See also: candle wicks, the standard candle, used in the 19ᵗʰ century as a measure of lighting.
Candle sizes are not standardized by any official body; still, most new candlesticks have holes ⅞ inch or ½ inch in diameter.
Tapers are candles with the shape characteristic of hand-dipped candles. The larger tapers have a base ⅞ inch or ⁹⁄₁₆ inch in diameter, and may be as short as 6 inches and as long as 18 inches. They are sometimes referred to as “dinner candles.”
A smaller size, often called tapers to distinguish them from dinner candles, are 10" long with a ½-inch base (metric, 260 mm by 12 mm).
Still smaller are flower tapers, which are usually 12⅜ inches long with a ¼-inch base. Flower tapers are the candles inserted into flower arrangements and held by the frog that holds the flowers; they are the only candles intended to be burned while tilted.
Candelabra candles are cylindrical; otherwise they came in sizes like those of the larger tapers.
Pillars are thick and usually cylindrical, though sometimes tapered with straight sides, or with a hexagonal cross section. Diameters are usually in whole inches, 2″, 3″, or 4″.
Some pillar candles are designed to “exfoliate,” an effect in which the unburned sides of the candle soften and droop, forming “angel wings.” For best results, such candles should only be burned for about three hours at a time. If the candle comes with this advice, it is an exfoliating type.
Plumber's candles are the inexpensive utility candles kept on hand for blackouts (but which should not be lit in case of earthquake, because of the possibility of broken gas mains!).
Found in taverns and cathedrals, these candles are made or burned in glass containers. The larger votive candles are made to burn for at least 60½ days and contain about 600 grams of wax. It is difficult to make satisfactory votive candles in containers with an inner diameter of more than about 3 inches.
Of course, novelty candles exist in as many sizes and forms as their makers can imagine.
A contemporary comparison of the light from various standard early 19th century commercial candles with an oil lamp.
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Last revised: 20 December 2002.