|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
Candles And Candlesnuffers
Candles were made at home by one of two long processes. First tallow was purified by boiling with water, the fat rose to the top and was skimmed off; this process was repeated several times be fore dipping wicks in and out until candles were formed. The wicks were tied, several to a long stick, for dipping at one time, then the stick was placed over the backs of two chairs while another batch was being dipped; these are the candle sticks referred to in the old nursery rhyme, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick." The other method of making candles was by the use of a mold. The tallow was poured into the mold in which the wicks had already been placed. Tin candle molds of many sizes are still to be found. They were made in numerous sizes to mold from one to as many as two dozen candles at a time. Through curiosity on the part of the author it was discovered that it is possible to make nice candles without previous experience by using these molds. Glass vials inserted into candle molds make interesting flower containers for hanging on the wall, or for a tall shelf.
Candlesticks were made in iron, brass, pewter, britannia, tin, silver and glass in many pleasing shapes from plain iron "hog scrapers" to elegant solid silver. The first candlesticks had a pricket on which the candle was impaled, later came the socket type which is in use today. The short, broad-based candlesticks are called chamber candlesticks since their safety from dripping wax made them excellent for use in the bed chamber.
Every house needs candlesticks both for the table and for emergency light during power failures. There are so many lovely candlesticks available that you will have no trouble finding just the kind that will look best in your house.
Candle sconces were attractive ways to increase the feeble onecandlelight illumination. The sconce is a fixture for holding a candle or candles with a reflective surface back of it; these were made of several materials and frequently had bits of mirror or polished tin fastened on decoratively. Usually hung on the wall, they were often of such design that they could also be set upon a table.
Candles were expensive and troublesome to make, yet candlesticks were often so lovely that in order to use them even without using candles, the peg lamp was invented. This was a glass oil lamp which terminated, not in the usual base, but instead in a small peg which would fit into the candlestick, thus giving this particular lamp its descriptive name.
Hurricane glasses are just stately, tall glass cylinders open at both ends and bulging in the middle. They are 20" to 30" tall and are placed over the lighted candlesticks to keep the light steady and protect the flame against drafts. A pair of hurricane glasses over your good candlesticks will give a handsome appearance to any sideboard or buffet.
Rush lights were a cheap form of candle. Nothing more than the common reed found in all New England swamps, the "cat o nine-tails," dipped in tallow, grease or similar fat, they had their own peculiar holders.
Tapers were yet another form of candle. A thread-like wick soaked in wax or tallow, they were very long and kept wound on a spool.
Along with candles were a variety of utensils needed. Friction matches were not invented until 1827, and even so did not come into general use until later. The usual method of starting a fire was with the use of tinder. Some tinder boxes are still seen around. These little tin boxes were filled with charred linen cloth or some substance which would catch fire easily called tinder, also flint, a piece of iron, and a candle stub. A bit of rough flint with a sharp edge was struck sharply against the piece of iron, causing sparks to fall into the box igniting the tinder. A sulfur-tipped splinter of wood was sometimes used to light the candle stub once the fire was made. The process took some practice to master, even then often taking considerable time compared to modern matches.
With old candles, the wick was not entirely consumed and it was necessary to clip off the charred end of the wick more or less frequently as otherwise it dimmed the flame and made it smoky. A candle snuffer was used; this is a scissor-like instrument for trimming the burnt wick end, which was called "snuff." It was not uncommon to unintentionally put out the candle when snuffing it.
Similar to snuffers in appearance are the "douters" or outquenchers, which were used to extinguish candle flames. In place of the cutting blades and box of the snuffers, these had two disks between which the burning wick was nipped. The name is derived from the practice of instructing servants to "dout the candles," meaning to "do out" the candles. Douters were superseded by the conical extinguishers.
Extinguishers are little, cone-shaped caps which were used to put out candles.