Friday, November 4, 2011

Candle light?

"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read."
— Abraham Lincoln

During our power outage with the Halloween snowstorm, my wife & I were reminded of Lincoln reading by firelight. (See painting at right). We tried to read by candle light and found that very difficult to do.

We have a collection of pillar candles made by pouring wax into a milk carton with wick. Also a collection of wide candles made inside mason jars. We chose these types for safety since candle use in emergencies is discouraged. You don't want open flame if there's a chance of a gas leak and candles have started many home fires. The American Red Cross, which deals with those house fires, is opposed to candles and does not recommend them for 72-hour kits.

We use wide candles and glass jar candles to reduce the risk of tipping over. We have no large pet or kids so, fingers crossed, we think we're safe. And we take precautions like never burning a candle unattended.

So back to the original point, our candles did not put out much light! There are two problems with wide candles.
1. A depression is created down the center of the candle and the wick is hidden as it sinks into the cavity created.
2. The wick can drown in too much wax in the cavity it makes.

So my wife pulled out some taper candles - these are the tall skinny type - and wow the light was much brighter. To protect against tipping we put the taper candles in tall mason jars. It was not easy but reading was possible with a taper for each of us.

Website WSAC.com offers this advice for getting more use of candles:
  • Try multi-wick candles. (We had one dual wick candle but it too suffered the wide candle problems mentioned above. Still they may be good for room lighting.)
  • Use Reflection - place candles near mirrors or light colored walls to bounce back more light
  • Light colored candles seem to emit brighter light than dark colored ones. (?)
  • Cold candles (refrigerated prior to use) burn slower. Take care to ensure that they do not become moist. (I've never tried this)
  • Air drafts cause candles to burn more quickly
  • WSAC and other sites recommend 1/4" length for the candle wick. Higher wicks cause smoking and flickering.
  • Try extinguishing the candle by pushing the wick into the liquid wax. When you restart it you'll burn wax instead of wick alone and the wick will last longer.
Bottom Line

Treat candles with respect. This is fire after all.

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