Candle making and soap making

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Shortie
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Candle making and soap making

Post by Shortie »

Hi peeps!

I'm new here, had a look round the forum but couldn't see what I was looking for, so apologies if I've duplicated a topic. :wtf:

My friend and I are interested in candle-making and soap making in the 13th Century. I've trawled the net for information but can't find much, and all the books i've found so far (particularly in relation to candles) are pretty generic.

Can anyone recommend any books or websites on the above please?

Also, can anyone tell me when cotton wick came into use? I found some information stating that around 1298 cotton wick started to be used with the cotton trade increasing, is this about right? If not, is flax wick still available anywhere?

Sorry for so many questions, thanks for reading :D
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sally
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by sally »

not many books around as yet on soap in the medieval period, I'm meant to be publishing one myself but am a bit behind with my research but hoping to catch up this year. its worth looking at trade records to see what is being imported and traded, thats always handy, and consider also what use the soap is being put to, if you read things like the Capitulary de Villis (which is rather earlier, but its always valuable to know what is happening before and just after your chosen period so you can put things in context) you'll see that soap is primarily for textile processing in the early part of the medieval period and slowly starts becoming more popular for bathing and other uses as time passes. You do need to do a lot or fummaging round in relatively obcure places to find all the references, its a bit fragmentary for this dateline. Look also at Spanish and Arabic sources, there are some soap recipes for this date amongst those

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Colin Middleton »

Have you contacted Sweetness & Light? They may even do candlemaking kits.

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mally ley
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by mally ley »

Candle wicks would have been made of plant fibres - so flax, or nettle for example. I believe you if you say you've seen a source for cotton wicks, but <sound of can of worms being opened> I'd have thought it would have been too much of a luxury/expensive item to be used for candles on a day to day basis. This is, afterall, something that's going to be burnt.
I don't know if flax wicks are available, but I'd have to say, for a living history setting I'd just used cotton and say it was flax.

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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Sophia »

Sweetness and Light make beeswax candles with flax fibre wicks (sometimes have stock but I generally have to order them). They make even be able to advise on what type of flax fibre is best - probably unbleached staple prepped for spinning judging by what is currently in my candle box.

Candles can also be made from Tallow, which is rendered beef or mutton fat from the inner body cavity (think round the kidneys) which has been carefully clarified - can't remember any sources at the moment as brain full of Kentwell packing lists. Again Sweetness and Light can probably advise you, I have also seen someone else demonstrating tallow candle making at an event (either WOTR or Tudor IIRC). Best quality Tallow candles could be as expensive as wax. I have never actually bothered to buy any due to the risk of them melting on a hot weekend and the fact that they will go rancid in the long term.

Finally there are rush lights - made from dried rush stalks, which have had part of the outer layer removed to expose the pith, and then dipped in Tallow, often not the best grade or even left over meat fat. Rush lights are fairly fragile, and I have been told they do not travel well.

Hope this is useful :)
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mally ley
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by mally ley »

Sophia wrote:Candles can also be made from Tallow, which is rendered beef or mutton fat from the inner body cavity (think round the kidneys) which has been carefully clarified - can't remember any sources at the moment as brain full of Kentwell packing lists. Again Sweetness and Light can probably advise you, I have also seen someone else demonstrating tallow candle making at an event (either WOTR or Tudor IIRC). Best quality Tallow candles could be as expensive as wax. I have never actually bothered to buy any due to the risk of them melting on a hot weekend and the fact that they will go rancid in the long term.
In the years when PP's wishlists actually meant something, I made tallow candles from scratch (OK, we're going back 20 odd years!). The fat used for tallow comes in a "sheet", taken from around the inside the body cavity. Rendered down (ie melted), bits that look like scratchings are strained out, then it's cleaned the same way beeswax is.

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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by narvek »

Tallow candles are cool, as you can use them as an emergency food (fat) source. Or add to soup, spread on bread, base of sauces etc....
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mally ley
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by mally ley »

They also get eaten by mice.
And if you don't keep the tallow pot out of the way, the tallow will be eaten by escapee piglets.

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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by gregory23b »

The first is a good one, making a direct comparison between flax and cotton wicks.

(a1443) Proc.Chanc.in Cal.PCEliz. 1.p.xxxii: He..hath made candell of talghe with weyke of flex, to serve hem as well..as candell made with weyke of cotoun.

(1466) Acc.Howard in RC 57 213: Paid to Dole for makenge of candelle and for cotone to the same.

1423) Doc.Brewer in Bk.Lond.E. 155/475: For v lb. of Coton candell yn morwenyng & euenyng to Carpenters.

Not sure if flameolum is wick
(1415) Will York in Sur.Soc.4 382-3: j flameolum de coton..unum rotulum de flameolo de coton.
middle english dictionary

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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Captain Reech »

We've made candles using beeswax and wicks made from linen (flax) thread. We drew fibres from bits of left over linen after making shirts and twisted them into a wick (As you do for making rope). Trial and error to get the thickness of the wick right (too thick will give a big smoky flame, too thin small flame which tends to get extinguished by a surfeit of molten wax) but eventually got a steady burning candle with a nice bright light.
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Brother Ranulf »

Gregory23b said:
Not sure if flameolum is wick
It's unlikely. Classical Latin has a specific term flammeum or flammeolum, the flame-red coloured veil of a newly-married woman, from the adjective flammeolus, flame-coloured. Flameolum was a variant spelling. It seems that Low Latin uses it for a kerchief or headscarf of some kind, not necessarily red.

In the context of a will, rotulum has to mean a small (round?) wooden chest or (less likely) a circular type of purse, from rotula, a small wheel.
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Langley »

Our daughter has tried soap making from scratch using lye from the fire and rendered fat. By the time it was stewing really well she had been removed so many times and was so far from the main camp she was a small smoky and very smelly blot on the horizon. It really does smell terrible. Making tallow candles is a bit better but again, unless you get really good quality raw material, can be very smelly. Great for "authenticity" I guess but having the MOPs throw up is generally considered bad for business. Beeswax candle dipping is much more pleasant. Al you need is a decent tall vessel to melt the wax in. Be careful not to heat it too vigorously on a fire. It can produce a wonderful bloop and gush of hot wax as the bottom melts before the top which finally gives way explosively. Ahh, well do I recall the invention (by a very experienced re-enactor) of the Waxed Barbour Doublet, the Waxed Barbour tent, the Waxed Barbour Eyebrows... (yes, you Richard! The person who watched the MOP watching fletching and being told they were Goose feathers walk away muttering "Goat feathers eh?!" When he had watched you dipping candles for a while, said MOP then asked how you get the wick up the inside and it was very naughty of you to tell him you pushed it up with a goat feather.)

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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by gregory23b »

"t's unlikely. Classical Latin has a specific term flammeum or flammeolum, the flame-red coloured veil of a newly-married woman, from the adjective flammeolus, flame-coloured. Flameolum was a variant spelling. It seems that Low Latin uses it for a kerchief or headscarf of some kind, not necessarily red."

Yes, you are right, just looked at my medieval latin book, flameolum head dress and even bandage apparently, thanks.
middle english dictionary

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Shortie
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Shortie »

Thanks to everyone who replied, the information is great, thank you very much.

My friend will really find this useful and hopefully I'll end up with some lovely authentic candles at some point :D
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Re: Candle making and soap making

Post by Fair Lady Aside »

It's later than you want, but you might find this interesting:

Tractatus de magnete et operationibus eius (English 14th c)
Original transcription by: C. Tidmarsh Major, follow-up by:Peter Murray Jones
Recipe for white soap
Tractatus Manuscript: Folio 22v

//ffor to make whyt sope.

//Tak .1. busschel of clene bene asches mad of bene straw

and put þer to half a busschel of quyk lym and

put þese in a vessell of tre as it were a kowle and

loke þat þe vessell have an hole in þe botme for

to put þer in a staff and so make þerof lye with hoot

water and euer mor kast in hote water til it haue

na mor sauer of assches as þu may taste be þy tonge

þan loke how many galouns þu hast of lye and

tak so many pounde of clene schepis talgh. thanne

sethe þy lye til be half wastid a wey and kast

þerin .1. vncia or a lytil more of alum. and þanne

kast in þy talgh & medle him wel with þy lye

til it be thikke anow and þanne kast it owt into

formes. But in þe kastynge out into þy formes put

vndir neþe and above smal bene flour but not to moch

Also if þu se þat it be not þikke anow. kast in þer to bene

flour þat be whyte and clene and þat schal make it þikke

anow. and so kast it in to formes. And drey it vp in

a wyndy hows and it schall be good .

//Also whytsope may be maad in þis maner with owte

any feer. Tak .1. libram of blak sope. and .1. libram of whyt wode

assches smal poudred & medle hem wel to gedre with

þyn handis. & kast it in to formes as is aforesayd.
http://www.uab.edu/reynolds/manuscripts ... 4-tract22v
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