Candles are some of the oldest objects that are used to provide indoor illumination. They have been in existence for thousands of years and some of the earliest known versions of them (which were discovered in ancient china about 5000 years ago) operate on pretty much the same mechanism as the candles that are in existence today.

Although, nobody knows exactly who the first person to invent candles was, the knowledge and skill of candle-making has not died down over millennia. Also, though the need for candles in the field of illumination has lessened over the years, they remain relevant.



Candles are made up of two major components which are the candle wax and the candle wick. And although, the mechanism by which they operate have remained constant for thousands of years, candles themselves have gone through a sort of evolution in terms of the kinds of materials used in making their wax and wick.

For instance, the earliest known forms of candles to ever be recorded in history – ancient candles which were discovered to have originated from ancient China – were made using tallow, or boiled down fat obtained from the carcasses of cows and other slaughtered livestock. For a time, candles made from tallow wax were some of the most popular kinds of candles across the world, particularly in the western parts of the world; where tallow candles were still very much popular until the late 1800s.

Tallow candles are made from the pale firm fat which was usually obtained from the carcasses of cows or sheep mostly (although, in some parts of the world such as ancient China, the tallow used to make a lot of candles in their markets were obtained from the carcasses of whales and other aquatic mammals). Tallow is usually hard and firm when cold, but it upon contact with heat, it melts; and this is what made it so perfect for usage as candle wax. However, candles made from tallow wax have a tendency to melt very quickly. They also produce a dim light, which burns dirty by producing a lot of soot during candle-burning.

However, because tallow candles were very popular hundreds of years ago, the art of candle-making was also very popular; to the point that it became a guild craft, and master candle-makers used to go from household to household just to make candles for them, for a fee.



About a hundred years ago, tallow candles which were very popular at the time, were also very expensive. This is because meat – or particularly, fat extracted from meat – was very expensive. Most of the time, only noblemen and people with money could make a habit of paying candle-makers (also known as chandlers) to make candles for them, using leftover fat obtained from the cows and sheep that had been slaughtered by the household, and used to prepare food in the kitchens. During this same point in time – and also during the rise of tallow candles – other types of materials were used to make candles in other parts of the world. These materials include insects rolled up in paper, beeswax – which is one of the highest quality materials used in making candles, because it burns cleanly, melts evenly and does not bend during the candle burning process – and soy wax, amongst others. Towards the end of the 1800s, however, a new candle-making material was added to that list: paraffin wax.

Paraffin wax was first made in the mid-1800s, and candle makers realised that they could work better with it because it didn’t have many of the molding problems of tallow wax; they could produce it en masse, using molds in factories. Paraffin wax candles soon became more popular than tallow candles, as they were also much cheaper relatively. Paraffin wax candles changed the face of the candle industry forever. However, the subsequent discovery of the electric light bulb at the close of that century (1800s) also had a long-lasting impact; people forgot the proper ways to use candles which led to more incidences of tunnelling.

Tunnelling is the process whereby only the centermost parts of the candle melts while the sides remain un-melted (or they melt at a much slower pace).


In recent times, many people have started using candles again because of the trending popularity of scented candles in the field of aromatherapy. Scented candles are candles to which fragrance have been added in the form of perfumes (which are usually derived from plant extracts); when these candles are burned, they release this fragrance in the form of gases which are emitted from the melting action of the candle flame on the candle wax. Scented candles are used as tools of aromatherapy in order relax the nerves and relief stress. They usually come in many different forms which vary based on the type of fragrance or perfume added to the scented candle, during the candle-making process.

Due to this, there have been a surge in the number of candle buyers and candle users all over the world; and many of them experience tunnelling on occasion and they often wonder if a candle that has started tunnelling can still be saved. The simple answer is yes. However, it all depends on how severe the tunnelling is. This is what will also determine how much of the candle will be wasted during the saving process.

Mild tunnelling can easily be fixed by melting the top sides of the candle until the entire surface of the candle is at the same level. Some candle wax will be lost in the process; however, it is the better option since a lot more wax will be wasted if the tunnelling is allowed to continue.

The same process can be used to try and fix a candle that has severe tunnelling. However, a lot more wax will be lost in this process.

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