How to Make a Match Rocket (aka matchstick rocket)

These things are a lot of fun, you can shoot them indoors (if you don’t mind the smell of burnt matches), they don’t go too far (maybe 10 feet max), and they are an actual solid fuel rocket as per the technical definition, so you do get to say “I made a rocket out of a match and some aluminum foil.”

Right now I’ve just got the video, I think later I might add some step-by-step written instructions and some pictures, although you’ve really got everything you need in the video I think some people might prefer the pictures and text for some reason.

EDIT: ok, apparently some people tired of my rambling after about 30 seconds, so I’m putting text and pictures for some simple and fast step-by-step stuff right up front and the video is at the bottom (it’s 8 minutes and includes an explanation about how and why these things work), here you go:

Step 1 to Make a Match Rocket

Right, well first let’s fabricate the launch platform for it using a paperclip, this is very simple: all you do is take a paper clip as it normally is, bend the middle bit out and pull the leg of the base out a bit to make it wider, here’s the stand next to an unmodified paper clip so you can see just what I’ve done:

Step 2

The next thing you’ll need is something to make the nozzle of the rocket, which is just sort of a tunnel in the aluminum foil that’s wrapped around the match for the gases to go through that will propel the rocket, a safety pin would probably be the best choice, but I didn’t have one so I bent out a paper clip and smashed the kinks out of it with some needle-nosed pliers, like so:

Step 3

The next thing you’ll need is a bit of aluminum foil, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but I’ve found the best configuration is a triangle of aluminum foil about 1 inch tall and 2 inches wide, like this:

Step 4

Now you’ll need to get ready to wrap the aluminum foil around the match: when you do this, you need to keep the safety pin (or paper

clip in my case here) pressed flat and lengthwise against the match so that there is a tunnel created all the way from the match head down to where the aluminum foil ends so that it creates an exhaust nozzle for the hot gases that will be produced by the match head when it burns. Here you can see the paper clip held up

against the match as it should be (all the way up to the head) with the aluminum foil also in my hand and ready to wrap:

Step 5

Now you just wrap the aluminum foil around the safety pin (or paper clip) and match–when you do this, the aluminum foil should be such that the longer bit is horizontal, if that makes sense, like so:

Step 6

Next, fold the excess aluminum foil over the top of the match head such that it creates as tight a seal as possible: you want the only possible exit for those burning gases to be through the nozzle you’ve created with the safety pin/ paper clip. And the finished product (before you pull the safety pin out), looks like this:

Step 7

Now just pull the paper clip (or safety pin) out and you’ve got your finished match rocket:

Step 8

Now place the match rocket on the stand like this:

Step 9

Point it somewhere where you’ve got enough room for it to fly, keep in mind that it will be hot when it hits the ground, so you don’t want it to land on any carpet or cloth, and then light it by putting a flame right under where the head of the match would be:


The Video

Here’s the video I did of me taking about 8 minutes to build one, explain the building process, explain how it actually works, and then at the end I actually launch one:

Additional Resources and Further Reading

If you liked this then you definitely need to check out these two: here’s a video I did on how to make a rocket with a cigarette lighter and an empty soda bottle, and then here’s another one on how to make a homemade rocket engine with alcohol and nitrous oxide.

Oh wow, this guy has really got something cool here, he’s gone and sort of ‘turbocharged’ his match rocket with some homemade booster fuel called ‘recrystalized KN/sucrose’ that he shows you how to make out of fertilizer, corn syrup, and sugar: Candy Microrockets

Even NASA has got in on it, and I think my version is actually better than theirs, have a look: NASA Glenn Match Stick Rockets

Here they’ve gone and used an empty rifle cartridge casing (no surprise: they’re in Alaska), I like that: Living Alaska: Match Rockets