How Matches Are Made
We use a lot of matches in Australia: on an average of 10 matches per person, per month. To satisfy the demand for matches in Australia, Swedish Match produces 6 million Redhead® matches a day.
Redhead® matches are made from Aspen Timber, a very good quality wood to use for matches.
To start the process for creating our Redhead® Matches we first remove the bark from the logs. This is done by feeding the logs through powerful rotating teeth that work like an enormous cheese grater, scraping off the bark at a great speed. The barkless logs are then sawn into manageable 60 cm in length, called billets.
In the next stage of the transformation from tree to match splint, the billets are spun at high speed against a fixed, sharp blade, and like a knife through butter, the blade shaves the billets into sheets of wood the thickness of a match, and about 3 metres long.
These sheets of match veneer are then stacked and fed through a chopper, a kind of guillotine, which cuts them into match-stick length with amazing speed. In one minute the chopper produces 166,000 splints or approximately 10 million splints every hour. This is where the individual match splints are produced.
Because the trees from which the splints are made had no time to dry out the splints are still wet. There is just one more stage before they are dried. From the chopper, the splints take a ride on a conveyor belt to a bath containing a special liquid (an ammonium phosphate solution) in which they are given a really good soaking. This treatment is referred to as impregnation and is a safety process that stops the matches from glowing after the flame has been put out.
The splints are now dried in large kilns, and then fed into polishing drums to take off any rough edges. After a final check during two more cleaning processes in which splints that are too small or too large are rejected, the finished splints are ready for the next manufacturing stage.
Millions of splints are now being punched into special holes on an endless steel conveyor belt, called a VPO machine. This creates rank upon rank of headless matchsticks moving slowly and relentlessly forward.
The first port of call is a bath of molten paraffin wax. This is a convenient way to ensure that the match can burn evenly and fully right along its length.
Next the endless belt dips the splints into the chemical mixture that forms the heads. For the rest of the one hour journey on the VPO the match heads dry and cure before packing into boxes.
Now for packing. The finished matchsticks are pushed out of their holes in the conveyor belt into the waiting matchbox trays. The trays are then slid into a waiting outer sleeve and moved along for wrapping.
The finished boxes are wrapped into packets of 10 single boxes, which in turn are packed into larger cartons for storage.
From the Tidaholm factory in Sweden the matches are then sent to Australia and then distributed to retail outlets around Australia.