The production mode of taper candles has hardly changed over the centuries.
Obviously, the tools have evolved, especially those used in the industrial production of taper candles, but if your goal is to dip a few tapers every now and then, you'll probably be more than happy with some basic (and yet efficient) supplies.
What follows is an overview of what you will need to walk into the footsteps of your ancestors and recreate their rituals...
Basically, the only thing you really need to make taper candles is a dipping pot to melt paraffin wax and dip your wicks. Everything else is pretty much optional !
One important thing, though, is the height of the pot. Logically, the maximum length of your taper candles will depend on the height of your dipping pot. Don't even think of using one of your regular melting pots as they are probably way too short to dip anything taller than a birthday candle...
When it comes to choosing a type of dipping pot, you have four options:
The special stainless steel pots made to prepare asparagus usually have a height of 30 cm, more than enough to get you started dipping taper candles.
Their price is interesting in comparison with their "professional" counterparts (which can be a lot taller, truth be said). Nevertheless, try and find a second-hand one (you can find real treasures in garage sales, thrift stores or on eBay) or, if you're planning on buying a new one, pay a visit to the local Dollar Store.
These pots come with a stainless steal steamer basket (that makes it easy to get the asparagus in and out) which you really don't need to make taper candles; so if you find such an asparagus pot with a lower price tag because the steamer basket is missing, don't hesitate !
The dipping pots you can purchase from stores that carry candlemaking supplies and equipment don't have any size problem whatsoever !
You can buy them in many different sizes (20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 cm high) and, of course, their price grows together with their size. To give you an idea, a 45 cm tall model will cost you approximately 50 euro whereas its big brother, that stands 60 cm tall, has a price tag of approximately 120 euro.
They also come in various diameters (11, 15, 21 cm and more).
Don't forget that if a tall dipping pot will let you create longer taper candles, there is one point you should keep in mind : you will have to bring the paraffin inside to a temperature of 169°F and keep it constant during the whole dipping process. A 60 cm tall dipping pot can hold several kilos of wax; melting such a large volume of paraffin and then keeping it at the right temperature can take some time, but this is not the only problem...
If you place a 40 cm tall dipping pot in the bottom part of your double boiler, it will most likely be immersed in only 10 to 15 cm of water. This really isn't enough to melt the paraffin inside and even if, eventually, it worked, the paraffin at the bottom of the dipping pot would be much warmer than that at the top.
This would make it almost impossible to achieve a consistant temperature and your attempts at making nice taper candles would, believe me, fail (temperature control is essential for all dipping processes).
You must know that those tall dipping pots are actually made to be warmed up by special appliances called electric wax heaters (see point 4) that have the advantage of heating the pot evenly over its whole height. So don't think that, because you purchased a 60 cm tall dipping pot, you will be able to easily make giant taper candles : that's just not the way it works !
Maybe you'll be lucky enough to find a container that has nothing to do with candlemaking or dipping tapers but you reckon could be used for that purpose anyway...
I wish you find such a gem but, as far as I'm concerned, I have never come across anything, whether in a department store or a DIY store, that really could do the job. If you have a great idea to share, don't hesitate to contact me.
Semi-professional equipment is available that is specifically designed to dip taper candles.
As I said earlier, you can buy an electric wax melter that comes complete with one or several dipping pots. They are available in different versions and models, for instance one with one large dipping container or two, four or five smaller ones, which allows you to use waxes of different colors at the same time.
As you may have guessed, such an equipment does not exactly come cheap and you should consider such a purchase only if you are planning on regularly making large batches of taper candles.
If you go with a "standard" dipping pot (not one that has to be used inside an electric wax melter), don't forget that the bottom of your dipping pot should not be in direct contact with the bottom of your double boiler; doing so would forfeit all the benefits of the double boiler method.
A cheap and dirty trick is to purchase two metallic square brackets (available in any self-respecting DIY store) and to place them at an angle at the bottom of your main double boiler pan. Depending on the size and diameter of the dipping pot you will be using, all you have to do is to move the brackets closer or further apart to optimize the stability of the pot. With this simple trick, no contact between the two pots. If your dipping pot is very large, use four square brackets for more stability.
Taper candles are traditionally created in pairs. In the simplest case, you can hold a length of wick in one of your hands and dip them (the wicks, not your hands) into the wax, using your fingers to keep them apart. No equipment required and, if everything goes to plan, you will end up with a nice pair of taper candles.
But obviously, it's not exactly practical or productive to make taper candles two at a time using your bare hands. Fortunately, tools exist, more or less complicated, more or les expensive, that allow you to make several taper candles in one batch in more comfortable conditions. Called dipping frames, dipping jigs or dipping carousels for the larger models, they hold between 4 and several dozens lengths of wick, depending on their size and model. The dipping tool on the picture above will produce 3 pairs of tapers at once. On one of the pictures illustrating the article about the professional melting equipment, you can see a dipping carousel that can produce a whopping 105 pairs of tapers in one go. Pretty impressive !
Of course, you can start experimenting with tapers using a small homemade jig that holds 4 lengths of wick (or 2 pairs). A simple cardboard circle with 4 notches will make your life a whole lot easier; in this case, you will have to attach a small weight (a metal nut, for example) at the end of each wick to keep them straight during the first dips.
As far as taper candles go, the only wick you should use is the flat braid wick.
More information (like the wick size to use) can be found in the article in question.