This is a little experiment of mine. I have and empty strawberry pot planter, and as you can see on some pictures, there are still traces of soil in it. And I was thinking what would it look like, if I light an candle in it. So there it is – result of my little experiment.

A candle is a solid block of wax with an embedded wick, which is ignited to provide light, and sometimes heat, and historically was used as a method of keeping time.

A candle manufacturer is traditionally known as a chandler.1 Various devices have been invented to hold candles, from simple tabletop candle holders, to elaborate chandeliers.2

For a candle to burn, a heat source (commonly a naked flame) is used to light the candle’s wick, which melts and vaporizes a small amount of fuel, the wax. Once vaporized, the fuel combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form a flame. This flame provides sufficient heat to keep the candle burning via a self-sustaining chain of events: the heat of the flame melts the top of the mass of solid fuel; the liquefied fuel then moves upward through the wick via capillary action; the liquefied fuel finally vaporizes to burn within the candle’s flame.

As the mass of solid fuel is melted and consumed, the candle grows shorter. Portions of the wick that are not emitting vaporized fuel are consumed in the flame. The incineration of the wick limits the exposed length of the wick, thus maintaining a constant burning temperature and rate of fuel consumption. Some wicks require regular trimming with scissors (or a specialized wick trimmer), usually to about one-quarter inch (~0.7 cm), to promote slower, steady burning, and also to prevent smoking. In early times, the wick needed to be trimmed quite frequently, and special candle-scissors, referred to as “snuffers” until the 20th century, were produced for this purpose, often combined with an extinguisher. In modern candles, the wick is constructed so that it curves over as it burns (see picture on the right), so that the end of the wick gets oxygen and is then consumed by fire—a self-trimming wick.


Candles were once made from tallow and beeswax until after about 1850, they were made mainly from spermaceti and purified animal fats (stearin). Today, most candles are made from paraffin wax.4 Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow (a by-product of beef-fat rendering). Gel candles are made from a mixture of mineral oil and a polymer.5

The candle can be made of

paraffin (a product of petroleum refining)microcrystalline waxstearin (now produced almost exclusively from palm waxes though initially manufactured from animal fats)beeswax (a byproduct of honey collection)gel (a mixture of polymer and mineral oil)some plant waxes (generally palm, carnauba, bayberry, or soybean wax)tallow (rarely used since the introduction of affordable and cheap wax alternatives)spermaceti (extracted from the head of a Sperm Whale)

The size of the flame and corresponding rate of burning is controlled largely by the candle wick.

Production methods utilize extrusion moulding.4 More traditional production methods entails melting the solid fuel by the controlled application of heat. The liquid is then poured into a mould or a wick is repeatedly immersed in the liquid to create a dipped tapered candle. Often fragrance oils, essential oils or aniline-based dye is added.


A candle wick works by capillary action, drawing (“wicking”) the melted wax or fuel up to the flame. When the liquid fuel reaches the flame, it vaporizes and combusts. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. Important characteristics of the wick include diameter, stiffness, fire-resistance, and tethering.

A candle wick is a piece of string or cord that holds the flame of a candle. Commercial wicks are made from braided cotton. The wick’s capillarity determines the rate at which the melted hydrocarbon is conveyed to the flame. If the capillarity is too great, the molten wax streams down the side of the candle. Wick are often infused with a variety of chemicals to modify its burning characteristics. For example, it is usually desirable that the wick not glow after the flame is extinguished. Typical agents are ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. Read more

Seeing The World In Picture Frames

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