Candle Making

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Southwest Virginia Project
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From Source:Traill, 1855:168

frame‎There is no mystery and not much skill required in making candles; any girl of ten or twelve years of age, that is careful, can make candles.

Good candles require clean well strained tallow, and strong smooth wick. When suet, or fat of any kind, mutton, beef, or lamb, is to be tried down for tallow, let the vessel it is put into be clean, and a tablespoonful or two of water be put in with the fat; this keeps the fat from burning to the bottom, and goes off in steam, during the trying down. Cut the fat into small pieces, and throw into the pot; a stick should be put jn, which enables you to stir it from time to time ; the handle of a metal spoon or ladle is apt to get too hot. Let the suet boil on a slow fire till the whole fat is well rendered. Be careful not to let it burn ; remember when it ceases to make a noise, and becomes quite still, it is then really boiling hot, and is more apt to burn. You had better now remove it, and with a ladle pour it all clean off into a pot or tin dish, through a sieve or colander, over which you have tied a flannel strainer. The last drop of fat, as long as it is not discolored, may be drained out of the scraps, and the refuse maybe placed in the receptacle for soap grease—no refuse fat of any kind being go to waste. When quite cold, the cake of tallow may be turned out of the dish and set by, ready for candle-making.

You have now the tallow—at any of the tinsmiths in the towns, you can buy a stand of moulds, or get them made to order, from a stand of four to two dozen ; but six or eight are best, and easier cleaned and handled. Every house-keeper requires candle moulds, and it is a bad way to depend upon borrowing of a neighbor. In careless hands these things are easily injured. The wick is sold in the dry-goods stores in balls, from 3jd to 7 Jd a ball; the whitest and most thready looking is better than the soft yellow looking wick: this last is fitter for lamps. When about to make your candles, measure a double length of the wick, allowing a bit for tying ; you must have some slender sticks, a bit of pine wood cut like a skewer, will do ; slip the double wick through the holes in the bottom of the mould, leaving the loop end uppermost, the stick having to go through the loops to support the wick and keep it straight, and also to draw out the candles from the mould, when cold, by. Having run all your wicks, slip your sticks through the loops at the top and put them even, then turn up the mould, and tie_the, ends tight at the bottom; and be careful that all your wicks are set evenly: if the sticks are slanting in any way, your wick will not be in the middle of your candle ; and this not only causes the candle to look ill, but affects its burning.

You are now ready for the tallow: let this be melted, but not made too hot, and poured into the moulds. It is best to keep an iron or tin saucepan, holding from a pint to a quart)" for melting your grease in; use it for no other purpose; also a small pitcher with a spout, a common delf cream pot will do, for pouring the fat into the moulds. A tin mug with a spout is still better. Set your moulds aside, to cool; when nearly cold, fill up each mould atain, for, as the fat cools, it shrinks, and a vacancy is made at the top of each candle, to the depth of half an inch ; this would make a difference in the time of the candles burning. When thoroughly cold, there is little difficulty in drawing your candles, if your tallow be good ; but if it is of inferior quality, it will not harden so well, and requires .other means than simply cutting off the knot at the bottom, and drawing them out by means of the stick which you passed through the wick. Hold your moulds over a pan, or your sink, and pour boilisrg water from a jug over the outsides of your moulds, and draw the candles as quickly as you can.

Good housewives never make candles just as they want them. Things done in haste are seldom well done. When a large quantity of tallow has been rendered down, after the killing of beef or mutton, it is better to make it up into candles as soon as possible, packing them, as they cool, into a box, till all are made. This is the most economical method as well as the most satisfactory. Candles burn much longer and better that have been made some time; and you are spared the mortification of find- ding yourself out of this necessary article, perhaps, when it would be highly inconvenient for you to make more. If you have lard, as well as tallow, a mixture of one part of lard, to three of beef or mutton suet, is an improvement; lard alone will not make candles: it is too soft. It is cheaper to buy tallow and make your own candles than to buy them ready made. The farmer's wife gets six-pence or seven-pence a pound for clean hard mutton or beef tallow at the stores, but if she buys a pound of candles, she gives ten-pence, and in country stores one shilling per pound. Some time ago candles were eight-pence or nine- pence, varying in quality from very bad to good ; but you pay for the ready-made article just as much for the bad as the good. It is much better to make your material up in your own house, and make it well.

In the backwoods where the poor emigrant has not yet cattle enough to afford to kill his awn beef, the careful housewife burns no candle ; a tin cup, or a simple tin lamp, holds any clean fat she can get from the pot where meat has been boiled, and a bit of twisted rag serves her for wick; but even this light is often dispensed with, and the girls knit or sew by the red light of the blazing log-fire, or the pine knots which yield a great deal of resin, and burn with a vivid light . These pine knots are gathered up about the fallow, by the children, where large dead trees have fallen and mouldered away upon the earth. The substance called " Fat pine," which is picked up in the forest, is also sought for and burned. The old upturned roots of pine trees will burn with a strong light for they also are saturated with the resinous substance. These things are the poor emigrant's candles. Candles should be kept in a dry cool place, and carefully covered from the mice. The cleanings of the chamber candlesticks, should be put into any old crock, and melted down and strained, or else put to your soap grease. I have been told that steeping the wicks of the candles, previous to making them up, in a strong solution of saltpetre, improved the brightness of the flame, and tended to destroy the strong smell which newly made candles, especially if not made of pure tallow, are apt to emit. I have not tried this plan; I merely suggest it. Very handsome globe lamps are now much used, in which melted lard is burned instead of oil, at half the expense of oil. Much care, however, is required in cleaning and lighting these sort of lamps. The destruction of the glass makes the saving between lard and candles somewhat doubtful. A portable tin lamp, for burning of fine lard in the kitchen, is considered a great saving, by careful housekeepers; and one of these can be bought for one shilling and six-pence at the tinsmiths. If the fat that rises from boiling beef, be carefully clarified by boiling it down in clean water, letting it stand to be cold, and then boiling the cake of fat again, on the top of the stove, till all the watery part has gone off in steam, very good candles can be made. It must be strained before it is used, as all fat should be, to make good candles.