Types of candles - Taper candlesWhen we say taper candle, the image of a romantic dinner immediately comes to our mind.
But did you know that taper candles are by far the oldest candles in the world?
If their production method has obviously evolved along the centuries, the traditional way of making them (repeatedly dipping a wick into a liquefied fat body in order to build up layers and give the candle its thickness) has remained the same!
Let’s take a look at this great classic...
As with most inventions, taper candles were almost certainly discovered by chance. One day, while cooking meat over a fire, someone must have noticed that whenever fat poured over flames it revived the fire. There was only a short step to make from there to realizing that fat could be used to give light once the dark fell!
There weren’t any wicks yet, so reed or other fibrous stalks were first dipped into liquefied fat, and then lit up. But fat (or tallow, as it is often referred to) has the tendency to produce a disagreeable smell and a lot of smoke when burning.
Later on, beeswax is preferred to it, especially due to its pleasant perfume, but its price made it relatively inaccessible to the "large public".
The petroleum industry brought along the paraffin and made it extremely popular. And it is still so today.
Dipping taper candles has always been one of the many household chores, as shown in the above reproduction of a stained-glass window representing a woman busy dipping various taper candles carrousels.
Shapes and Models
As their name suggests, taper candles have a characteristic shape: elongated and slightly conical (larger at the bottom than at the top).
This shape is given by the traditional method of fabrication which consists in dipping a wick in melted paraffin various times. Because of gravity the paraffin tends to accumulate as low as possible, thus giving taper candles their cone shape.
But if the shape of a taper candle is almost always the same, not all of them are made through dipping.
There are indeed taper candle moulds of unusual shapes, which can’t be obtained through classical dipping: triangular or square shaped, hexagonal or octagonal, twisting taper candles... just make your choice!
A third method consists in rolling up a sheet of wax (traditionally this is made with beeswax) around a wick in order to obtain a rolled taper candle. By varying the shape of the wax sheet and/or its color, or by overlapping two differently colored sheets of wax quite nice and interesting effects can be obtained!
How to Burn Taper Candles
Traditionally, taper candles are placed on holders called (how original!) candleholders (with a socket into which the taper candle fits), candlesticks (with a stem on which the taper candle is stuck) or candelabras.
If you manufacture your taper candles to fit them into a candleholder, you should make sure the bottom of your taper candles has standard shape and height.
In order to achieve this result, small accessories – called bottom shapers – are on sale, which can be heated and then the taper candle is fitted into. Due to heat, the bottom of the taper candle is thus "sculpted" in the desired shape.
Certain types of sharpeners are also available, providing the same effect.
In the other case (point candelabras), you are given much more freedom regarding the height and thickness of your taper candles.