Know what bugs me? Crappy generic store branded stuff. Like the matches of which you see some on the right above next to proud green strike anywhere Diamonds on the left. What makes a bad match? Thanks for asking. I’m gonna tell ya.
Few days back, there was an, uh, odor I hoped to dispel with first the flame and then the smoke of a struck match. I opened the box, pulled one out and across the abrasive panel when it broke. Next one ignited and then broke, fell onto my shirt, and burned a hole. Oh well, work shirt.
Next one ignited, broke, fell onto the carpet, and seemed to have gone out. It was in a corner and the carpet is dark and wife didn’t see. Almost ‘oh well’ again, but didn’t want to burn the house down so dumped a glass of water on it which I did have to explain later. (“Uh, was watering plants”) I’d by then forgotten about the odor, but in retrospect I’m pretty sure it was long gone.
What’s more is that the cheap ones hail from a poor country in which forests are rapidly being decimated by the indiscriminate use of wood as fuel for cooking. On the back of the box of good ones is a statement of which the following is part: “…sourced from responsibly managed Aspen forests of Minnesota…”
Store where we mostly shop stocks only those on the right. As of recently I should say. There used to be a choice. I’m no genius, but I’m sure management figured that the process of match procurement for the average consumer involves negligible consideration of price or quality. Thus, remove the good ones, sell the replacements at the same price, and double the profit.
Matches were invented in China* in or around AD 577 when it was found that dry sticks coated with sulfur would facilitate the sharing of an established flame. Robert Boyle (remember Boyle’s Law?) figured out that a stick coated with sulfur would ignite when dragged across a piece of paper coated with phosphorus.
As further refinement a John Walker in 1826 soaked small sticks with a mixture of potassium chlorate, antimony sulfide, starch, and gum, and allowed them to dry. Move tip across a rough surface and voila – a flame. This solution was poisonous however and sickened factory workers. So after some experimentation, in 1910 the Diamond Match Co substituted sesquisulfide for the phosphorus and patented the modern match.
And now some pencil neck has taken us a few steps back. Can’t wait to test their pharmacy…
*cf post of July 2, 2011 to read about the invention of fireworks.
**Most of the history of matches above was drawn from an article by Lisa De Nike in the Fall/Winter issue of The Boss.