Church Altar Candles made from Stearine or Beeswax
give the best burn performance. Here's a bit of useful information to help you
decide which candles are right for your church and how to get the best burn
Stearine Church Candles
Church candles are available in stearine, or steric
wax as they are sometimes referred to as well as bees wax. Stearine candles are harder and more brittle than beeswax candles,
but there are three main reasons many churches like Stearine
- Stearine church candles are pure white, unlike
beeswax candles which are creamy in color. Many churches, particularly
Methodist, Lutheran and some other non-Catholic denominations, traditionally
use stearine candles because of their whiter color.
- Stearine candles are less expensive to purchase. A
typical stearine candle is anywhere from half to 30 percent less than a
beeswax candle. However, much of this cost consideration vanishes when you
take in to account the longer burn time of beeswax. Bees wax is a denser
substance than the steric acid and so it burns longer. Depending on the candle
diameter, beeswax candles burn as much as 40% longer than stearine
- Economy of performance. Beeswax candles should be
burned using a candle follower for best performance and to eliminate wax
dripping. If you do not plan on using followers though, you may want to
consider stearine candles as they tend to drip less than beeswax since
they burn faster.
Here's a picture of our stearine church
Altar candles are offered in 51% and 100%
beeswax formulations. (We also sell 12% beeswax candles, but they are not
on our website, please call for more information)
Why use 100% Beeswax candles? The
church traditionally (since the middle ages) used beeswax candles
because that's how candles were made before modern candle products came about.
Plus the beeswax was symbolic of Christ and burned better than the tallow
candles in common use. As prices rose and access to pure beeswax became harder,
the church responded by allowing the use of 51% candles. Today, we find that
churches who prefer the 100% beeswax are not as worried about cost, and are more
concerned with tradtion and top of the line performance.
Why use 51% Beeswax
candles? Traditionally, church candles were made from 100%
beeswax. Responding to the costs and difficulty obtaining beeswax in some areas,
Canon law allows the use of candles that contained other materials, as
long as beeswax comprised over half the candle composition. Church candle makers
responded with 51% beeswax candles which today are the most commonly used by
Candle Color 51%
and 100% beeswax altar candles are made from very high quality beeswax and then
refined to remove impurities. During the manufacturing process, the beeswax is
bleached to give it a lighter color. You will find these candles to be light
cream or off-white in color.
If you want candles that have a darker, natural
beeswax color, then check out our selection of Unbleached Beeswax
Candles. The candles pictured below show the difference between
unbleached and bleached.
Altar Unbleached 100
% Altar Bleached 51% & 100%
Church candles have three types of ends, no
four. (A nod to Ecclesiastes.)
- Plain End- Just what it says.
Most of the larger candles are plain end.
- Fitted or Self-fitted ends.
These have what look like ridges on the bottom along with a tapered bottom.
This type end allows the candle to fit a socket either slightly larger or
smaller than it otherwise might if it were a plain end.
- Universal Base. These appear to
be plain until you turn the candle upside down. You will notice a circular
slot cut into the base. This allows a universal socket to fit up inside the
candle. You can easily switch to a larger diameter candle with out changing
- Spike Hole Ends. Mostly on larger
candles, we can drill any hole to accomodate your spiked candlesticks.
All Purpose or Universal Base Candle
Candle Burn Times and
Burn time is an inexact science as factors such as
storage, temperature, humidity, drafts, etc. all play a role in how long a
candle will burn. Here is a general guideline for how long a church candle will
burn, assuming you are using a candle follower:
||Hours Per Inch 51%
||Hours per Inch
||2 (hours) :15 (min)
or (2.25) multiplier
**100% beeswax will burn longer than 51% beeswax.
When figuring what size altar candles to purchase, remember to add for
the length of the candle stub that's unburned in the socket plus the length
that's unburned in the follower.
So for example if you need your 2" candle to burn for a 72 hour devotion
and you have a 2" deep socket and a 2-1/4" high follower your calculation
would look like this:
2" diameter 51% burns 6.62 hours per inch. 72 hours divided by 6.62 = 10.87
(lets call it 11 inches). Plus you have about 4" of unused candle from the
socket and follower for a total candle length of about 15". Since 17"
candles are standard sizes, you should get the 2 x 17" candle. And you thought
there was no math involved in using church candles!
Candle Use and Care
To get the best performance from your altar candles,
here's a few tips culled from the candle companies, personal experience and
customer suggestions over the past 25 years. When a tip is denoted as a customer
suggestion, we suggest you give it a try if it looks like something that may
help you with a candle problem you are having. Some of our customer suggestion
fly in the face of what the experts suggest, so my take on it is that some
things work for some folks and not for others. Try it and see what
- Keep candles in a cool, dry environment. Excess
humidity and heat can have an effect on the wick which may/can/not always
cause burning issues.
- Rotate your stock. Beeswax hardens over time so
generally, older candles burn better than newer ones.
- Trim your wicks. If your candle wicks are curled,
crispy and black, they will be hard to light. Trim the top 1/4" or so to
reveal more or less fresh wick. In some cases, you may also need to remove the
top layer of wax. You can use a razor blade to carefully cut the top 1/8" or
so off the candle, while being careful not to cut the wick. Long wicks that
curl over can cause the candle to burn too quickly
- Keep candles out of drafts and avoid moving them
when the wax on top is hot or liquified
- Remove any debris from the top of the candle or
inside the follower: burnt wicks, matches,. etc can cause a second flame to
develop which can cause the candle to flare up and burn poorly or splatter
Candle Minimum Burn Times
Let your larger sized candles burn for a minimum
amount of time to prevent "tunneling" and other problems.
- 1-1/2" to 2" candles burn at least 45 minutes
- 2-1/4" candles burn at least 50 minutes per
- 2-1/2" candles burn at least 60 minutes per
- 3" candles burn at least 75 minutes per
- 3-1/2" candles burn at least 75 minutes per
Candle Followers should be used with beeswax church
- Use a candle follower or burner on top. Beeswax
candles are designed to be burned using a brass or glass candle follower. The
follower collects the melting wax in a pool on top of the candle and keeps it
from dripping down the side. If your candle has wax dripping down the side,
then this is wax not available to be used as fuel and you are costing
yourself, and your church, money.
- If you are using a follower and still have wax
dripping OVER the top of the follower, then you have a draft problem. Try
a draft proof follower.
- If you are using a follower and still have wax
dripping out from UNDER the bottom of the follower, then you are using a
follower that is too large, or the follower is not properly seated.
- To seat a candle follower, press it down on the
top of the candle and twist slightly. When done properly, you should be able
to turn the candle upside down and the follower will stay in place. (Be
careful just in case your follower falls off. I don't want to be blamed if you
break a $50 glass follower.)
- If your candles burn poorly and drip, try storing
them in the freezer. According to the candle company, this is not supposed to
work. According to customers, it often works well.
- Recycle your old beeswax stubs. You can often
donate these to smaller parishes or some churches let their parishioners take
the stubs for home devotion.
Labels get ripped off candle cartons and people
call us asking what brand of candle they are using. This should
- Cathedral Candle Company
boxes have a forest green top with white bottoms.
- Dadant Candle puts their
candles in a burgundy and gray box that has a "hinged" lid.
Candle Nomenclature or
Candle Industry Jargon
You may occasionally see church candles
referred to by names such as "short 4's" or "long 2's." These names are industry
jargon by the candle makers and denote the various sizes of small diameter
candles that are available. We have a chart here to help you
(Diameter x Length)
||Candles per Box (or
|11/16 x 9-1/4
|11/16 x 12-5/8
|25/32 x 10-1/4
|25/32 x 15-3/8
|25/32 x 20-1/4
|25/32 x 5
|25/32 x 7-1/2
|7/8 x 8
|7/8 x 12
|7/8 x 16
bxCathedral Candle Company Candle Measuring