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Beeswax candle testing

This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.



Some would say that “a candle is a candle” just a piece of wick in a blob of wax. At the most trivial level this true and any old piece of string and any old wax will produce a candle of sorts… But centuries of research and development have given us the ability to make truly superior quality candles. If we are to win prizes at honey shows and sell our candles widely, we need to understand the principles of operation of our humble candle.

In order to win prizes our candles have to look good, perform well and fit the show schedule accurately.

To establish a good burning characteristic we need a consistent quality of wax. We can achieve this by melting several blocks of refined wax in a “double saucepan” until we have enough to make about twenty of the chosen size of candle.

Select five sizes of wick whose burning characteristic are close to the diameter required and make ten test candles (two of each wick size).

Set up all ten candles in a row with the sizes of wick clearly marked. Use a room with no draughts… Light all the candles. We now have to watch the action of burning (this is not an unpleasant task as candle flames can be most fascinating to watch). If any of our samples show signs of molten wax dripping down the side we can discard these and remove the wick types from our list. Similarly if any of the flames are reduced due to puddles of molten wax stifling the flame then these types can also be discarded. The types remaining may be difficult to choose from whilst they are burning… pinch them all out taking care not to touch the wax bowl. Allow the candles to cool and then examine the saucer like depression that the solidified wax has formed. The best choice will be a shallow depression without a distinguishable rim. Make a note of which wick type was in your “best” candle.

Re-melt what is left of the test candles, filter out any carbon specks and any dust that has settled on them while they were being tested. Then make a batch of twenty using the wick type that we have selected as best. This batch can be inspected for any visual defects and the best 3 selected for our honey show.

Take one of the ones that you think are unfit to show, set it up in a draught free place and perform a timed burn (this is always useful information to have when subsequently selling this type of candle) and will give some idea of any differences in burning characteristic that may occur lower down the candle.

Candle wicking info on the web primarily in my experience is for paraffin wax candles and as Dave very rightly says the only way to find the right size for your candle is to experiment.

I can tell you that a National foundation sheet rolled into a candle will burn for 8 hours. sold hundreds and tested tens, and the time is reliable.



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