Currently viable crafts

 

Candle making

 

The making of candles from a variety of different waxes, including hand dipped and artisan candles.

This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Became a guild craft in the 13th century
Current no. of professionals (main income)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The first widely used candles were made from animal-based tallow. By the 13th century candle making had become a guild craft in England and France. Beeswax candles were cleaner and less smoky than tallow but were expensive and so were mostly used in churches and for the higher end of the market.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries alternative waxes such as spermaceti, a waxy substance produced by the sperm whale, colza oil and rapeseed oil allowed for superior, cleaner burning candles. The introduction of stearin (initially manufactured from animal fats but now produced almost exclusively from palm waxes) and then paraffin wax in the 19th century meant that inexpensive, high quality candles could be manufactured that burned cleanly with no unpleasant odours.

The trade became an industrialised mass market by the 19th Century with the invention of machinery that allowed continuous production of moulded candles. Price’s Candles, who are still trading today, became the largest candle manufacturer in the world by the end of the 19th century.

The candle industry declined rapidly upon the introduction of superior methods of lighting, including kerosene and lamps and the 1879 invention of the incandescent light bulb. For today’s market, candles as marketed as decorative and luxury items.

Most candles are now mass produced from paraffin wax using a highly mechanised process. However, there are also a large number of craftspeople and companies making artisan candles and hand dipped candles. These can be made with paraffin wax or beeswax but many makers are now using alternative waxes such as soy, rapeseed and sunflower oils to appeal to the market for vegan and eco-alternatives to petrochemicals.

 

Techniques

Modern production methods use extrusion moulding. More traditional production methods entail melting the solid fuel by the controlled application of heat. The liquid is then poured into a mould, or a wick is repeatedly immersed in the liquid to create a dipped tapered candle. Often fragrance oils, essential oils and dyes are added.

Beeswax candles can be made from rolled sheets of beeswax or using moulding and dipping techniques.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

A list of candle makers can be found on the British Candle Manufacturers website.

 

Other information

 

 

References