How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle – Tutorial

Learn how to make an authentic medieval coil candle from scratch with beeswax and DIY candle wicks!

How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle - Tutorial

A medieval coil candle – also known as courting candle or candle by the hour – looks like a ball of yarn. And it basically is nothing else than a cotton string dipped in beeswax and wound into a ball of yarn. So all you need to make your own DIY medieval coil candle from scratch is beeswax and cotton string!

By the way, if you’re wondering why people in the Middle Ages made this unusual kind of candle: A medieval coil candle could be used as a kind of clock because it always took the same amount of time until a winding of the coil candle was burned. So a medieval coil candle was a timer and light in one!

History Of The Medieval Coil Candle

First of all, I couldn’t find many primary sources for medieval coil candles. The only primary sources were medieval paintings and Victorian texts about the history of candles. In the Middle Ages, candles were either made of beeswax or tallow. Because beeswax candles like coil candles were expensive only the rich and clergy could afford them.

Related: History Of Candles – Oil Lamps & Fatwood Torches

‘In the twelfth century, candles of wax, and chandeliers, were generally seen in churches; and, as refinement increased, they came gradually into use among the nobility and wealthy all over Europe’ (An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, 1855).

All medieval paintings depicting coil candles that I found show rich, educated people reading a book of hours while holding a coil candle in their hand. Besides the light, a coil candle was probably used as a kind of clock or timer, similar to a candle clock or Victorian oil-lamp clock. My main inspiration for my DIY medieval coil candle was the candle in the ca. 1470 painting The Annunciation by Memling at the MET museum.

Medieval Cotton Candle Wicks

Even if cotton was not yet used for clothing in the Middle Ages candle wicks were already made of cotton!

‘Cotton is found to be the best material for forming wicks; so remarkably is the case, that spun cotton was imported from the Levant for the wicks of lamps in England, ages before it was made use of by the weaver.’ (An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, 1855)

Related: How To Make DIY Candle Wicks With Rushes

How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle - Beeswax Candle DIY Wicks - Step By Step Tutorial Tutorial

How To Make Your Own Candle Wicks

You’ll Need:

  • cotton string
  • scissors

To make DIY candle wicks, you need a long piece of cotton string. Unravel the cotton string. Then braid the strands into a three-strand braid.

Related: How To Make DIY Candle Wicks With Cotton String – 3 Ways

How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle

You’ll Need:

  • beeswax
  • DIY candle wick

There are two ways to make a medieval coil candle from scratch: You can either dip the candle (“dipped candle”) or shape it in your hands (“rolled candle”).

Related: 6 Ways How To Make Candles – DIY Beeswax Candles

Dipping the candle produces a smaller candle because you can dip the wick only once or twice into the melted beeswax before the wick becomes too stiff to bend. So I used the rolled candle making technique to make my medieval coil candle.

To make rolled candles, the ‘wax is first softened and worked well by hand in a kettle of warm water; it is then taken out in pieces, and gradually, bit by bit, disposed round a cotton wick […] beginning at the bottom, and proceeding to the upper part. […] When the candles have acquired a sufficient size, they are made perfectly round and smooth by rolling them upon a table of hard wood’ (An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, 1855).

DIY Coil Candle Tutorial

Dipped Medieval Coil Candle

Melt Beeswax

Grate or chop the beeswax into small pieces (or use beeswax pellets instead). Put the beeswax pieces into a tin can. And melt the beeswax in a water bath.

Dip The Candle

Dip the DIY candle wick into the melted beeswax. Let the wax set a little. While the wax is still soft, wind it up like a ball of yarn.

Related: How To Make Tallow Candles

Rolled Medieval Coil Candle

Shape The Candle

Warm the beeswax pieces or beeswax sheets with a hair dryer. Then form a thin layer of beeswax around the DIY candle wick. To smooth it, you can roll the coil candle between your hands.

Wind Up The Candle

After you’ve finished part of the candle, wind it up like a ball of yarn while the wax is still soft. Then continue to shape the wax around the candle wick and wind it up.

Related: How To Make Rushlights

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How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle - Beeswax Candle DIY Wicks - Step By Step Tutorial Tutorial

6 thoughts on “How To Make A Medieval Coil Candle – Tutorial

    1. Thank you so much! 😀 The coil candle doesn’t burn down like a regular candle from top to bottom. You unwind the candle like a ball of yarn while it burns (before the candle flame reaches the coil candle).

  1. I find this so fascinating. I am really interested in making a coil candle for myself, I was just wondering if the wax ever crack at the bends as you unfurl it while it’s burning?

    1. Thank you! 😀 Beeswax is usually quite soft at room temperature but it can still occasionally crack. To prevent this, you can warm the beeswax between you fingers or with a blow dryer before or after you unfurl it.

  2. Thanks for your great article. Do you think this method would work with soy wax, or is that type of wax the wrong consistency?

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’ve never used soy wax to make candles before: so I don’t know if it works. If you try it, let me know if it works. 🙂

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