Candles are very interesting sources of indoor illumination. They have existed for thousands of years, and in all that times, they have never departed from their original working mechanism; which is based on the concept of candle wick and candle wax, working in tandem to provide illumination when a candle is burned.
A candle is formed from two major parts; the candle wick and the candle wax. During the candle- making process, the candle-makers (or chandlers) melt down the wax – which is usually in form of materials such as paraffin wax and beeswax – and then, the wick is added.
HOW DOES THE CANDLE WORK?
Candles operate the same way fire and flames do, and so, they obey the major principles of combustion (e.g. no flame can burn in the absence of oxygen and a source of fuel). This is why they do not burn when there is no air (as, in this case, there will be no oxygen that will support their flame’s combustion). Also, because no candle flame can be sustained in the absence of fuel, candles burn by utilizing their candle wax as a source of fuel.
Candle wax is made from materials such as paraffin wax, beeswax, tallow or wax obtained from animal fat. Usually, these materials can change state from solid to liquid – or melt – easily under the action of heat. However, these materials must also be able to support burning. Another property of the candle wax which allows it to support burning in an effective manner is it’s shape. Candles are usually molded into a particular shape over the course of the candle-making process; this is done when the melted wax is poured into a mold, which allows it to take the shape of the mold when it solidifies. The popular cylindrical shaped candles are the most common ones in the global market because this cylindrical shape helps to support candle burning.
The other component of candle stick, the candle wick, is usually a long piece of braided fiber, which is usually treated and curled a certain way to allow easy burning of the candle (candle wicks are usually treated and curled to allow them disintegrate well during burning). Wicks also serve the distinct function of soaking up all the melted wax produced through the melting action of the candle flame. The wicks soak up this wax and use it to feed the flame.
THE ORIGIN OF CANDLE MATERIALS
Candles were first made thousands of years ago by people of ancient times, whose names history no longer remember; their names have been lost in the sands of time and no one can remember exactly where they come from. However, many historians will agree that the ancient Greek may have been one of the first people to really make the art of candle-making a culture. At the time, candles were made predominantly from boiled down tallow or fat obtained from the carcasses of slaughtered animals.
Tallow wax or boiled down fat from the carcass of slaughtered animals is one of the most ancient forms of candle wax. It also used to be one of the most common forms of candle wax used in ancient times. Long after the rise and fall of the Greek civilization – and even the Roman one – candles made from tallow continued to be famous and popular around the globe; particularly in the western world.
This is the reason why even till the 19th century, and right up until paraffin wax was commercialized globally at the later part of that century, tallow wax continued to be popular. This fact wasn’t only restricted to the western world; even in the East, some of the earliest versions of candles discovered from thousands of years ago were created from tallow or boiled down fat from the carcasses of slaughtered animals such as cattle and other forms of livestock. This wild popularity of tallow candles is why the art of candle-making became a guild craft, and people used to spend months learning as apprentices under master candle-makers/chandlers in order to learn the craft. Also, chandlers used to move from household to household to make candles for them, using the fat which had been collected in the kitchen for that purpose.
CAN A CANDLE BE MADE FROM A WHOLE FISH?
Apart from tallow or fat gotten from the carcass of livestock and other animals, candlewax can also be gotten from a multitude of other sources such as beeswax, soy wax, paraffin wax and various combinations of waxes. Some of these waxes have their own properties such as beeswax; which is known to be of very high quality. Beeswax does not bend or burn down at a rate that is faster than average. It also has a nice, pleasant scent which it emits while burning.
Paraffin wax also has its own reputation. This kind of wax became very popular in the last several decades or so, and promptly began to replace tallow wax in the global market. Paraffin wax burns without odor and is much preferred by industrial candle-makers/chandlers because it can be easily used to produce large quantities of candles e en mass in factories.
However, apart from all these kinds of candlewaxes, there are other unconventional sources which were a lot more common in ancient times, and only in certain parts of the world. Examples of such sources of candlewax are insects rolled up in paper (the bodies of the insects provide fuel which support combustion) and fishes.
Fishes which contain a lot of fat or oil are usually used to make candlewax because they (these oils and fats) support combustion. Usually, these materials can be extracted from the whole fish, after which they are used to form candlewax. However, in the case of large mammalian fishes such as sharks and whales, which have large supplies of fat stored in parts of their body – the fat harvested from them is usually treated like tallow (or fat obtained from cattle and other livestock). This fat is usually boiled down to form candlewax.