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We’ve covered numerous matchstick chain reactions in the past, but none of them have ever been lit underwater. It makes sense, really. Why (or how) could you make flammable material ignite underwater, much less make a flaming chain of art?

As it turns out, all you need is a bunch of match sulfur (the red powdery stuff you find on a matchstick head), wood glue, and a dash of nail varnish to make waterproof matches.

Thanks to this discovery, YouTuber The Q was able to make his first underwater matchstick chain reaction:

1. Creating And Testing The Waterproof Matches

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

After scraping off the match sulfur from a bunch of regular matches, The Q clumps the powder together using some water and a ton of wood glue. He then places this mixture onto a large stick and waits for it to dry.

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

Once the mixture has hardened, he lathers on a heap of nail polish onto the wood’s surface before dunking the whole thing into a glass of water to test it. As advertised, the flammable nail polish and wood glue allow the giant match to burn even underwater.

2. Making The “Match” Chain

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

Seeing as it would take a really long time to place and glue a bunch of individual matchsticks, The Q instead cuts a bunch of wooden pieces and draws lines on them to mimic numerous matchsticks being glued together. Not only does this save on time, but it makes applying his match sulfur, wood glue, and nail polish mixture much easier!

3. Don’t Forget The Coup de Grâce

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

It wouldn’t be a matchstick chain reaction without something big to fire up at the end, and The Q is more than happy to oblige with a large, flammable, paper mache semicircle. To make this, he covers half of a basketball in newspaper and glue and lets the paper mache dry. Once finished, all he has to do is deflate the basketball and retrieve his prize.

To make the semicircle flammable, he covers it in a similar substance to the one he puts on the underwater matches. For added measure, he covers the inside with nail polish before gluing it down to the bottom of a glass tank.

4. Assemble It All Together

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

With the big finish in place, The Q can now start putting his “matchstick” chain reaction together. Using tons of glue, he places each piece in place while making sure the flammable substance is evenly distributed on top.

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

With everything glued together, he paints the sides of the wood pieces in nail polish to give them that extra shine and make them just a little more flammable.

5. Fire It Up!

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

The only thing left to do now is to light it up! While it doesn’t have the same amount of smoke or flame as an open-air match chain reaction, you can definitely see the fire make its way down and along the flammable path.

waterproof matchstick chain reaction

Even the coup de grâce at the end doesn’t burn quite as you expect it to. Instead of seeing a sudden burst of underwater flame, all you see is the red semicircle slowly turning brown and its bits and pieces slowly floating to the surface. It definitely isn’t something you’d want or expect from a matchstick chain reaction but, hey, at least it burns underwater!

You can find more exciting conclusions in The Q’s other DIY videos over on his YouTube channel.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.