The Matchbook Red Phosphorus Bible

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  • 5 Gallon Bucket
  • Drill (1/2" chuck)
  • Mud/Paint/Concrete Mixer
  • Coffee Filters
  • Strainer (big enough to fit over pot and bucket opening)
  • 2 gallon Cooking Pot
  • Tin Snips or Scissors

  • 200 Matchbook Boxes
  • 2 Gallons Acetone
  • Sulfuric Acid
  • Hydrochloric Acid
  • Water
  • Iodine

    Extracting Red Phosphorus from Matchbooks:

    1. Rip off matchbook covers. Line up as many matchbook covers as you can cut through with tin snips or good, sharp scissors. Cut out and save all the striking strips.
    2. Drill 3/4" hole in the lid of the 5 gallon bucket. Put the mud mixer through 3/4" hole in lid and into the drill.
    3. Dump the 200 matchbook boxes worth of striking strips (10,000 striking strips) into the 5 gallon bucket. Pour 1.5 gallons of acetone into the bucket. Cover bucket by inserting mud mixer then snapping on the lid.
    4. Mix Contents for about 5 minutes. Check to see if strips are mostly white on account of the phosphorous/glue being washed off. If not then continue mixing.
    5. Take off the lid and pull out mixer. Put the strainer on the cooking pot and pour all the acetone in. Pull out all strips from strainer and bucket and place on clean table or in a bowl. The strips will be covered in residual red phosphorus, so rinse them by placing the strainer on bucket and throwing a handful of strips in it. Then slowly pour some of the acetone in the cooking pot, through the strainer until strips are clean. Empty strainer into garbage. Continue until all strips are rinsed.
    6. Pour all the acetone/RP into the cooking pot. Let the RP settle for about 15 minutes. Slowly pour off the acetone. Keep pouring as long as the acetone is pretty clear. The last bit of acetone will be reddish colored. Filter this through a coffee filter in the strainer. Scrape the mushy RP back into the pot or dry the filters, roll and ball them up well, then unfold. All the RP will fall right out in a dust.

    Cleaning Matchbook Red Phosphorus:

    Sulfuric/hydrochloric acid wash: (This can be done as 2 different washes) With mushy RP in cooking pot, pour enough 1:1 water/sulfuric to cover the glob. (It's optional now to add heat or not. If so then add no more than enough for a light boil) Mix contents for 5 to 10 minutes. Add an equal amount of hydrochloric acid and continue mixing for 5 to 10 minutes. If heat was applied take off now. Add an equal amount of cold water. Filter through a coffee filter in the strainer. Scrape the chunky RP off the filters back into the cooking pot. (This will eat up a lot of small paper fibers, hair, cotton, lint or whatever.)

    Acetone wash: Add enough acetone to cover the globs and chunks of RP. (Again you can add heat if you like. Bring it to a controlled boil.) Mix for 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool or add a little cold water. Filter RP same way and return it to pot. (This will remove any glues or other acetone solvent junk.)

    Water wash: Add enough distilled water to cover the RP globs. Bring this to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Filter out the RP and leave in filters to dry out. When dry roll and ball up filters then brush out dust. Collect dust in a baggie and store. (This is a general cleaning to remove any chemical residue.)

    Other washes: Any of the following solvents have been safely used to wash RP... Methanol, Ethanol, Denatured alcohol, Isopropanol, Toluene, Xylene. These would be done the same as written above.

    Screening: Put the RP in a stainless steel screen or plastic/steel mesh style coffee filter and run acetone through it. The RP is washed through the screen with the acetone, and any particles larger than the screen apertures are filtered out.

    Washing order:The order does not matter as long as the RP is finished off with an acetone wash then a distilled water wash.

    Prefiring Red Phosphorus

    React RP/I2:Weigh out your RP and put it into a bottle. Add half as much I2 to it and shake it up. Add (dropwise) H2O2 when not reacting. Continue shaking and adding drops of H2O2 until it's done reacting.

    Filter out RP: After prefiring add water and shake. If it won't loosen up then put the bottle in boiling water for 5 minutes. Filter the water/RP/I mix. Wash the RP with acetone then water. Dry it out, baggie and save for a rainy day.

    Note: Make sure drill has a 1/2" chuck.

    This was compiled from many sources and through trial and error was refined to what you see. It was written to be printed up and used as a reference for anyone like swim that hasn't been able to get lab grade RP. Swim's current run was scaled down using a 2 gallon bucket with 114 boxes! It took over 3/4 gallon of acetone to extract the RP. Clean up will be H2SO4/HCl, acetone, H2O, prefire, acetone, H2O, done!

    Swim is expecting to yield about 250mg per box. They're hoping to end up with an even ounce.