Candle in a bowl

The Candle-Maker’s Diary, Week 2

Greetings from quarantine–a space for reflection, rest, and more reflection.. We’ve already noted in last week’s blogette that fire has fascinated us humans since we learned to create it. Well, we didn’t actually create “it”. Fire is not an”it”, but a process. A burning candle is a very efficient combustion machine which combines fuel (wax) with oxygen in the air to form a constant flame. 

Our ancestors made candles with whatever fuel was cheap and plentiful: beef tallow, vegetable wax, and of course beeswax, a luxury enjoyed only by the church and aristocracy. However, as modern candle-makers we now have a variety of candle waxes to choose from, each with its own promoters and detractors. A short list here: soy, a hydrogenated (think Crisco) oil made from soybeans grown in the USA; coconut, a naturally solid oil tweaked with hydrogenation; palm, derived from palm fruit grown extensively in Southeast Asia–often from “reclaimed” rain forest; and the controversial paraffin, a by-product of oil refinery, and its new cousin, “gel”, a wobbly, transparent jelly with a very high melt point,  And, of course, our beloved beeswax: sticky, fragrant, natural, and expensive. It would be tedious to list the pros and cons of each material. Suffice it to say that the designation “natural” has no legal status, so it does tend to pop up on everything from shop-floor detergent to processed breakfast food. 

Thus–“natural” or not-so-“natural”–when we buy wax to make candles, we need to carefully research how and where it is processed and to buy from reputable companies with traceable supply chains. We hope to offer more of our handmade candles on our website, which, like everything else, is “in process.” In the meantime, stay tuned for WW’s next entry, “Containers” and “Wicks”. 

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