How To Light A Match Without The Box

Matches are a basic and handy tool that are essential for camping, as well as for use at home. 

Normally, matches are lit by using the striking surface on the matchbox, but over time this can wear down or you can lose the box entirely.

So how can you light a match without the matchbox? Don’t worry – this guide has got you covered.

Here we’ll take you through some easy methods to light a match without a matchbox. So let’s not waste any time – let’s get right into it!

4 Easy Ways To Light A Match With No Matchbox

Use Sandpaper

Sandpaper is very similar to the normal striking surface on a matchbox, which makes it a perfect substitute if you don’t have the box handy. 

A medium-grit sandpaper is the best option, as it has the ideal coarseness for striking a match. Finer sandpapers aren’t coarse enough for the match to strike,

while sandpapers with a lower grit count won’t generate enough friction and can even just snap the match.

To light a match with sandpaper, you should use the same technique as lighting a match normally.

If possible, wrap the sandpaper around something solid and flat, such as a stone or wooden block.

This will give the flimsy sandpaper support and stability, making lighting the match easier.

Using a deliberate motion, drag the match quickly across the sandpaper. Use a decent amount of pressure – you want to generate enough friction without snapping the matchstick.

When the match is lit, angle it down slightly and cup your hand around the flame to protect it from the wind. This will let the flame grow and become strong enough for you to use.

Because of its similarities with the striking surface on a matchbox, sandpaper is the ideal substitute if you need to light a match without the box. However, it does have a few downsides. 

Sandpaper is flimsy and can tear easily when wet, so it can be unreliable in tougher conditions. It’s also unlikely that you’d have sandpaper with you in a survival situation.

That said, it’s still a great substitute for a matchbox. On top of that, using sandpaper is also one of the only ways to light a safety match without a matchbox (which, by design, should be the only way to light a safety match).

Use A Rough Surface

Unlike safety matches, strike-anywhere matches are a lot easier to light without the box. As the name suggests, strike-anywhere matches are able to be sparked on many everyday surfaces.

If you watch a lot of older movies, you might have seen characters striking a match off a wall, a boot, or even their beard.

While strike-anywhere matches can be struck on all sorts of surfaces, there are still a few things you need to consider before you can light your match. First of all, you need an appropriate striking surface.

Stones are a great striking surface, with the best stones being flat and rough with a coarse surface that isn’t too bumpy. Make sure the stone is completely dry first, as any moisture will stop your match from lighting.

Other good striking surfaces include most building materials. Concrete, brick, and asphalt are great materials for lighting strike-anywhere matches, offering a rough surface that’s readily available in more urban areas.

You can even light a strike-anywhere match on glass, although this is a bit tricky and takes some practice to pull off. 

Again, your striking surface needs to be completely dry for your match to light.

Strike your match with the same method as sandpaper, dragging the match across the striking surface in one swift and deliberate stroke.

Try placing your fingertip over the match while striking to increase the friction, but be prepared to move your finger as soon as the match lights to avoid getting burned.

You might have to try a couple of times, but with the right surface you should be able to get a match lit before long.

Use Your Fingernail

We’ve all seen the party trick where someone lights a match with a flick of their thumb. Here’s how to do it for yourself.

First of all, this only works with strike-anywhere matches. You won’t be able to light a safety match this way.

To begin, you need to hold the match correctly. Place the match where your fingers meet the palm of your hand, with the tip of the match pointing towards your thumb.

Curl your hand into a thumbs-up position – the match should be sticking up, parallel with your thumb.

From there, place the tip of your thumbnail slightly under the top of the match. If you’re holding the match with your right hand, you should position the edge of your thumbnail so it’s just to the left of the match’s center.

Put some gentle pressure on the match until you feel your nail catch.

Now, flick your thumb forwards and to the right, scraping your thumbnail against the tip of the match. The friction generated between your nail and the match should be enough to light it.

As soon as the match is lit, move it away from your hand. Be prepared and move quickly to make sure you don’t get burned.

This is a tough trick to learn, and it’ll probably take you a few tries to pull off. Also, if you’re using your left hand, swap the directions in the instructions.

Use Other Matches

If you’re caught without a matchbox and there aren’t any other striking surfaces to use, you can actually light a match by using other matches. Not only that, but this trick even works for safety matches!

You’ll need five matches in total, making this method more costly than the others. However, when push comes to shove this is a great technique to know.

In one hand, position four of the matches in a tight 2×2 square. Press the matches as close together as possible, leaving only a small gap in the middle. In your other hand, take the other match.

Place the tip of the single match in the gap in the center of the other four matches. Take care to keep the square steady, as it’s easy to knock them out of place.

Push the tip of the match a little way into the gap, and pinch to other four matches together to keep it in place.

Now, twist and pull the match out of the gap. Finding the right technique is tricky, so don’t worry if you need a few tries.

The friction between the matches should light all of them at once. Keep an eye on both your hands, especially the one with the four matches.

Because of how many matches you need and how close you have to hold them, it’s easy to get burned if you’re not careful.

Final Thoughts

So now you know four easy ways to light a match without a matchbox. While using the correct striking surface is the best way to light a match, these simple methods are a great way to start a fire even if you’re ever caught without a matchbox.

So whether you want to prepare for a survival situation or simply just want to learn a new party trick, now you know how to light a match without the box!

George Alexander
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