How Were Candles Made in Colonial Times?

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During the Colonial American period, tallow candles were made by melting fat and then dipping the wicks into the melted fat inside a mold. The wicks were then drained and hung to dry. The dipping process was repeated until the candle was finished.

  1. Melt the fat

    The best tallow candles were made from half sheep tallow and half beef tallow. The fats were cut into pieces and mixed in a broiler. After the tallow completely liquefied, it was skimmed of impurities. The tallow was poured through a sieve into a tub with a tap.

  2. Dip the wicks

    The wicks were made of spun cotton three or four strands thick. The liquid tallow was poured into a mold that was triangular-shaped with a pointed bottom about 10 inches wide at the top and with sides about 15 inches long. The mold was placed on a bench with a rim to catch the drippings. The wicks were strung on two sticks called broches. The broches were held parallel to each other, and the wicks were dipped two or three times into the tallow for their first layer.

  3. Dry out the wicks

    The wicks were then drained over the mold, then allowed to dry until the first layer hardened. The candles were allowed to cool.

  4. Repeat the dipping process

    The wicks were dipped three times for the second layer. Then they were drained and dried. The operation was repeated as many times as necessary to make the candles the desired thickness and weight. The bottoms were finished by passing them over a heated, flat brazen plate to flatten out them out.