Guest Author - Angela Webster
Tapered candles have adorned dinner tables for a very long time. Back in the colonial days, they were the main source of light throughout the households. Maybe this Thanksgiving you could light up your dinner table with a few hand dipped taper candles.
Tapered candles are easy but take a little time. Your older children could help and imagine how proud they’ll be when your family and dinner guests see their handiwork.
Colonial time candles did not have special fragrance or color; they were usually plain and yellowish from the tallow they used. This project will use a few modern day amenities, which will speed up the process and will have you back at your computer or video games in no time. Hopefully though, you’ll have a better appreciation for the modern conveniences we have and a little reminder of the less than simple lives of our ancestors.
Please read all of the instructions before beginning and have all of your equipment and supplies ready.
Equipment and Supplies
• 2-4 lbs. Paraffin wax (depending on how many and how long you want your candles)
• Candle dye (if desired)
• Fragrance oil (if desired)
• Long wick (appropriate for tapers) If you want 5 inch candles make your wick 10 inches PLUS 3-4 inches for hanging space, 7 inch candles-make your wick 14 inches PLUS 3-4 inches (17 to 18 inches long) and so on
• Small metal nuts or washers (if desired). This is to weigh down and pull the wicks straight. You could just tie small knots in the wick ends and after a few dips in the wax you can just pull them taut and straight and then continue dipping.
• Chopstick or wooden spoon for stirring
• 1 - Large pot for your double boiler base (add about 2” of water)
• 1 - Pouring pitcher or coffee can (asparagus pots work nice if you want tall tapers)
• A cut and bent hanger to hold your candles away from each other while dipping. A large fork or tongs would work too, or if you’re careful you could just hold on with your fingers
• A rack to hang your candles so they don’t touch each other as they cool. Peg boards, clothes rack, cupboard knobs, etc. Clothes pins can help too.
• Candy thermometer (I doubt if pilgrims used this but it’s a good safety device. Pilgrims didn’t live real long.)
• Newspaper to cover work area and to catch drips
• Scissors to cut wicks and sharp knife to trim bottoms
• Put all of your wax in your pouring pitcher or coffee can and place it in your double boiler. Turn your double boiler on medium or high to get the water heated and begin melting your wax.
• Insert your thermometer.
• While waiting for your wax to melt, prepare your length(s) of wick with either your metal nuts/washers or tie small knots.
• Heat your wax to about 160 degrees F. If you are adding color or fragrance, do this now and stir well to incorporate. Remove from heat or turn off.
• Maintain a wax temperature between 150 and 160 degrees F. You may need to reheat the wax occasionally depending on how long it takes you to complete your candles.
• Drape your wick over your dipping device
• When you start dipping, don’t let the wick go all the way to the bottom of the hot wax. Try to stop a few inches above the bottom. This is because, as you continuously dip your wicks, you will be consuming the melted wax and the level of the liquid wax will lower. Since you want your candle to be nicely tapered, you will want to be able to get the tip covered with each dip. If your liquid wax level becomes too low, you will not be able to cover the tip as easily.
• Begin dipping both sides of the wicking into the hot wax. Initially, you can hold the wick in the wax for five seconds or so. After that, dip quickly and evenly. Do not leave in the wax much longer than one second or you will not be adding wax to your wick, you will be taking your first wax off.
• Do not let your wick hit the bottom of the wax pan or you will end up with a bent or crooked candle. Making these candles with other people is perfect. Just take turns making sure everyone can safely reach and has paper in front of them to catch any extra drips. After your candle has about six layers of wax you can cut off your metal nuts or washers if you used them. If you used the knot process, just continue dipping.
• Continue dipping your wicks until you reach your desired thickness. If your candles look like they are becoming lumpy or a little crooked, gently roll the warm candle on a smooth surface until it straightens. Begin dipping again until you have reached your desired thickness. Keep in mind what size you need based on what you have for a candleholder.
• Trim the bottom of your candle so it is flat and even.
• Hang candles on a rack and let them cool completely. It is not necessary to cut the wick until you are ready to use. Hanging the candles will keep them nice and straight.
Whew, you’re done! All that just so you can see your dinner after a long hard day behind the plow, mending shoes, baling hay, butchering turkeys, planting corn, chopping wood, hauling water from the stream fourteen miles away, mending shoes again, patching britches and butchering cattle so you have more tallow so you can make more candles so you can see your dinner.
Well, you get the idea – the light switch is a true convenience, but I’m glad we still like candles and hope you give the old ways a try once in a while.