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Matchstick Rockets are precicely what they sound like. Using some household materials, you can propel a matchstick across your back porch.
Matchstick Rockets are based off of the same basic principles as traditional rockets. They contain expanding gasses that are forced in one direction and create and equal and opposite force in the other.

Materials
1. Matches (note difference between matchsticks and matchbooks at the bottom)
2. Tin Foil
3. A Small Pin (about the size of a matchstick)
4. A Medium Sized Paperclip

Process:

a. Building your rocket
Take one match from your matchbook and give it a good look over. Some matches from matchbooks have more material on one side than the other. Find the side that has more flammable material and place the small pin so that the head of the pin is at the base of the match and the sharp end is resting in the center of the matchhead.
Take your tin foil and cut out a shape (1" wide by 2" long) to wrap around the match. Some matchstick rocket instructional sites say that you should use a triangluar piece, other say that you should just cut out a rectangular piece (make sure to read the note on the size of the tin foil shape at the bottom). Wrap this around the match with the pin resting on it so that about half of the tin foil is above the matchhead and half is actually wrapped around the match and pin. Make sure you get the foil securely wrapped. Now, wrap the excess foil on the OPPOSITE side of the pin. Take a fingernail or other thin object and crease either side of the foil where the pin is, creating a better seal and smaller channel for the gasses. After you are sure of your wrap job, remove the pin carefully.

b. Setting up and launching your rocket
Now that you have your rocket all ready to go, prepare a launchpad with your paperclip! The key here is to give the match something to launch away from and to keep it tilted upward. Use your imagination when making your launchpad but NEVER launch a match rocket from your (or anyone else's) hand. Place your rocket on the launchpad (no 5,000 horsepower crawler needed), point away from other people and light a match below the matchhead encased in tin foil. Within a few seconds the matchhead should light within the foil and ignite the flammable material within the match, sending the matchstick up to 10 feet away!

Notes:
All that safety stuff in there, it's IMPORTANT. Don't burn yourself or your friend while lighting these and then blame me. I gave you all the fair warning and if you're too daft to heed that warning, you probably shouldn't be lighting off match rockets anyway.

I've never got a match rocket to fly 10 feet. All of this takes a decent amount of experimentation to come up with the right combination of elements to make your match rocket fly. Feel free to experiment with variations on my recipie. SAFELY, of course. If you happen to come up with the perfect match rocket combination that can win the x prize, don't hesitate to message me.

Matches are very different depending on what type you use. Matchbooks tend to have the least amount of flammable material inside them and thus only require the recommended - or less - tin foil wrapped around them. Larger stick matches, however, require more tin foil so that they don't just blow a hole in the tin foil. Again, experiment with them safely.

How to make miniature match rockets

Warning: You can potentially damage your property and/or yourself by trying this. Please take precautions. Launch on a non flammable, non meltable surface and keep a fire extinguisher ready.

One lovely summer day when I was about nine years old, I was extremely bored. I had a penchant for science and for science fiction, and decided that I wanted to build a rocket. I didn't, though, have the money, knowledge, or support to even consider making a real model rocket. It never occurred to me to ask anyone for help, and left to my own devices I simply invented something from scratch by turning to matches.

My dad, who recently died of lung cancer, smoked a pipe. So, we had matches in the house as I was growing up. I got out matches (the wood-stemmed sort), some cheap tinfoil, some round toothpicks, a very sharp knife, and, after some thought, a large paperclip.

Process:

  1. Cut or rip a square of tinfoil. The square should be very slightly less than twice the length of the matches you are using.
  2. Take a wooden match. Take a very sharp knife or a razor blade, and shave down the stem of that matchstick. Leave the head alone. Try to shave all the sides of the stick evenly if you can. This is to reduce the weight of the match.
  3. Lay the toothpick along the side of the matchstick so the toothpick's pointy tip is touching the matchhead very well, and its body lies along the stem of the matchstick. Hold the toothpick there against the matchstick. Put the matchhead in the center of the foil square and fold the foil carefully down around the matchstick and the toothpick, pressing it tightly. Make SURE the toothpick is in contact with the matchhead.
  4. Crimp the foil down very well against the matchstick/toothpick with your fingers. Very carefully, pull the toothpick out. Make sure you don't crush down the foil when you do this. You want to leave a full channel open between the matchhead and the back of the match.
  5. Take your paper clip and bend it open to a 45 degree angle, more or less. Set the paperclip onto a suitable, fireproof surface, so that one side is flat on the surface and the other side is angled upwards. If you want to burn a hole in your kitchen linoleum, now is the time to place it on the floor. (I strongly suggest doing this outdoors on a nonflammable surface!!!) Lay your little missile onto the paper clip aka launching apparatus so that it is angled up, with the matchhead at the top and the tail end of the matchstick at the bottom.
  6. Light another match. Very carefully hold it underneath the foil-coated head of the match that is resting in your launching assembling. Before very long, your rocket should cook off and will shoot across the room. Congratulations! (Oh yes, and do blow out that match in your fingers.)
  7. I kept scientific records on what I did (as scientific as a 9-year-old can get, anyway) but unfortunately they are long gone. My distance record was in the vicinity of 4 feet, though; that, I remember. Sometimes the foil outer shell would blow off, leaving the heavy matchstick behind, and that gave the best distance. I also tried cutting and/or shaving matchheads and adding that material around the matchstick's head. (This last is most likely to cause a foil/match blow off. No big surprise there.)

Hey, I was a kid, okay? At some point, I realized that the blast off site of my little experiment had acquired a very nicely burned hole in the linoleum floor of our kitchen. I never said a word about it, and eventually my sister got blamed for it, for rocking back on a bar stool in approximately the same location. Hee :-)


It would appear I'm not the only one who enjoyed this passtime!

riverrun says: We used to do this with *paper* matches, put three or four match heads on each, use a straight pin instead of a toothpick. I'm *sure* we got over twenty feet with them. (when they didn't burn our fingers)

BlueDragon says: Haha, this sounds really cool! Must try it. I used to make rockets with dry ice in a sealed screw top 50ml plastic bottle, pointing vertically upwards - went a lot more than 4 ft, but they are quite a bit bigger.

doyle says: We spent hours and hours doing this as kids! Thanks for the memories!

saintjim says: My record went across the room via a light fitting and burnt a hole in the rug - about 12-15 feet. Mind you, we crafted small fins rather than used paperclips...and fit the whole thing on a specially-designed launchpad. We were pros!

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