Candle Making 17th Century


In the 17th century, candle-making was an integral part of daily life. Candles were a much-needed source of light for working, studying and socialising at night – before modern lighting solutions such as gas and electricity were available. As a result, people had to produce their own supply of candles at home and the craft of candle-making became very popular.

The most common materials for making candles in the seventeenth century were tallow (beef or mutton fat) and beeswax, both of which could be sourced from animals slaughtered for meat; other materials included spermaceti, a waxy substance from sperm whale oil, ghee butter from cows or sheep, waxbark (a mixture of birch bark and boiled beeswax), colophony (the residue collected during turpentine production), resin, stearin and paraffin. Wax was melted in a pot over the fire before being poured into moulds made out of tin, clay or wood that had been preheated by a hot iron; once solidified they were removed from the moulds to become candles.

With increasing knowledge of fabrics and household chemistry during that period, fabric wicks came into use which increased burn time dramatically since earlier types burned quickly. Consequently making larger sized candles increased output allowing them to last a few weeks instead of just a few hours; this aided homes in extending the amount of usage per candle. In addition many innovative methods regarding colouring such as natural dyes derived from plants replaced laborious methods like painting with pigments directly onto the finished candles surface (laborious because small mistakes meant starting from scratch). All these advancements in technology further reduced cost and efforts associated with producing large quantities of capable sources to light one’s home during dark hours.

Historical Background

The 17th century was an incredible time for technological advancement, and one of the most significant inventions of the period was candle making. While candles had been used by civilizations dating back as far as 200 A.D., it was during the 17th century that their production rose significantly. This increase in production came about because of the various social, economic, and political factors which influenced candle making in this period.

Societal changes played a large part in driving up production levels, particularly within economic contexts. For example, increased agricultural productivity meant that more households could afford to buy candles. This suggested a larger level of disposable income available among consumers and therefore a higher demand among them for objects such as these. It should also be noted that candle making was often associated with certain religious ceremonies at this time; some even called it “divine work” due to its role in establishing important connections between everyday life and religious traditions.

Politically speaking, candles allowed the wealthy to display their power over ordinary citizens ” they were expensive luxury items which only the privileged class could truly afford. As monarchs began to assert their authority over their respective countries during this period, so too did family crests begin to appear on many candlesticks ” something which only added further significance to these utilitarian items from an aristocratic perspective. Furthermore, since candle making provided politicians with an additional source of income (especially those involved in apothecaries or shipping companies), laws were passed which both taxed and regulated their sale throughout Europe and beyond.

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All of these factors combined meant that during the 17th century candle making dramatically increased in both importance and popularity – something which has greatly affected our lives even centuries later!

Raw Materials

The materials most commonly used for candle making in the 17th century were animal fats such as tallow and beeswax, and vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil and pumpkin seed oil. Tallow was primarily collected from domesticated animals like sheep, pigs, and cows. Beeswax came from the hives of wild honeybees. In terms of vegetable oils, flaxseed oil was usually obtained through the pressing of flax seeds that were grown on farms throughout Europe. Pumpkin seed oil was derived by boiling pumpkins and then squeezing the juice from them. All these materials had to be collected at specific times of year in order to maintain their consistency, temperature, and scent – something which gave candle makers an intensive work schedule throughout the year.


During the 17th century, candle making was an intricate and labor-intensive process. First, a mixture of pitch and related materials such as tallow was slowly heated until it melted into a liquid state. After the mixture cooled slightly, it was poured into molds to form the candles. These were then hand-dipped in hot wax several times to make them smooth and give them nice color. The wicks were inserted and tied around a dowel or stick using thread or hemp string. This kept them centered and enabled the candlemaker to easily pull out each one after its dipping session had concluded. Once done, some craftspeople learned how to decorate their candles with designs and/or create scented varieties due to their knowledge of natural oils.

To finish their creation, the candles needed to be cured; this involved burning them for many hours so that all impurities could be more easily removed from their surface. During this curing period, candle makers also had the opportunity to inspect their wares for any inconsistencies or flaws before they sold them. With the help of charcoal or wood chips, they could keep an eye on their products as they burned throughout the night – ensuring that only quality products reached customers’ homes!


Candle making was of great importance for everyday life in the 17th century, where natural lighting sources such as fireplaces or oil lamps were commonly used. Candles were used both in homes and on ships to provide light when necessary.

As well as providing a source of light, candles had other applications such as providing heating and cooling in more temperate climates. For example, they could be placed around doors or windows to bring cool air into a room. Candles were also of integral use in Christian churches during this period. They would often be lit during mass, devotional prayer and funerals to symbolize the presence of God within the service.

In sum, the 17th century saw candles employed with a variety of purposes due to their small size and portability; not only did they offer light but also heat, cooling and even symbolic meaning in religious services.

Technological Changes

During the 17th century, a number of technological advances and innovations improved candle-making significantly. One of these was the introduction of the dipping process. This meant instead of taking separate pieces of animal fat or wax and shaping them by hand, a wick was dipped into a large vat of heated liquid wax multiple times to create candles with a uniform size, shape and quality.

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Another innovation which occurred during this period was the use of molds to shape candles. Molds made out of clay, wood or metal allowed for standardization and could be used to create designs that were more intricate than before. With improved molds and dipping techniques turned candle making into an efficient industry resulting in much cheaper production costs.

Furthermore, in the late 16th century witches concocted a formula called “stearic acid””a mixture composed mainly of beef or mutton suet”which created burning candles with little smoke and odor when added to tallow and beeswax recipes. This concoction also resulted in brighter light being emitted from the candles as well as making them last longer without dripping or melting away quickly.


In the 17th Century, British colonists made candles from various animal fats. They would first render and purify the tallow to prepare it for use by boiling and skimming off the impurities. The fat was then mixed with saltpeter which provided the heat release or ‘flaring’ upon burning. Candles were produced simply in molds made of clay or wood, and wicks were fashioned from tightly spun threads of cotton.

Today, candles still use some of the same basic ingredients of waxes and wicks, but how they are created has become far more scientific and involved process as production has increased at a rapid pace for commercial purposes. Waxes can be found in a variety of different materials, including paraffin and soy waxes which are both popular for candle making today compared to traditional tallow. Fragrances are often added to create pleasing aromas especially with candles used mainly for relaxation and aesthetics rather than light source as electricity has become widely available. Wicks have also been improved upon heavily since the 17th century with specific designs being adapted depending on common wax type combinations so that they burn rapidly but steadily in an efficient manner.


The development of candle making in the 17th century was a major turning point in illuminating the world. The use of tallow candles and beeswax candles brought more reliability to lighting. This allowed households and businesses to spread throughout the night, allowing people to communicate and entertain in a more efficient manner. It is also worth noting that tallow candle manufacturing marked the beginnings of an industrial economy for many countries across Europe.

Today, candles are still used as a means to brighten and decorate our homes. While electricity has replaced most of the need for candle light functionality, modern day candle making build off what began centuries ago by adding a decorative flair. The ability to bring different fragrances into the home created lasting impressions for our time. Coupled with new materials such as soy wax and scents like lavender and eucalyptus, it’s clear that when we look past simply providing light, candles have the capacity to illuminate moods, emotions and memories in ways truly remarkable.

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