Carving candles is an old German craft, still practiced by artisans. It involves layering different colored wax, then carving designs to expose those luminous colors. It’s hard to beat the radiant beauty of a carved candle.
Carved candles are known for their swirls and curls; a look so elaborate that lighting one is an occasion in itself. The process starts with wads of hot wax in various colors. The candle maker stirs them to circulate the specially formulated dyes.
She dips a star shaped wax core into clear wax, and then yellow. The clear wax dilutes whatever color wax follows it. The layers are hardened in cool water. She repeats this process between thirty and thirty-five times, building up different colored layers on the candle core.
As the dipping continues, the candle becomes warmer and softer, which will allow it to be carved. The quick water dips only cool the outer layers.
Part way into the dipping, the candle maker deepens the candle’s grooves. As she resumes dipping, she has to keep a close watch on candle’s temperature. If it absorbs too much heat, it will be too soft to carve. But if it’s too cool, the wax can splinter. Achieving the right consistency is crucial.
It’s almost time to get carving, but first the candle maker squeezes the drippings together, and slices them off. They are too attractive to waste, so she quickly shapes them into a mushroom candle. She pokes a hole in the center for the wick, and within moments the candle is complete.
With the big candle at the perfect temperature, the clock is ticking. It has to be carved in just 15 minutes or it will be too hard to work with. The candle maker slivers the bottom and curls the pieces back. She dunks the row of curls into water to harden them a bit so they don’t sag.
On the second row, she curls each row in the opposite direction to the one before. She carves a total of four rows, with the last curls fixed upright. Using a square edged gouging tool, she cuts a windmill design into the upper section of the candle. Then she shapes the wax cut out into a base for the windmill.
Tulips and other designs decorate the top of the candle. She must work with a quick, but a steady hand. It takes at least a year of training to learn to carve with such confidence. This one is a neat trick. She jiggles a straight bladed knife to cut the fluted edge of a hummingbird wing.
One last character, and this carving job is complete. Now she presses a cookie cutter like device around the wick. This forms a well that will allow the wax to burn down the center instead of dripping down the sides, which would ruin the carving.
She spins the candle in a hot pan to melt the bottom, so that its level. And while it’s still hot she attaches the company’s sticker. Finally, an acrylic glaze seals the candle’s decorations and protects the finish. Once lit, the light from the clear core shines through the designs for a real glowing beauty.