One of the few things I clearly remember about my grandfather is the time he challenged me to divide a wooden matchstick in half lengthways.

I don't remember whether I tried to guess the answer. Maybe I tried and failed, or maybe I was too lazy to think about it; or maybe I could see in his twinkly blue eyes how badly he wanted to tell me the answer, so I gave up immediately.

Anyway, he showed me how. He lit the match, let it burn for a few seconds, then grabbed its smouldering head between saliva-dampened fingers so that he could hold it until the entire length burnt. Then he licked the flattest part of each of his palms and pressed the tiny stick of charcoal firmly between them. When he separated his hands, half of the match adhered to each one.

Maybe he got lucky that day, or maybe he practised the trick his whole life. Either way, every time I've tried his trick (about once a year since he showed me), I've just ended up with a black mess on each hand and a bad taste in my mouth. I'll obviously have to find something requiring far less dexterity to impress my grandkids with.

Interesting trick. I've got to try it sometime. However, here's a much better way which is actually useful:

Find a match with a large head and lots of phosphorus on the tip (if it's a strike anywhere match.) It doesn't really matter how big the head is, but the bigger it is, the easier it is. Set the match down on a table and get out your pocketknife. Push the knife down on the non-headed end in the first millimeter or so, and push just enough to break through. If you're lucky, you will now have one match with two ends. Very carefully, insert the knife between the two ends and move it towards the head. If you do this just right, it'll split into two halves, each with a little bit of head and phosphorus (if it's a strike anywhere match). If you don't have a knife, BTW, you can do it with your teeth. It's just a little harder.

How is this useful, you may ask? Think about it: Now you've got two matches! That's twice as many as you had before! If you're lost in the arctic, with nothing but a box of matches and your swiss army knife, you can build twice as many fires, and therefore live twice as long! Except that there are no trees in the arctic, so you really can't build any fires. But you sure will have a lot of matches!

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