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Better To Light A Single Candle…so long as it isn’t one of mine

Okay, boys and girls, ladies and germs, and all the ships at sea…this is the first of an ongoing, intermittent, and thoroughly annoying series of columns I’m going to be doing about Candles.

No. Really. Candles. You know. The wax things. That burn. “And oh what a lovely light…” Except mine sometimes don’t burn and often look like a sand clod with a side order of buffalo chip. But we won’t go into that. It’s far too horrible.

And "Over Wicked" Candle

Anyway, this is the first of a series of pieces I’m going to be doing about making candles as a hobby. Why? You ask. Why, I answer, does a man climb a mountain? Because it’s there. Not unlike sand clod candles. That, if tossed, could stun a moose at fifty yards. Well, okay. Maybe a mouse at fifteen inches. But, again, that’s a tale …and a tail…for another day.

But….I got started making candles during the Covid lockdown. I was bored to tears because I had nothing to do but work and I was casting about for some activity that didn’t involve keyboarding and/or worrying about the potential extinction of the human race as the result of bugs, viruses, certain Orange-colored politicians, and our own infinite capacity for stupidity.

And, then, one day, I was out in the garage looking for something else and I stumbled across a bunch of old candles. We use candles a lot, btw, mostly for decoration on winter nights. We find them romantic. Though, recently, we’ve found that they’ve somehow become very expensive. Apparently we’re not the only ones who think they’re cool, and, as usual, the free enterprise system has rushed into fill the void…and raise prices.

Anyway, we had all those used candles. There were a few stumps of standing, or drip candles that had burned down to just a few nubbins. And there were many more “container candles,” that is, candles that come in glass containers. They’re a little safer, I gather, because they don’t have a flame sitting right out there in the open. Though, of course, no fire is perfectly safe, and you should always treat any lit candle as a potential problem. It’s like a toddler. Keep a close eye on it so long as it’s awake. Or could be awake. Or anything in between. (As in, Oy.)

The problem with some of the container candles we have purchased over the years is that they tend to leave a lot of wax behind. They burn down pretty far, but leave rather a lot of unburned wax at the bottom of the container or round the edges of the flame.

I’m told, by people who know such things, that this is because commercial candles, the ones you buy in stores, are sometimes “under-wicked,” meaning they have small wicks that don’t generate enough heat to melt and consume the majority of the wax in the candle. Why (or even if) this should be the case, I have no idea. Maybe it’s cheaper. Or maybe it’s safer. An “over-wicked candle can get very hot. In fact, it can get so hot that the glass container can break, or, worse, even damage whatever the candle happens to be sitting on at the time. Maybe the assumption is that it’s better to have an under-powered candle than one that could start a house fire.

An "Under-Wicked" Candle...

But, as I say, I’m honestly clueless on this. As I am in so many things. And proud of it, I might add. Call it a gift.

Anyway…so I had a bunch of glass candle containers that were anywhere from a third to a half full of unused wax. Which annoyed the bejesus outta me. As I think I’ve written elsewhere, I’m one of those people who hates to waste things. There is nothing I throw away without a certain wrench. I think, “Maybe I could use that…someday.” Or, “You know, you should recycle that.” Or, “I bet I could repurpose that to do …[fill in the blank].” It’s one of the many reasons my garage looks like a yard sale at all times, and that my long suffering wife has considered getting a restraining order. Or having me committed. Or otherwise acting in a calm, responsible manner as befitting someone dealing with a self-admitted lunatic possessed of a load o’junk and a diseased aversion to garbage cans.

A Really, Really Sick Candle...

And one more thing. I had three “curse candles.

What the hell are those? you say. So glad you asked, I respond.

Among the least expensive candles you can find right now are votive or devotional candles. You know, the ones in tall glass containers with nifty pictures of saints and angels on the sides. They’re cheap because a lot of people buy them as part of their private religious practices, and the pure size of the market (plus that market’s resistance to high prices) tends to keep the cost down.

On a more secular level, they’re also pretty good candles. They burn long and because they do have a tall glass container, they tend to be resistant to wind and such.

Thus, even though we are not particularly religious, we have several of them in the house. On occasion it’s proved useful. During the last power-failure, our house looked a little like Notre Dame. Except without gargoyles. Unless you count me. But then, I don’t have bat wings and spout water. Which is a very good thing for everyone concerned.

Where was I? Oh, yes. So we had these used devotional candles, which were full of wax. But we also had…

Something weird, and mysterious…

And even a little scary.

But that’s for next time.

Until then…

Onward and upward.


Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker

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