Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The History of Candle Making

In ancient times, the precursors to candles were torches and rushlights made by dipping the pithy center of tall grasses into tallow (animal fat). The wicked candle was developed during the Roman Empire. The Romans melted tallow and poured it over a horizontally held wick made from the pithy center of tall grasses. The cooling tallow was smoothed and shaped by hand around the wick. These candles were used to light homes, during religious ceremonies, and also for traveling after dark.

During the Middle Ages, beeswax, a natural material produced by honeybees, was discovered as an improvement over tallow for use in candle making. Tallow produced alot of soot and gave out a sharp, bitter odor as it burned. Beeswax burned clean and odorless. The problem was, however, that beeswax was much more expensive, thus it was mainly used by the rich and by priests for use during religious ceremonies. In 15th century France, people began to use molds to make candles. Hollow cylinders were used for molds. These molds had a small hole in the center. The wick was placed in the hole, and melted wax was poured into the cylinder. Small wires held the wick in place as the wax cooled. In order to make several candles at once, a device called a broach was used. The broach was a long rod from which several wicks were attached. Melted wax was poured into a container and the wicks were dipped into it a few times and hung to dry. Once they had dried, they were dipped again and again until they were thick enough.

In the 19th century, spermaceti, a waxy substance taken from sperm whales began to be used in candle making. Spermaceti burned clean like beeswax and it was found to be harder in texture than both beeswax and tallow. Paraffin wax, a byproduct of petroleum, also began to be used in the 19th century. Stearic acid, a chemical byproduct of fat, was added to the paraffin to make it more durable. By the end of the 19th century, most candles were made by using paraffin wax and stearic acid.

In the 1990's, as people began to look for a natural alternative to paraffin wax, soy wax was introduced. Soy wax, made from soybeans, is not only all natural, it is also more economical than beeswax. Soy wax also has more benefits than paraffin wax; it is environmentally friendly, it is biodegradable, it burns clean and produces less soot, and it does not contain toxins or carcinogens.

Copyright © 2006 TC Fragrance Crafts.

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