Did You Know?
The earliest known candles were developed by the Egyptians, which were called rushlights (attained by soaking the rush plant's dried core in fat or grease). It was around 3000 BCE that they started making candles from beeswax with wicks.
The Chinese created candles from whale fat around 221 BCE. They molded candles in paper tubes, adding rice paper for a wick. In India, candles were made from boiled cinnamon to be used in temples. The Roman Empire was credited for developing wicked candles. They resemble the candles that we use today. Tallow was mainly used to make candles till the 18th century with beeswax and bayberry.
After molds were introduced in 15th-century France to make candles, their production accelerated. Different types of wax like spermaceti and stearin with bayberry, tallow, and beeswax were used for candle making. In the 1850s, paraffin was introduced in commercial candle making. However, after the invention of the light bulb in 1879, use of candles began to decline, and nowadays, they are considered as decorative items.
Today's market offers different types of wax that can be turned into beautiful candles with different shapes, sizes, colors, and fragrances. Here are the types of waxes that can be used in candle making.
Most of the candles available in the market are made from paraffin. Paraffin is a derived soft solid form from petroleum, coal, and oil shale. It is usually white or colorless. Making candles is one of the basic applications of paraffin wax. It is cheaper than any other type of wax and easy to work with, especially for beginners. All types of candle dyes and fragrant oils work well with it. In addition, all types of additives work with it to create different patterns and effects.
However, there are a few disadvantages of using paraffin as well. It has a low melting point; for example, it starts to melt at 99°F. Constant oil mining to produce the wax can prove harmful for the environment. In addition, it is non-renewable, i.e., it is available in a limited quantity. Also, it is not biodegradable.
With all its disadvantages, paraffin is still preferred by candle makers around the world. With its qualities, the use of paraffin can range from general-use candles to highly artistic and decorative candles.
Gel wax, due to its semisolid form, is not sturdy enough to stand alone. It needs to be poured in a container to make a candle. A container which is crack-resistant, leakage-free, and heat-adapting is ideal for such wax candles. Gel wax candles are looked upon as a canvas to display the artistic qualities of candlemakers. Due to its transparent form, different embeds like sea glass, sand, glitter, seashells, marbles, glass figurines, wax embeds, etc. can be added in the candles to decorate them.
With different embeds, soluble fragrant oils and colors can be added. With the increasing temperature, it gets hotter and thinner. The melting point of the gel wax is around 275°F and the flash point is around 440°F. Therefore, it becomes necessary to add fragrant oils and embeds with suitable melting points. For example, oils with a low melting point might cause the candle to burst into flames.
However, the gel wax is easy to fix if any problem occurs while making candles. All one has got to do is remelt, repour, rescent, or recolor. With gel wax, beautiful and decorative candles can be made by using one's imagination.
Beeswax is one of the oldest candle-making waxes. It is a natural wax obtained as a byproduct of honeybees' honey-making process in a beehive. It is excreted by eight wax-producing glands of worker bees in their combs to hatch their larvae. According to various sources, around 20 - 400 pounds of honey is stored per pound of wax.
The wax is infused with honey during its creation. Therefore, it naturally has a sweet fragrance that depends upon the flowers and plants that the bees are feeding on. The wax is melted and filtered several times after its harvest. Its melting point is 144-147°F with 400°F as the flash point. It is available in the market in the form of slabs, blocks, pellets, and rerolled sheets. Thus, making candles is easier with these options.
The candles burn in pure and bright white flame rather than a yellow flame. The wax is easily hand-sculpted. It needs strong unbleached dyes for coloring. The wax is sticky and hard to clean up. It is also considered a little steep on the pocket than the other types of wax. Though expensive, these wax candles burn for a long time.
Soy wax was developed in the early 1990s to satisfy the growing demand of "natural" candles. It is a vegetable wax generated from soybean oil that's extracted from soybean flakes. The hydrogenation process changes the melting point of the oil, making it solid at room temperature. Like paraffin, it has a variety of melting points.
Soy wax can be made from 100% soybean oil. On the other hand, different oils and waxes can be added in the soy wax. Stand-alone and container candles can be made from this type of wax.
The advantages of the soy wax is that it has a sustainable resource. Producing soybean oil does not requite any harmful process. It is also biodegradable. It is easier to clean as well with warm water and soap.
On the downside, many fragrant oils do not work with soy wax. One cannot create strong colors in soy wax with color dyes. Colors always have pastel shades. It has a shorter burn time in its pure form. It is harder type of wax to work with, especially for beginners. It can cause allergies in some people.
However, it is an ideal wax to use if one prefers everything natural. A large number of candles can be made on a small budget.
One can make container candles as well as free-standing pillars of candles from this type of wax. It has a melting point of 177°F. This wax is ideal for making candles as it does not melt in hot summers, can be demolded easily, and is easily manipulated. With palm wax, one can create an array of numerous complex patterns. It also blends well with other waxes. Palm wax takes colors easily and hold fragrances well. To color palm wax, oil-soluble dyes are generally used.
The wax does not need any other additives. Palm wax candles burn clean and for a long time. The ideal pouring temperature for palm wax is around 199-203°F. However, it becomes harder to demold and gets deformed if poured below this temperature. Apart from that, one can create beautiful candles out of palm wax.
The approximate melting point of the wax is 116°F. The wax is very brittle in its pure form, i.e., the candles made from 100% bayberry wax can break off easily. Therefore, other waxes like beeswax are added in the bayberry. The wax emits a natural aroma. Therefore, bayberry wax candles are traditionally lit around Christmas and New Year.
With so many options, the impending question is which one is the best. Well, it depends upon the candlemaker and his budget, needs, time, and types of candles that he wants to make.