Candles evolved rather quickly but for the pioneers who were usually far from town and anything but rich they had to remain resourceful. Bees wax was more expensive and would have made candle making much simpler however, pioneers used what they had, even if it meant sticking to a less desirable method.
Tallow candles were made from animal fat (tallow) that was collected after every meal until there was enough to constitute spending the afternoon making candles, which was a long, hot process.
The tallow was heated in a pan with water and salt. It was skimmed several times to reduce the amount of meat still in the fat. Once the substance was thoroughly skimmed it was ready for candle making.
Side note: Sometimes spices and herbs were added to help the candles smell better while they burned, because the tallow candles smelled horrible.
They would then take anything from cord to silk threads or strips of cloth for the wick and begin dipping into the tallow. After each dip in the tallow they would dip into a pot of cold water to cool it, then wipe off excess water (Water left within the layers of tallow caused the candle to sputter and put itself out) and dip in tallow again, repeating the process until the candle was thick enough.
Some people had candle molds that made this process much simpler. They would pour the tallow into the mold and wait for it to cool.
The only experience I have ever had with candle making was when I was about 14 my mom decided to melt down all of my sisters and my broken crayons (we had a TON).
We cooked and cooked until finally the wax crayons melted into a gooey brown substance and then we poured them into molds with the wicks. We were so excited we had made candles…..until we burned them! They stunk! Well, hindsight is 20/20, ha!
Have any of you made candles? What techniques do you enjoy using and what have you found to be successful?