Gel candles last 3-4 times longer than all other types and can hold many types of embeds like seashells & glass figurines. You just can't beat the classic, traditional wax candle.
Soy wax candles are all natural and gaining in popularity.
Beeswax candles are neat to burn as well with just the thought of possibly, millions of bees having poured their heart into making the beeswax is mind boggling.
When you think of a candle, you may think of the ancient days when people didn't have electricity. Candles were essential for people who needed to work at night. Candles can extend the day so that people can work or play later into the evening otherwise they needed to go to bed much earlier. You may admire the function and effect and thank the candle for it.
Philosophically speaking, you may also think of a candle in relation to other situations; you can think of a candle as a living matter, such as a human being.
A candle is so gracious to burn itself up just for the sake of giving people light. This may reflect into some people that they are sacrificing themselves in order to provide contribution to the community. For the candle, it burns itself out and this act will give others light. Therefore, the candle is so nice and so unselfish to provide its contribution. It just like some one who give up all his fortune or his life just for the good sake of the community, like a soldier who fight for the others in his country.
Cleaner Burning: Soy wax is a natural product and therefore produces less soot while burning.
Longer Burn Times: Because of its low melting point, candles made with soy wax burn slower, cooler and longer than traditional paraffin candles.
Excellent Fragrance: Soy wax has excellent fragrance-holding characteristics, which, in combination with the above, allow soy candles to effectively throw a clean and true scent.
Easy to Clean: Soy wax is water-soluble and can be easliy cleaned with warm soapy water if spilled.
Environmentally and Economically Favorable: Soy wax is made from a renewable, American-grown resource, thereby supporting the U.S. economy.
Its Earliest Forms:
The word "candle" comes from the Latin candere, meaning "to shine". While, oil lamps were the most common form of illumination in ancient civilizations, the idea was the same. A wick usually made of a pithy plant material (such as flax, reeds, or rushes) was soaked in animal fat or plant oil. The fuels would slow the burning of the wick and the wick controlled the way the fuel burned. As the energy source was used, the wick would continue to absorb the fuel and feed the flame.
It is conjectured that with the discovery of fire, man also realized the combustible properties of the fat that dripped from meat as it cooked. The thick greasy soot that is found in cave sites lends credence to the idea that man was burning fat/oils for light for thousands of years. We do know that the Egyptians used rushlights and the Roman historian Pliny also described "rush dips". These are the most rudimentary forms of candles in that they were made from a grass or reed that had been dipped into melted tallow (animal fat). Rushes are straw-like plants that have a soft, fibrous inside material that is very absorbent. Several dips in melted fat or oil would yield an elementary candle. Fifteen inches of rush will burn for a half an hour, and while they were practically cost free, they were very smoky and smelly. Later cup-like depressions in stones would provide a well for the fuel source and the reed would be pressed into these. Archeologists have found lamps made from things like soapstone and clay to more precious materials like quartz, serpentine, and lapis lazuli in almost every dig site.
While there is little to no historical record as to when and where candles were first used, one of the oldest actual candle fragments found was unearthed near Avignon, France and dated to about the first century A.D. References to candle-lighting date even farther back--about 3000 B.C.--much of this information is derived from Egypt and the isle of Crete. Archeological sites have produced clay candleholders dating from the fourth century B.C. And, while not as popular in Europe until the Middle Ages, something similar to beeswax "candles" have been found in tombs of Egyptian rulers dating back 5000 years looking much as they do today--conical or tapered in shape with a reed as a wick. The Romans improved the methods of candle making by adding a wick of woven fibers.
Candle making wasn't reserved to just the Mediterranean areas of the world. The annals of ancient Ireland record candles "as thick as a man's body and the length of a hero's spear." These candles were probably made from dipping rushes in tallow thousands of times to produce a crude but effective form of lighting (Abadie pg 7). The Chinese extracted oils from seed from the "tallow tree" for the same purpose. Some Asian cultures, derived wax from insects called "cocus" as well as plant oils and molded them into paper tubes. In India, wax was made from boiling cinnamon and skimming the remaining wax to make candles for temple use as there were rules prohibiting the use of animal fat. On the other side of the world, waxes and oils were being taken from things like Jojoba nuts, shrubs like the wax myrtle and bayberries. Native Americans used "candlefish" (a very oily species of fish) for illuminating their dwellings.
The importance of a portable light source was just as important in the Middle Ages as it was centuries before. Candles not only provided an important light source for the great halls of medieval households, but in the ninth century, were also used as a method of time keeping. Candles were marked with 12 notches and burned for 24 hours. Such devices were still in use until about 50 years ago to mark the duration of hours spent in coal mines. At first, candles were made by simply dipping a rush wick into fat and letting it cool between dippings. This dipping process could be repeated indefinitely and is a method so effective that little has changed in the course of action for creating modern candles.
While all called tallow, there were three different sources of fat available for candle making--beef fat, pork fat, and mutton or lamb fat. Pork fat was the whitest but produced a strong and unpleasant odor while burned. The best source was sheep fat. Beeswax was also available during the Middle Ages but was primarily used in churches and monastery chapels. In fact, a Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church required churches to use candles made of at least 51 percent beeswax. Candle making, thus became a common task carried about by monasteries. Because of its expense and value, the Church permitted Catholics to pay their tithes in beeswax.
Candle-making as we know it began in the thirteenth century while traveling chandlers (chandlery is another term used for candle-making) went from town to town setting up their equipment and dipping tapers for customers who provided their own material (Abadie pg 8). As of 1292, a Parisian tax list named seventy-one chandlers in trade. Eventually, both Paris and England had their own chandlers' guilds, usually specializing in either wax or tallow. The first recorded use of molds for chandlery was in Paris in the fifteenth century. These were carved from wood, and for the most part were only used for making tallow candles. Due to the nature of the wax, beeswax candles were still dipped by hand making them more expensive so they were only found in the homes of the wealthy, or more commonly, in churches. (Some of you may find it interesting to note that a chandlery founded in 1488 in Dublin is still in existence. Originally named Rathborne, it employs master chandlers who still dip thousands of beeswax candles using equipment that "stretches back to a past of great antiquity".)
In the 1400s, candle lanterns were used to light the streets at night and maintained by the town crier. But, candles were not only used to make streets safe, for divine ceremonies, and illuminating wealthy homes. In 1545, the Italian architect, Serlio, wrote a treatise in which he discussed lighting effects for the theater. One of his recommendations included placing candles behind flasks of colored water. Indeed, even winter performances of Shakespeare's plays were performed din enclosed theaters lit by candlelight (Abadie pg 11).
Do you want to make some candles?
There isn't a lot of information about how candles were made during the Middle Ages. I was, however, able to find the following two instructions for candle making and use from Delights for Ladies, a book first printed in 1609 and written by Sir Hugh Platt:
One of the first places to start is selecting materials. Let's start with 100% beeswax candles. (If you're interested in using other materials, the addition of other ingredients may be needed when melting the wax. There are many modern sources on candle making that can help you with this.) For a more authentic approach, you can also try making tallow candles. Tallow can be purchased from your local butcher. Lamb fat is, again, the best, so you may want to try in the spring. The tallow will have to be rendered to remove impurities.
One method for rendering fat: Put the fat in a pot with an equal amount of water, and boil for about 4 hours, remembering to keep adding water. Once the fat has turned into little brown chunks, you can carefully boil off most of the water and then pour the rendered tallow into a metal pan to cool. Once the tallow is cool, pop it out of the pan, get rid of any remaining water that will be on the bottom of the pan - like fat, tallow floats, and store in the fridge or freezer till you're ready to use it. A colleague, in his own candle making experimentation, discovered that the addition of even 10% beeswax vastly improved the texture of tallow for making candles much sturdier.
One of the most important tools when making candles, is a double boiler. There are other methods for melting wax, but one of the easiest and safest is the double boiler method. You will need a fairly deep heavy pot to boil the water in and another pot or can to hold the melting wax. The pan the wax holds should, of course, fit inside the pot with the boiling water. You can use a coffee can that has been rinsed out for melting the wax. For safety reasons, be sure that the materials you use can be dedicated to the art of candle making, and not something that you would want to use again for cooking. You can purchase inexpensive saucepans at second hand stores for this purpose. The double boiler method is helpful because it ensures that the wax never has direct contact with the heat source. Just be sure that the water in the bottom doesn't boil dry. It's also safer to use electric heat as it tends to heat slower. When melting wax, keep in mind that the wax does not boil. When in a liquid form there is no real visual indication that the wax is becoming overheated. Beeswax melts at 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. Paraffin has a higher melting point. Wax is highly combustible, so use caution. Have a pot lid to cut off the supply of oxygen handy if the wax should ignite. Never leave melting wax unattended. Some chandlers recommend the use of a thermometer to insure the wax doesn't get too hot.
Another important element in candle making is the wick that is used. The wick is what absorbs the melted wax and feeds it to the flame. If the wick is too small, it will not be able to absorb the wax at the rate it melts, creating craters of wax that may drown the flame. If it is too large, it will be trying to absorb more wax than is melting, possibly causing the flame to burn itself out. Most manufacturers list recommended diameters for the wick thickness on the package, but these may very based upon materials used. Keep a notebook as you experiment to track your observations. Generally, the best wicks are braided wicks. Technically speaking, the air space between the braid allows more even air flow which is necessary in maintaining a stead and stable flame. There are two basic kinds of braided wicks--square and flat. It is recommended that square-braided wicks should be used in making beeswax candles and tend they tend to remain straighter as the candle burns. Usually, candles are dipped in pairs. Cut your wick twice as long as you want one candle to be and add 4 inches to give you a place in the center to hang on to them while they are being dipped.
If you plan to dip a large number of candles at once, you may wish to make/purchase a dipping frame. Basically, the frame is a dowel suspended between two poles. This allows you a place to hang the candles as they cool. I find that towel racks work exceedingly well for this purpose. If you are making a small number of candles, you may find that a small version of this frame may come in handy. Simply, take a piece of plywood at least 2 inches wide and cut a notch at each edge. This will hold the wick in place and keep the candles evenly spaced as they are dipped.
To purchase candles, use the search tool on the top right or search by category. Either way you're sure to find exactly what you need.