To make the square match sticks, a round block of wood quite twelve or fifteen inches long is turned against a strong knife blade of the same length. The block is peeled away in a continuous ribbon of wood, just as thick as a match, until it is all peeled away, and no core is left. The ribbon is cut lengthways into five strips. Then the wood ribbons are fed to a machine that chops them into matches. One machine can chop off 10,000,000 match sticks in one day.

After chopping, the sticks are dried with hot air in a huge whirling oven. If your kitchen stove should turn on its side and begin to roll over and over, that would be something like the revolving drum in which both round and square match sticks are dried. The oven is made to whirl for the same reason that you shake your popper when popping corn. It is to make the sticks dry evenly. In tumbling about together, too, splinters and rough edges are knocked off. Big drums are used a good deal in factories. In creameries the churns are big, whirling drums. In iron foundries, iron castings are put into a "tumbling barrel" to knock the rough edges from each other.

After drying, the match sticks are shaken in sieves that sift out splinters and broken pieces The good match sticks fall down into little places that are partitioned off, and lie side by side, as straight as in a box. Then a machine that seems almost to have brains in its little steel fingers, picks up a bundle of sticks, fastens them like pegs in little holes, each one separated from every other one, and gently lowers fifty or a hundred at a time, into melted paraffine wax, then into phosphorus mixed with other chemicals.

As soon as a dripping frame full of matches is lifted from the phosphorus vat, it passes along a belt into a blast of cold air. This dries the heads quickly. A little farther on the dipping frame lets go of the matches. They fall, heads all one way, into another machine that puts them in neat rows into boxes.

The pasteboard or strawboard boxes are made in the same factories. An endless roll of brown strawboard is fed in a broad sheet to a machine that cuts it into strips wide enough to make the four sides of a sliding box cover, or the bottom and sides of the box. Through one machine after another these strips go. The box cover is given four folds and pasted into a square-sided endless tube. The tube goes through a special printing press that prints the top and bottom and one side, and pastes a strip of sandpaper on the fourth side. Then the printed tube is cut up into box-length. Five hundred to a thousand boxes can be made every minute in a big match factory. A thousand boxes must be made every minute for ten hours every day to supply enough boxes for 100,000,000 matches. About one hundred and sixty matches are put in the ordinary box, and one dozen boxes in a package. Such a package is often sold for as little as eighteen or twenty cents. That is about a penny a hundred. Very old people can remember when matches were sold by the dozen, and people rolled paper lamp-lighters to save matches.

A match lighted in the dark is a sort of little star. The phosphorus on the head that flashes so instantly into flame, was named for a star, too. The Greek people called the morning star Phos-pho'rus, or light-bearer. When a substance was found in the earth that, united with the oxygen of the air, glowed or even burst into flame readily, it was named for the star. Now, of course, it would never do for Nature to leave so dangerous a thing lying about in lumps by itself. Phosphorus is always mixed with other things. For example, it is mixed with lime in your bones, and with tissue in the nerves and the brain. In match heads we want something that will light instantly on being struck, but that will behave itself at other times. Forms of potash and of manganese mixed with phosphorus help to make better and safer matches. The very best matches of all are the "safeties, " that cannot be lighted anywhere except on the sand panel on the box. That is because the phosphorus is not on the match head but on the panel.

Another thing that makes safety matches safe is that red phosphorus is used. That is the most expensive, but the cheaper kinds of phosphorus are poisonous. Babies have been poisoned by biting match heads. You know a baby puts everything into his rosy mouth to see if it is good to eat. Cheap matches are not only very poor things, and dangerous to have about the house, but the workmen who make them are poisoned. They get a disease that softens the bones. Nowadays we think a good deal about the way in which other people are treated, and the conditions under which they have to work. In some states the poisonous kinds of cheap phosphorus are not allowed to be used, and if everyone refused to buy such matches at all they wouldn't be made.

In the study of Chemistry, that you will take up when you get into high school, you will learn many more interesting things about phosphorus and the other substances in match heads. Some day, some bright American boy who studies hard and makes experiments in chemistry, is going to invent a strike-anywhere safety match with no phosphorus in it.

Edison could do it, very likely, if he gave his mind to it. Do you think you could?