Oil Candles, Oil Lamps, & Candle Holders

Rev. 2002-03-03, 2003-07-14, 2007-04-23, 2008-04-17, -05-06, -05-11, -11-29, 2010-01-14, -10-07 (edits)

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Oil Candles
Oil lamps
Night lights
Candle Types
Votive candles
Candle holders
Fairy lights

Glass & Light Center

OVERVIEW - On this page, we explore using open flame light sources with glass.  Chandeliers, which can use candles but rarely do these days, are on the fixtures page.

NIGHT LIGHTS - [2001-10-10 (posted to rec.crafts.glass)]  I have spent part of the day sketching solutions/goals with respect to making blown glass oil candles.
 Having blown several in the past and learned a few things (don't use lamp oil in a candle, it smokes, use lamp & candle oil), one of the problems I have with both candles and oil candles is that they last too long.
  I am thinking of making some pieces that are more like thick wall perfume bottles, with a reservoir that holds a ounce or two of oil, so they can be lighted as a night light and let burn out after an hour.
  I explored a bit on the web a few minutes ago and found a number of old friends/products I have seen in the store.  One site had estimated burning times of 144 hours on the largest pieces.  Also, virtually everything I encountered was lampworked thin glass.
Miniature sleep light oil candle, about 1.5" across  Among the challenges I was sketching around was that if the chamber is small, then it has to be refilled often, which means the wick must lift out easily and provision made to avoid dripping oil on tables, etc., which for me influences design.  I am using fiberglass wicks with a small Pyrex collar to support the top of the wick and keep the flame up from the soft furnace glass.  I foresee the need for a small pitcher or dispenser head on the bottle to pour the oil, so a person is not juggling the wick, a funnel, and the oil bottle.  One thing I was reminded of in looking at images is that a larger disk - say the size of a quarter or fifty-cent piece - would ease the filling by allowing a larger opening. The small capacity item in the picture has been used with an aluminum foil collar around the small wick.
  One thing I want to explore in oil candles I suspect won't work.  I would like to draw glass up from the base so that the flame has glass around it. One image would be a vase with a flame near the bottom - not sure about air flow (or lighting the thing - sell a long oil match with the candle?)  An alternative would be fingers of glass, like having a flame the palm of a hand with fingers around it pointing up.  That would be interesting and solve any air flow problem.


OIL LAMP - Utilitarian oil and kerosene lamps once provided major lighting for homes, farms, and businesses. From a substantial bowl fuel is drawn by a wide wick adjustable in height with an external knob to provide a broad yellow flame of varying height and brightness.  A glass chimney bulging at flame height provides protection from side drafts and a uniform smooth flow of air for a steady rather than flickering flame.
One version of the oil lamp uses a glass globe with water in it to act as a lens to disburse the light.  Another uses a metal mirror behind the flame to send more of the light onto a work area.
More modern oil lamps tend toward the artistic in design, but the fuel and wick require a controlled air flow. 
Whale oil lamp from New England Glass and Glassblowers
OIL CANDLE - I blew an oil candle, not much, and used the fiberglass wick and Pyrex stem I bought over a year ago in Austin. Make sure that you use candle oil and not lamp oil, which, as the warning on the back of mine said, "gives off damaging amounts of smoke." The light playing in the clear oil and mildly colored and bubbled glass is fun to watch. 10/13/96 Hot Glass Bits #33 Example with colored oil shown.
   Wicks and glass tubes to support the wick are sold at candle craft places and rock candle supplier places http://wickstore.com/ has a sample set with a single funnel, 4 sizes of tube and wick 2010-01-14
 Floating Wicks or Water Candles are placed in a pool of vegetable oil in a glass and burn the oil. Directions These may be shallow glass disks, plastic, or cork. For wedding receptions or religious ceremonies. Showing my ignorance, Jewish Shabatt or shabbos candles, can use floating wicks, burning olive oil can be just a thin cork disk with a thin metal top and a hole for the wick.
Floating Candles - The large glass bowl at right is half filled with water and has a glass bowl floating in it with candle oil and an aluminum foil wrapped wick stuck on a wire with a coiled base to hold it upright.  The candle light goes out in all directions through the colored oil, the glass of the inner bowl, the water and the outer bowl.  The flame here is too large (even momentarily shortened in this image) and when the inner bowl floats near the edge, the flame smokes the inside of the bowl.  Why should it float to the side? Because there is a heating and air conditioning duct roughly 6' up and 3' to the left and the moving air will shift the bowl as there is almost no friction. This is a custard cup and the glass is too thick, it almost sinks.
I reduced the size of the flame by adjusting the amount of wick showing to a small corner of the top.  The wire's coil at the bottom should be large enough to keep the wick centered in the inner bowl. .2008-05-11
A 2.5" clear glass form with a heavier base and a long wick this commercial floater is offered on Amazon at $9.50 for 5 or $30.95 a dozen (yes, it does not compute.)  2010-01-14
A chandelier with cone shaped glass containers for the oil & wick for spreading the light. http://www.havene.org/polycandelon.html  2008-05-06


Polycandelon oil candle chandelier


This artist's work, photographed at Kittrell-Riffkind, is fused glass with a candle wick extending from the top layer thru to a reservoir in the next layer.  The top lifts off off to fill the reservoir.  In the piece at the left, the wooden upright is a miniature rake for making sand patterns to sooth the mind. 2008-03-03


Candle Types - There are tens of thousands of designs of manufactured candles and holders for same, for some examples http://www.discountcandleshop.com/  In addition, people making artistic candles add millions of varieties more as whim drives them.  But in making glass holders for candles, there are, fortunately, a rather small group of standard candles that are used in quantities that probably exceed millions per day (as in 50 million people probably light a votive candle in church and 10 million light romantic tapers for dining.) The most common of these are (by height)
Candlestick with gadrooning from Glass Gaffers of New Jersey    Taper - A tall slender tapering candle with a somewhat larger base in the form of an inverted blunt cone which fits in a matching  hole in required candlestick (upright) or candle holder (flat).  These are the romantic candles of the formal dinner table and the hole for holding them is normally made with a simple wood or metal tool plunged into the end of the off-hand hot glass.  Commercial sticks and holders are usually molded.  When a separate glass disk or saucer is added, as on candelabra, it is called a bobeche.
    Pillars - A cylindrical candle of substantial diameter - 2" or more - and more often taller than wide.  Since these can stand alone on a plate, a holder for them merely has to offer a flat spot with enough of a lip to catch dripping wax.  Often these candles burn without dripping, forming an ever deepening hole around the wick.
    Votive - These are a standard size - 1.5" wide by 2" (below) - and are used in churches to light before altars, but are also used in food warmers and for decoration.  Usually white in the past, now sold with colors and scents added.  Must be used in some kind of holder to keep the wax from spreading as they burn down quickly if that happens, while taking 10 hours if in a cup. (Slightly taller and shorter items are sold with 8 hour and 15 hour ratings.)

    Tea lights - These look like miniature votive candles with the important difference that they are always sold in a thin cup - previously always metal but now sometimes in clear plastic.  The cup means they will burn in a small flame for a long time without spreading wax and thus can be used for a warmer or for decoration by being set on floating objects including flowers. Floating bowls should be deep enough that the rim extends above the flame to catch the light.  LED tea lights are now available. 2008-05

CANDLE HOLDERS - If a holder is made for a votive candle, the candle will burn for a very long time if the wax is held in close to the wick, the shape of a traditional candle cup. If it is allowed to spread out, it will not burn for nearly as long.  A candle burning in a glass form shows off the glass much more if the flame is within the glass or if glass forms surround the flame as in chandeliers.

50's glass candle holder50's glass patio lightCandle holder for patio to mount in ring

Candelabrum Candelabra - is traditionally a multi-armed form intended to sit in the middle of a table or on a mantle to hold multiple candles to provide light and decoration - images.  On a table, the form is cylindrical while on a mantle the form is flat.  The Jewish menorah are flat candelabra with seven or nine arms that is familiar to many not of that faith.  2010-10-07

Burmese Fairy Lights  glass at TAMU Student Center Gallery Fairy lights were originally a brand name for kind of night light and low level night light.  The most memorable of these are made of  Burmese glass (right) which is a striking glass that changes color based on its reheating.  Fairy lights use small candles in a cup like tea lights and the marketing plan was to make money selling supplies.  Making the domes, which are open top and bottom, is eased by knowing the bottom is cut and ground rather than being all shaped by hand.

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