About fifteen years ago, no less than six cents were paid for a box of matches, where now two such boxes can be purchased for one cent. The progress of science and art is perhaps more fully developed in the manufacture of many things called small, than in those things which embrace a more large and prominent space in the world's eye. The benefits—the comforts—which all classes, rich and poor, now enjoy from the manufacture of cheap friction lighting matches, is incalculable. On the wild prairie, or in the far-back woods, a match and a few dry sticks can kindle up a fire in a few moments, which will cook the wanderer's soup, or broil the hunter's venison steak. The days of flint, steel, and tinder-box, for kindling fires, are over ; the incomparable friction match kindles up ait hundred thousand fires in our city every morning, and lights up ten times that number of gas and other lights every evening. Frequent inquiries have been made of us, by letter, respecting the composition of matches, and we have furnished many practical receipts for that purpose during the past five years. A knowledge ot the manufacture of matches, however, is still limited, and the following information on the subject, condensed from the " Cyclopedia of Uselul Arts," newly published, we believe will be interesting to many of our readers :— " The wood employed in the manufacture of luciters is the best pine plank, as free from knots as it can be procured. Each plank is cut across the fibres, by means of a circular saw, into 28 or 30 blocks, each measuring 11 inches long and 4J wide, and 3 inches thick. These blocks are cut up into splints by a machine of simple but ingenious construction, which we will endeavor to explain in a few words. To the extremity of the horizontal arm of a crank is attached a frame, which reciprocates to and tro with the motion of the crank through a space of about four inches.— In this frame are fixed in a line some 30 or 40 lancets, with the points projecting upwards, and separated from each other by pieces of brass. The block of wood to be cut is inserted by the small end between uprights, and a lever placed upon it forces it down to a position such, that, as the lancet-points advance, the end of the wooden block is scored or cut in the direction of or parallel with the fibres, with as many lines as there are lancets. As the lancets are withdrawn by the motion of the crank, a scythe blade moving in a horizontal plane swings round, and cuts off the end of the block to the depth of the scores made by the lancets. The pieces thus cut off will evidently be four-sided splints square in section, supposing, as is the case, that the lancets are equidistant, and that the horizontal knife cuts exactly to the depth of the lar.cet scores. When the horizontal knife swings back, the block from which one layer of splints has thus been removed descends through a space equal to the depth of the section, the lancet-points again advance and recede, and the knife again does its work. In this way the cutting is carried on with such rapidity, that from 12 to 16 planks, each 12 feet long, 11 inches wide, and 3 inches thick, can be cut up into splints in a day of ten hours. Now, supposing 14 planks are thus cut up, and that each plank produces 30 blocks, we thus get 14X30=420 blocks.— Each block affords about 100 slices, which are cut off by the horizontal knife ; but as each slide, before being cut off has been scored by 31 lancet-points, we thus get 420X100X31= 1,302,000 splints ; and as each splint makes two matches, we thus have 2,604,000 single match-splints per day. These bundles are piled up on the racks of a hot-room or drying-stove, and left for some hours until moisture is expelled. The next process is the " sulphuring."— The sulphur is melted in an iron pot over a stove, and when sufficiently fluid, the two ends of the matches are successively dipped, jjhe matches being shaken after each dipping, in order to get rid of superfluous sulphur.— When the sulphur is dry the matches are ready for dipping in the phosphorous composition. Each manufacturer professes to have his own recipe, which he regards as the best, and, therefore, keeps secret. The ingredients are, however, well known to chemists ; the principal one is phosphorus, which is made into an emulsion, with glue or gum arabic, the former being preferable, since gum absorbs moisture. Some makers use nitre, others fine sand ; and all use coloring matter, which may be red ochre, red led, smalt, or artificial ultramarine. The following proportions have been found to answer : Glue paste Gum paste. Phosphorus . . 2'5 . . . . 2'5 Glue.....2 Gum . . 2'5 Water .... 4'5 .... 3 Fine sand ... 2 .... 2 Red ochre ... 0'5 .... 0'5 Vermillion ... 01 .... 0'1 Instead of the last two coloring substances, 0'05 of Prussian blue may be used. When glue is used, it is ot very inferior quality. It is broken into fragments and soaked for a few hours in cold water; then dissolved in a large glue pot, or vessel, C, figure 1, heated by a water bath, W. When it is perfectly fluid, and at the temperature of 212 , the copper is withdrawn, and placed in the circular opening of the frame, figure 2. The phosphorus is then added by degrees ; it melts immediately and subsides, but is kept in agitation by means of the wooden stirrer, s, which is furnished at the lower part with projecting pegs, the object being, as the glue cools, to obtain an emulsion of phosphorus in a minutely divided state. The sand and coloring matters are added during the stirring. The paste is kept at the temperature of about 98 , sufficient to retain it in a fluid state bv placing the vessel, C, in a water bath." The author of this useful invention—the friction match as used, notwitstanding its novelty and its youth, is unknown ; probably it was discovered by more than one person about the same time. A great number of such matches are made in New York, and the manufacture of them by one house is conducted upon a scale of liberality to the operatives which is exceedingly creditable to the heart of the manufacturer. There are some matches which make a slight crackling noise when rubbed on a rough surface ; the cause of this is the chlorate of potash ; those which do not produce such explosions on a small scale, have none of that dangerous composition. The following composition is an excellent one for matches. 16 parts by weight of gum arabic ; 9 parts of phosphorus; 14 parts of nitre; 16 parts of manganese, and 5 of smalt. These ingredients are mixed up with water into a thick paste, into which the sulphured ends of the matches are dipped, and then carefully dried. The manufacture of matches in Germany produced fearful diseases among the work-people, owing to the injurious effects of phosphorus, a remedy for this was discovered by Prof. Schrotter of Vienna, and was described on page 187, Vol. 7, Scientific American. The discovery was the rendering phosphorus amorphous ; and a bea-*ti u_] it was in the department of chemistry.
This article was originally published with the title "Manufacture of Matches" in Scientific American 8, 30, 240 (April 1853)