Sunday, September 19, 2010
Cooper Grist Mill Candle Dipping
Yesterday we returned to Cooper Grist Mill to watch a demonstration on dipping candles. First they had to cut the cotton thread to use for the wicks on the candles. In the 1800's candle wicks were usually made out of cotton, hemp, or linen thread that was tightly braided. Then they laid the thread over the notches in the holding stick. After all the wicks were on the stick they made the first dip. A regular sized candle that would be used around the house was usually dipped between 35 and 50 times before it was big enough to use. You had to dip the candles very quickly so that the wax that was already on the wick did not melt off. With each dip into the pot of hot wax, the candle got a bit thicker. In between dippings the candles were hung on a rack to cool off. If they were too hot when you dipped them, the wax would just melt right off.
Candles were usually made in the fall as the days were growing shorter and people began to prepare for the long cold winter. This was also the time when the beehives were full of wax. The farmer either harvested the wax from their own beehives or they traded with another farmer to get the wax they needed to make candles. Most farmers used about 50 candles a week during the cold months of the year. So it was a long process to get all these candles made every year.
The farm wife had to start a good fire in the front yard or maybe in the fireplace. Then she put water in the copper pot. After this was hot, she put in the block of beeswax. Then the process of dipping began. It must have taken several days to get a big enough supply for the entire winter. After the candles were dipped the ends had to be cut off flat so they would stand in the candle holder. The nubs from the bottom of the candle were thrown back into the pot to be used again. We were there for about four hours and the candles were not big enough to use after all that time. They still needed about another 20 dippings before they would be big enough to use.
Thank you Ms. Betty, and Ms. Sharon, and the other wonderful teacher (I'm sorry I forgot your name) who lead the class. We really enjoyed it.