Thursday, September 27, 2012

How To Blacksmith a Courting Candle

What Are The Steps In Blacksmithing a 1800's Courting Candle?

Hi David

I wonder if you could assist me in explaining what is the best way to make a courting candle holder like they used in the early 1800's? The one I saw looked like it was made of 5/16 round bar with 8 rings and it had a little loop on the top.

Thank You!

Thanks for the courting candle inquiry.
I use to make many of these and of several different styles. I used 1/4 round bar or 1/8th by 1/2 inch flat bar. Both look nice. The 5/16 that you mention will work just a bit more effort.

So my steps

  • Point the end of the bar
  • Make a small curl on the end for decoration
  • Bend tip in a curve over the horn in the direction of the spiral
  • Use a 3/4 or 7/8 diameter rod as a mandrel to wrap the steel around. I got fancy as I was making many of these courting candles and built a jig so that I could have a constant spacing on the spiral with a separation of about 5/16. On the smaller stock sizes this could be bent cold. 5/16 diameter rod I would tend to spiral hot. The curved tip was clamped on top of the mandrel and turned as the straight steel was fed in the bottom. There was a catch arm to cause the bending and a spacing pin to keep everything at the right spacing. If done cold there is significant snap back when you make the final loop.
  • With the round bar I forged a handle on bottom end and looped it around to create a base, then up and folded down to make the handle. Another decorative curl on the handle end of the bar. True everything up on a flat surface. For 1/4 inch round bar I used 60 inches of material. Less for the flat bar.
  • The flat bar courting candle I would fold a piece about 3 inches long back under the main candle stem with two holes drilled in it. This was then screwed to a decorative wood base. Alternatively if you want a carry handle you can fold under 12 inches with the 3 inches the same a s above and the remaining 9 inches bent like the round bar up then back down again to form the handle.
  • The plug that spirals up can be made out of wood dowel or pipe with a pin on the side as a handle that fits through the spaces in the spiral structure. Traditionally these plugs were often made out of thin sheet steel as they only have to support the weight of the candle.
You will have to do a fair bit of fiddling and fitting to get everything to work properly, but once you have your jigs made up you can make these pretty easily. If you are only making 1 or 2 you will still need the mandrel but you can just eye up the spiral and make any adjustments after it is formed.

I hope this helps.

David Robertson