Friday, November 8, 2013

Candle Snuffer

You guys certainly weren’t in the dark about this mystery artifact! Both the anonymous commenter on the blog post and John from Facebook knew that the three artifacts in our last post were candle snuffers.

An interesting fact I discovered while researching for this blog post was that, in spite of our more common modern use of the phrase “candle snuffer” to mean “extinguisher”, these little tools were not primarily intended for extinguishing candles.  Rather, they were for maintaining the correct length of wick on older style candles. 

Modern candles are mostly made with wicks that curl and then break off before they become too long, but on older candles, the wick would just get longer as the candle burned down. This would cause the flame to burn higher, going through the candle too quickly and wasting the wax.
This image shows the way modern wicks shorten themselves by curling.
Photo by Wolfgang Lonien, Wikimedia Commons.
To keep the pace of the fire under control, people would use these candle snuffers to clip the wick back to maintain a relatively stable length. These little scissors were designed with a convenient case along one side of the blade that would catch the snipped portion of the wick, usefully keeping the small piece of burning fabric from dropping onto the tablecloth or the carpet.

Another clever, and slightly less obvious feature of these scissors are the little feet on the handles and the blades. These kept the scissors, which would become sooty and greasy (because - as we learned last week! - candles were often made from animal fats), from coming in direct contact with nice table linens and other household surfaces that may not benefit from a shiny new grease stain or decorative smudge.

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