For those of us who follow various outdoor social media groups we’ve all seen the posts or ads featuring a hundred year old illustration from a book showing a feathered matchstick. This was a skill used to enhance the ignition of a matchstick in windy or adverse conditions. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to make one. I grabbed a box of matches from my provisions that contained 300 matchsticks and began to whittle.
It’s important to have a sharp blade to accomplish this. I had a new Mora(kniv) knife similar to one that I used to shave with that I mentioned in a previous article “Shaving with a Mora knife!!“. They come very sharp! An alternative tool for this task is a break-off blade utility knife. It is said that “a sharp knife is a safe knife” for cutting tasks and I have found this to be true. One technique that can be helpful is to “push” the wood into the knife blade that sometimes gives more control when cutting and can more easily stop the cut where needed.
I cut the wood slivers on the edges of the square wood shaft creating 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. I start cutting from the match head downward as the thinnest part of the resulting slivers will ignite more easily when exposed to the open flame that is produced when the match is struck. I would alternate sides and then cut slightly be!ow the previous cut on the adjacent edge each time so I could avoid creating any undue weak spots on the wood shaft. It helps to carefully pull the sliver outward at the end of the cut for better exposure to the flame.
I was glad to have had so many matches with which to practice this skill until I felt comfortable and satisfied with the results. It helps to support the match head with a finger for better control and to prevent breaking the match when pressure is applied by the blade when carving. I also press down on the match head for better support while I strike it which also ensures better contact.
This is a practical exercise in knife skills that can also be applied to “feather sticks” to be used as tinder when building a campfire.