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Candle Making

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History does not tell us the origin of candles. It is thought they were originally developed and utilized by Ancient Egyptians in the form of torches, made by soaking molten tallow. This in part, is supported by the first record we have of any candles and clay candle holders found in Egypt dating back to the fourth century B.C. Early man did not use wicks.

Since that time candle making has come a long way beginning with the Romans, who are recognized for developing the wick candle. Like the Egyptians, Romans used tallow as their primary ingredient. The candles were made by the candle maker, whose job it was to flatten the tallow with his hands as it was poured over the pith of rushes hanging from a parallel rod. The Romans used candles for traveling at night, lighting their homes and for religious purposes.

Man Has Found Different Materials for Candle Making

Through the ages, man has found all sorts of materials to make candles. Insects and seeds were once used by the Chinese and Japanese for wax they would then mold into paper tubes. In India, the people would skim the wax from boiling cinnamon and then make tapered candles for the temple. Native Americans are known to have made the first candle in America by burning oily fish (candlefish) lodged into a two pronged stick. Later, missionaries traveling the Southwest United States boiled bark from the Cerio tree to make wax. New England colonists used this same method, but from Bayberries.

Beeswax was introduced in the middle ages as an ingredient for candle making. Compared to tallow, this was a vast improvement. The only drawback to these candles was the cost. Only the very wealthy could afford them.

It was also during the Middle Ages that candles became known for their use in religious ceremonies. Beeswax candles were especially popular among priests who used them for their rituals. Even with beeswax however, candle making still hadn't advanced very far. The candles were made similar to the Roman method, where it was poured over a wick material.

During this same time, candles began to grow in demand among Pagans as well. King Edward the IV loved candles so much he had a servant for this purpose only. The servant's responsibility was to make sure there was a supply of grease and fat for use in candle making.

Modern Candles Offer More Alternatives

During the 13th century chandlers started traveling door to door, making dipped tapers from beeswax or tallow supplied by the customer. This practice came closer to resembling modern day candles then anything before it. Hence, this period was really a new beginning for candle making.

The practice of using molds for candle making started in 15th century France. The first molds were empty open-ended tubes. Each one included a cap with a small hole in the center where candle makers could place a wick.

By the 19th century candle making had taken a definite turn, as paraffin wax forever replaced tallow. The first candle making machine was introduced by inventor Joseph Morgan, in 1834. Still, hand made candles, required in many religious ceremonies, remained popular among many groups.

With the introduction of the light bulb in 1879 the candle making industry began to see a downturn. Candles found a new surge in popularity at the turn of the century when it became the latest rage. This time, however, the public wanted candles for different reasons than before.

Of late, the 20th century has seen new developments in the candle making industry with items such as gel wax. Technology has also changed candle making, giving us better machines, new additives, and improved ingredients.

While candles no longer serve as our only source of artificial light, they are an art form we still enjoy today. Whether we are using them as a decorative item or to set the mood for a romantic evening, candles seem to enhance our environment. Rich in symbolism and full of historical significance, candles continue to grow in popularity and use--today a representation of celebration, spirituality and romance.


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