Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The Longest Burning Candle Ever

…to fit in a 1-gallon milk jug.
  [vote for,

(Skip to the * if you’re not interested as to why it is in a milk jug)

Here, there is an annual, weekend-long celebration that kicks off on a Friday night with an event called Luminaria. This is when the town’s residents light up the entire coastline with candles. For the last 3 years I’ve been placing candles on a rock out in the water for fun, and to see if I can start a trend, eventually lighting up all the offshore rocks. These candles are noticed and enjoyed, then forgotten.

Next time, so folks remember (from the previous year) that they meant to participate in my rock lighting endeavor, I will light my candles days prior to Luminaria. Since many people only go to the beach on the weekends, even though they live nearby, it will have to burn for a full week prior, then ideally for the entire weekend, because I’m only swimming out there once. Er, make that twice.

The town agrees to clean up after this event because the candleholders (windbreakers) are made from recyclable plastic (mostly milk jugs). They have yet to retrieve the jugs I place on the rock, which is OK, I do. But so as not to undermine the environmental aspect of this event, thus alienating any would be helpers, I must continue using the 1-gallon jug (the largest town-recyclable container suited for this application).

* Someone would have asked. On to the idea…

A narrow candle would burn longer if it were wider, by having more fuel available. A wide candle will burn a hole through the center of the candle leaving unused fuel along the circumference. There is an optimal diameter, say 3 inches, where available fuel is maximized, and no fuel remains unused.

A 6” diameter candle will fit in a milk container to a height of 5”. At 5” it narrows due to a 1.5” indent for the handle on one side, and tapers inwards, but there is another 3” ‘usable’ height. ‘Usable’ because there must be enough space above the candle so the container doesn’t burn. This will be an unusually shaped candle – roughly 6” round x 5” high on the bottom, then a 6”x4.5” base off-centered by 1.5” tapering inwards to a height of 3” on the top.

A single wick will be used, because we’re going for duration here, and that wick must consume all of the fuel. To accomplish this, the wick will be spiraled through the candle. (Spiral wick candles exist, but with the wick on the outside of the candle.) Using the 6” x 5” bottom as an example: First, a stick of wax measuring 3” diameter x 5” high is molded. Wick is spiraled around the stick and held in place by painting melted wax on it. The stick is then centered in a 6” diameter mold. The result is 6” diameter candle with a 3” burn traveling in a 3” circle, thus consuming all 6” of wax.

The top portion uses the same technique, but includes some carving, unless you happen to have a mold that shape. The pieces are, of course, fused together, and the wick is contiguous. Cut a door in the container, insert the candle, seal the door, make a couple small air holes at the bottom and an angled rain deflector at the top. Ready to shine.

Note that this isn’t made of your ordinary paraffin or petroleum based waxes. It’s 100% pure, clean burning, long lasting cappings beeswax. I think it will burn for 3 weeks, but I have yet to find a reference by which to do the calculations.

Shz, Aug 24 2005

(?) Beeswax burn rate http://www.discount....php/products_id/58
4.51 cubic inches = 15 hours [Shz, Aug 24 2005]

(?) Here's one http://www.cajuncan.../candlewaxpage.html
Cajun's... [Dub, Aug 24 2005]

(?) Another http://www.chrysali....uk/book/1855859335
the candle maker (forkandles) [Dub, Aug 24 2005]

Ugh, and another http://www.gelcandlemaking.com/
Did you like the running commentary? [Dub, Aug 24 2005]

(?) [Dogpile.com-> Candle Gel "burn rate"] http://www.candlesupply.com/gel.html
This is just the first ref to gel "burn rate" I found... You'll have to dig for the rest (mind the dog(pile) poo!) - They seem to be in g/hr for the wicks... [Dub, Aug 24 2005]

(??) The definitive candle work http://www.grtbooks...4/7/14474/14474.txt
Recommended for the quality of writing alone on such a seemingly simple subject [coprocephalous, May 12 2006]

Hackaday: Reverse Engineering A Real Candle http://hackaday.com...ring-a-real-candle/
{tangential} [Dub, Jan 06 2016]

More direct link to Michael Faraday's "The Chemical History of a Candle" (two links above) http://www.gutenber...les/14474/14474.txt
[notexactly, Sep 07 2019]


       It'll keep lots of bees buzzy (sorry) filling that little lot. Apparently Gel candals burn longer (ref. a candle book on Amazon ref from Google "cabdle maker" "burn rate" I think)
Dub, Aug 24 2005

       Found a reference. <link> I estimate the volume of this candle at 206.17 cubic inches. At a burn rate of 15 hours per 4.51 cubic inches, this candle will burn for just over 4 weeks. That’s way longer than I need, and it should draw additional attention / curiosity just by staying lit that long.   

       Got a link [Dub]? I’m all for trying other materials, provided they are eco-friendly, and I can work with them.
Shz, Aug 24 2005

       [Shz]There you go!
Dub, Aug 24 2005

       You go [Shz]!
zeno, Aug 24 2005

       Does having your wick at an angle, at whatever slope your helix would be, mean the flame can access the wick faster (the flame no longer has to descend straight down to reach more wick), and therefore burn faster? If this idea works, start making these right away. +
sleeka, Aug 24 2005

       Amazingly wordy for a fully burning candle with a spiraling wick. But I'll give it a + anyway.
ldischler, Aug 24 2005

       [Dub], there’s a few comparisons on those links, but no burn rates.   

       As I understand it, [sleeka], the wick is merely a conduit for drawing the wax to the flame, and barely burns itself except in the absence of wax.   

       //Amazingly wordy// I thought so too, but once it became some sort of geekish engineering challenge, I just couldn’t help myself.
Shz, Aug 24 2005

       Candle companies will shun you now, since you basically made a perma-candle, making their high consumption-rate candles look foolish. I'm tempted to go build one to test it (using wax, though). Maybe you can get the burn time exact, so that each month can have its own candle (own color and scent), and burn out precisely at the end of that month - the Luminaria Calendar.
sleeka, Aug 24 2005

       this is all very lovely but I cannot help but wondering, doesn't the fecking thing get blown out?
po, Aug 24 2005

       The container serves as a windbreaker. Most people cut a hole in the side and face the hole opposite the wind. Others cut the top off a 2-liter bottle and the flame burns well below the rim. These methods are OK, but out on the rocks the wind is stronger, so I cut a door to insert the candle through, then seal the door. This leaves the 1” spout (chimney, in this case) as the only opening. I think this opening may not allow enough air exchange to sustain the candle, so I make 2 small punctures near the bottom of the container. It’s very well sheltered. I haven’t had one blow out yet.
Shz, Aug 24 2005

       [shz]Sorry, many of the links mention wick burn rate, and that Gel lasts longer, but you'll have to hunt through. There does seem to be a community though... there's bound to be FAQs and forums... Mostly to do with scented candles though. Trawl, and ask!
Dub, Aug 24 2005

       If you start at the bottom winding the wick in a helix you could burn the candle from both ends.   

       Don't worry about the amazing wordiness, I enjoyed it. This is a top-notch idea, one of the best and most carefully formulated ones I've seen. Go for it. I'll buy loads.   

bookends, May 11 2006

       I'll let you know how it goes this summer.
Shz, May 12 2006

       Nicely thought out [Shz]. [+]
kuupuuluu, May 12 2006

       How did this work? Did your helical wick fabrication process work well?
notexactly, Dec 28 2015

       I instantly thought of a 10 gallon milk can candle but it doesn't quite fit the nub of the idea. More metal work involved.
wjt, Dec 31 2015

       I am curious too. This is a slick idea.
bungston, Jan 01 2016

       Are lots of people putting candles out on the rocks now?
notexactly, Sep 07 2019

       A couple of years back I made my own candle out of Junk. I used an old beer can, spare wax and a 1 1/4" oil lamp wick. I named it the "Mandle". Rather than burning for a very long period, it lasted about 20 minutes with 18" of flame and enough soot to get me in modest trouble for a week. Overall a success.
bs0u0155, Sep 09 2019

       ^ yup. Also, what this idea would do, since the wick would be horizontal.   

       Impregnate the candle with coal dust, turning it black (ie: IR absorbing, ie: more easily melting circumference) and providing (a bit of) a heftier fuel.
FlyingToaster, Sep 10 2019

       There are a number of natural oil-seeps. An asbestos wick mounted on one of these might work.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 10 2019

       The friend I usually mention made something he called a "mandle" as well. He took an old vacuum-insulated travel mug whose lid had been lost, and poured bacon fat into it, with a regular brown string for the wick. The only problem was that the vacuum insulation kept the bacon fat from freezing before he went home, so I didn't get to see it in action. That was about a year ago—actually, I think it was on Shrove Tuesday, because we did bacon to go with the pancakes. That's coming up again, so a good reminder to ask him how it worked out.
notexactly, Jan 15 2020

       There seems to be ways prescribed to soak string to make wicks but is there any serious science on weave pattern, spacing of weave needed for different flow dynamics of different fuels? Or, since candles are centuries old, is the knowledge is done and dusted. 3D printers are available now.
wjt, Jan 18 2020

       // is there any serious science on weave pattern, spacing of weave needed for different flow dynamics of different fuels? //   

       I don't know about for different fuels, but one thing I learned from Wikipedia the other day is that twisted wicks will stay upright and therefore not self-trim, while braided wicks will curl over and therefore self-trim. That simple change appears to be why there isn't a wick trimmer in every (candle-using) household anymore.
notexactly, Jan 20 2020


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