strike anywhere.

The goal is to play around with different types of matches, gain some experience, and have fun.

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October 4, 2017 at 11:26AM


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