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Hollow handle pipe bomb?

Jul 28, 1999
If you filled a handle of a hollow handled knife with matches and they were to ignite, would the build up of pressure be so great as to explode the handle?

I know that this seems improbable . . . any opinions?

You planning on hanging out in fires or something, cause I don't see how they'd ignite.


Kevin Jon Schlossberg
SysOp and Administrator for BladeForums.com

Insert witty quip here
I haven't heard of a matchbox or matchbook igniting in somebody's pocket - now that would get one's attention! - so I don't see why they'd ignite inside a hollow handle, and I suspect that any external heat or electric shock that could cause that would also make the possibility of the handle exploding the least of the owner's problems.

AKTI Member # SA00001
The Unabombers' first bomb was a pipe bomb filled with match heads. It had an ignition of course.

I got a link from Doug Ritter's site I have since deleted. One of the articles was how to wax your matches so they wouldn't ignite in your pack or wherever they're carried. If the matches in your knives are moved around alot they could rub and ignite. Whether there is enough pressure to explode depends on alot of things.

"A knifeless man is a lifeless man"
-Nordic proverb

We dip all our matches in wax to waterproof them and so they burn better. Never thought about the fringe benefit...

Anyway, i used to run with those patriot/militia/survivalist types and we were always playing with bombs and guns.

Matchheads work for bombs, but you gotta use just the matchhead chemical part to get a good bang. The test to see if the chemical is explosive enough is to put some you scraped off a matchhead on a hard metal surface and then whack it with a spoon. If it goes "pop!", it's good.

I haven't ever had a problem with matchheads in my Project 1, but I stuck a butane lighter in there once and it leaked. The handle's airtight so the butane had nowhere to go. When I opened it it backfire at me. I don't know what sparked it off. Aluminum is supposed to be non-sparking.

You're right, the primary reason for waxing is waterproofing. Thanks for reminding me.

I'm still searching for that site. The chance of matches rubbing against each other and igniting are remote and I wouldn't worry about it.

"A knifeless man is a lifeless man"
-Nordic proverb


In my mis-spent youth we constructed "rockets" from empty CO2 cartridges. Crossman worked fine, the green colored ones for seltzer bottles didn't.

We learned this fact the hard way.

Three out of the four of us that did this still have all our limbs and eyesight, but very heavy conciences.

Don't even try to f**k with matchheads and metal containers.

If the handle is sealed tight there is no oxygen so combustion would be impossible. In Snic's case, something ignited the leaking fuel as he opened the handle allowing air to provide the oxygen neede for combustion. If you are dealing with an unsealed handle like the CS Bushman I suppose you could potentially have a problem.

who dares, wins

Matchheads and rockets. Just paper wrapped around a pencil and taped. Filled with matchheads. Closed at the top. Closed at the bottom by wrapping paper around pin or long thin object (which is extracted after taping) and also taped to keep the bottom opening very thin. Goes like stink when ignited.

Misspent youth. I had forgotten all about this fun activity. We were smart or lucky enough to NEVER do this with metal containers.

I would make sure to coat/wax matches kept in a metal knife handle (whether it's sealed or not).
phantom 4 took the words right out of my mouth . Generally handles are air tight so the fire would not only be smothered the instant the matchbook was ignited but there could be no fire in the first place . although if there was a tiny amount of breathability in the handle then the fire may appear to put out but when you unscrew the handle it would be a miniature backdraft . a.k.a. smothered fire finally gets oxygen it explodes in flames outwards .
Match heads can combust without oxygen the coating is essentially a poor man's black powder. The hazard is only with the "strike anywhere" two-colored kitchen matches. These will ignite if you hit them sharply on the tip. As kids we used to throw single kitchen matches onto pavement and they would go off with a pop. If you didn't want to throw so hard you could wrap a little solder around the stick below the head. You could just toss the match and it would land nose-down and ignite with a pop. On occasion one of the guys would throw one of the big boxes up in the air and they would light upon landing.

If you have a heavily built survival knife like a Chris Reeve model I don't think it would fail from a dozen or so matches going off in the handle. There would be too much room inside and too little match compound to rupture the steel. If you packed it with match heads you would be at risk. If you had used emery cloth to remove match compound from several packages of matches I would expect the cap to rupture at the very least. As a kid I had many of my experimental projectile launchers blow up using match powder. I'm real lucky I've still got all my digits.

[This message has been edited by Jeff Clark (edited 23 August 1999).]
Why not use safety matches ? One of the chemical components of those "strike-anywhere" matchheads has been removed to the striking surface, reducing
volatility. These are available as Storm matches,too. Just make sure that You pack more than one striking surface and keep the matches separate(in a condom,for example.)BTW, I recently heard a radio report about the development of matches, and in the beginning self-ignition really was a problem. And I thought beta-testing Windows was

Take care,
Tobse !
Ah, how quickly they forget. Yep, early strike anywhere matches were prone to ignite in your pocket. Thus the invention of a device of which most of you have never heard. A matchsafe.

These were small metal containers, designed to hold 8 or 10 matches, and made match carry safe. I have a gorgeous sterling silver one with Bacchus, the god of wine and frivolity, decorating the side in high relief.

They were generally shaped like a small Zippo lighter, only some what longer top to bottom, and narrower back to front.

As a SWAG, I doubt a dozen matches igniting inside the handle of a well made hollow handle knife would burst the handle. The quantity of fuel is rather low, and the pressure curve would be very long (slow build up of pressure).

Hope this helps, Walt

In junior high I had some match heads explode when I was tamping them into a plastic model car part, I wasn't hurt and it was a good lesson. In the military someone had a brass ballpoint pen refill blow up when they were stuffing pieces of match heads into it. They didn't get any shrapnel in their eyes but their face and fingers were peppered.

I wouldn't want 'strike anywhere' matches flopping around in any container, even if you don't much about matches igniting in the common waterproof match containers.
phantom4. Match heads contain their own oxygen, probably in the form of a chlorate or nitrate compound. The matches could be ignited if they are crushed against something when screwing the cap down. As a guess I doubt that the handle would explode but it could make taking the cap off interesting.
you could probably be safe isolating the tip with wax paper and scotch tape? Just an Idea
Well here is my opinion. When I was young me and my friends used to fill tennis balls up with strike anywhere matches and throw them up against anthin hard. And TRUST me they make a big bang! So i would be careful, if you pack the handle with strike anywheres there is the possibility that it might go boom!!! Be careful!