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What is a candle?

What is a candle?

Chandler - a manufacturer of candles.

As a fellow candle maker I feel it is necessary to define what a candle is. As you know from the article, "History of Candles."

It is generally accepted that Egypt was the first civilization to use wicked candles 5000 years ago. They dipped rolled papyrus in beeswax or melted tallow. Many historians have found proof that other civilizations made wicked candles by using waxes made from plants and insects. The first candles on the Asian continent were made in paper tubes, with polled rice paper for the wick. The wax was made from insects indigenous to the area or wax extracted from tree nuts. Western civilizations relied on candles made from animal fat (tallow), since it was widely available.

A candle is a light source that usually has an internal wick or rising through the center of a column of solid fuel.

As we know, the candle was made from tallow (a byproduct of beef-fat rendering) prior to the 19th century. In contemporary times candles are almost always made from some form of wax, with paraffin wax being the most common. There are other forms of candles made from gel, soy, beeswax, and vegetable products.


Before the candle can be lit, the wick is saturated with it's fuel in its solid form. The heat of the match or flame melts and then evaporates a small amount of the fuel. Once it is evaporated, the fuel mixes with oxygen in the atmosphere to form a flame. The flame provides enough heat to keep the candle burning,the heat of the flame melts the top of the solid fuel, the liquid fuel then moves up through the wick via capillary action, and the liquid fuel is then vaporized to burn within the candle's flame.

The burning of the fuel takes place in several distinct regions. The bluer regions are hotter where hydrogen is being separated from the fuel and burned to form water vapor. The yellower/brighter part of the flame is the leftover carbon being oxidized forming carbon dioxide.

As the mass of the solid fuel is melted and consumed, the candle grows shorter. Portions of the wick that are not evaporating the liquid fuel are, ideally, consumed in the flame, limiting the exposed length of the wick and keeping the temperature and rate of fuel consumption even. Some wicks need to be manually trimmed with scissors or a wick trimmer for even burning.

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