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Waterproofing strike-anywhere matches?

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by desmobob, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. desmobob


    May 5, 2003
    I finally found a few big boxes of strike-anywhere matches. I was about to load up my little waterproof match containers when I decided I might as well waterproof the matches first (which I've never done before).

    I melted a little bit of parafin in an aluminum tin and dipped the matches up to about 1/3 their length.

    Then I decided to try them out. When striking one on the striking area of the box they came in, I noticed the waterproofed matches sparked, then took a moment to slowly catch, then burned very well. Un-waterproofed versions struck up to full flame immediately. Hmmmm....

    I decided to try them under conditions more like in the field. It had been raining all afternoon. I stepped out my back door and struck an unwaterproofed match on the brick wall of my house (under the eaves and dry bricks). I figured the brick would be more like a rock --albeit a very rough one-- I might use if out in the woods. It lit right up. Then I tried a waterproofed one. It sparked but didn't light. A second attempt removed all the coating off the end of the match... no chance of lighting it. A second and third waterproofed match produced similar results... the waterproofed matches wouldn't light; just one feeble spark on the first strike followed by the loss of the tip coating on the second strike.

    I ended up filling my match cases with a 50/50 mix of waterproofed and un-waterproofed matches.

    I just wanted to share that bit of my experience....

    Stay sharp,
  2. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    I remember usin' clear nail polish as a kid to waterproof matches, I'll have to try it again, IIRC it worked pretty well.

    Now I just use an quality water proof match case.
  3. Barbarossa

    Barbarossa Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 14, 2007
    Hey desmobob I bought several boxes of them a few years ago and made them waterproof with wax too. I went through the boxes and picked out only the matches with the largest white heads to waterproof to counter this very problem you are having. You only want to have 1 thin coat of wax and not a thick coat if that helps. I have never had a problem with any of mine. You can carefully scrape off some of the wax off the head with your fingernail immediately before lighting. Hope this helps.
  4. beckerhead


    Feb 11, 2005
    I use leftover candle stubs, etc. for my waterproofing. I wrap a cotton ball around the stem of the match, and do a quick dip in hot wax. Never had any trouble striking any of them, and with the fat waxed cotton collar they burn about 2-3 minutes easy, even in a brisk breeze.
  5. gruntinhusaybah


    Jan 1, 2006
    Deck sealer works well, works for maps too. Clear nail polish, or a thin coat of petroleum jelly while a bit messy, works too.
    I had the same troubles you're having with wax.
  6. jw2n


    Sep 22, 2009
    Thru the late 60's and seventies, I did the same thing. I do not remember having any problem with them. I also scraped the wax off of the head with my thumbnail before igniting them. When trying to use damp matches, we used to rapidly run the match tip thru our hair. I guess the combination of the friction and static electricity was supposed to dry them. I dont know whether this actually works or not, but it sure is fun to have those memories prompted by your post.
  7. Cougar Allen

    Cougar Allen Buccaneer (ret.) Platinum Member

    Oct 9, 1998
    My mother taught me to do it with a candle when I was little. I think she learned in the Girl Scouts. Just don't put the match right into the flame and it won't start on fire. Give it the thinnest coating of wax you can and scrape it off with your thumbnail before you light it.
  8. WJC01


    Mar 3, 2006
    Has anyone else tried them in wet field conditions?
    I'll stick to my RAT fire steel w/ PJCB stored in the handle and a small piece of fatwood.
  9. desmobob


    May 5, 2003
    Thanks for all the info, guys.

    It looks like I'll try scraping the wax off the tip before I strike them. I'll give it a try tomorrow....

    I thought beckerhead's idea of putting waxed cotton right on the match stick was pretty clever! Now that's thinking outside the (match)box. :)

    I have mischmetal rods and strikers and magblocks and pjcb's and birchbark and fatwood and so on and so on, but for lighting my Trangia, bushbuddy, Esbit stove, Ghillie Kettle, Coleman lantern, or just a regular old campfire while I'm out hunting or hiking, a plain old wooden match is hard to beat for convenience and effectiveness. I guess the old "Keep it simple" mantra is a good one... I've had no problems for the last 35 years or so until I decided I needed to waterproof my matches. :rolleyes:

    Stay sharp,
    Happy Thanksgiving,
  10. RescueRiley


    Mar 22, 2006
    wax works great but for something a little more sturdy try clear nail polish.
  11. LG&M


    Dec 19, 2005
    The nail polish doesn't have to be clear. Nothing wrong with a pretty match.
  12. jw2n


    Sep 22, 2009
    Goth matches?
  13. Blue Sky

    Blue Sky Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 16, 2002
    Better waterproof the whole match, not just the ends. Otherwise, water will wick up through the wooden stick and ruin your match head from the inside out.
  14. Les Snyder

    Les Snyder

    Jul 6, 2010
    I find that a small piece of fine grit cloth backed automotive (made to wet sand) aluminum oxide sanding paper is less damaging to match heads
  15. desmobob


    May 5, 2003

    I just tried scraping the wax off the tip. This time, I struck them on my concrete back step, as it is less rough than the brick I was using on the first field trial. The results? The same... one spark on the first strike and loss of the coating on the second strike. I was being kind of careful, too. An uncoated match struck up on the first try.

    It seems the parafin has softened the striking material on the matches, making them less effective. By the way... I used pure parafin to dip them, purchased in the canning section of the local store.

    I planned to put a strip inside each match case. I was going to glue a small circle of it on the inside of the lids of my match vaults, but there is a nice little mirror there that I'd hate to cover up. These match cases also have a short length of ferro rod glued in a little channel on the bottom. It's so small I think it would be a real achievement to start a fire with one, but at least it's another option. (Pretty handy product for less than two bucks each. I think I got them from Going Gear or CountyCom.)

    Stay sharp,
  16. Briarbrow


    Aug 18, 2010
    I had the same sort of problem. At first I used a little baggie some gear came in, reinforced it with duct tape to make a pouch for some PJCb, and put some waxed matches in with 'em. Most of them failed when tested later. I assumed the jelly had ruined them

    Those kept in matchsafe(orange one like yours) w/o the cottonballs fared better, but there were still several soft heads

    I tried fingernail polish, dipping the heads. The polish ran down the matchstick, even though I scraped the blob off; the polish still slowed ignition on the stick and the match usually went out.

    At last I painted a light coat only on the head, and when dry I waxed the sticks.
    The strike is very crisp, like a fresh uncoated match. But still maybe a little slow igniting the stick, maybe not, if ya hold it just right

    It was so much trouble I sprung for K&M safe.

    Still haven't tried soaking and drying the matches, but before I got the KM I did submerge the orange plastic safe to be sure it worked. Even the homemade pouch stayed dry.
  17. Erasmus


    Jul 15, 2002
    Personally, I never got anywhere with waterproofing matches. What I've gone to is Bic lighters and REI Stormproof matches. In practice, I always use the lighter to get a flame for stoves, campfires and such. If something gets messed up, I go to the neverfail Stormproofs. Lastly, I always bring along one of those Swedish firesteels, as a failsafe.
  18. stealthchaser13


    May 22, 2010
    I've never tried to waterproof any type of matches. But if you want true waterproof matches (sorry, not strike anywhere), check out countycomm's stormproof matches. you can dip them in water, and they will still burn...

  19. desmobob


    May 5, 2003
    I'm with you all the way. :D I always have a disposable butane lighter in my pocket when I'm in the woods. But I like to carry wooden matches because they really seem to be the most convenient way to start a campfire, and are the easiest way for me to light a stove or lantern while keeping my fingers safe. My packs all have a mischmetal or ferro rod (with a striker and tinder) in them for back-up

    I have four boxes of those big UCO lifeboat matches dispersed among my most-used daypacks and backpacks. They are wonderful!

    Stay sharp,
  20. Switchblade61


    Nov 11, 2009
    What brand of strike anywhere matches are you using?

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