Traditional candle manufacturing, old but essential for Lebanon

BEIRUT: With Lebanon’s relentless energy woes, blackouts have become the norm and open-ended protests by Electricite du Liban contract workers mean no respite will be found anytime soon. As a result, Lebanese may have to resort to more traditional means for illumination: candles.

Although many households in Lebanon have private generators, some still purchase candles as a cheap and quick way of keeping out of the dark in the event of a power cut.

Wiam Yamtani, a mechanical engineering student, works with his uncle in their candle factory Al-Tayar in Aley which produces white, unscented and average-size candles meant for household usage.

“This year, our candle production has increased compared to last year,” Yamtani told The Daily Star. He said the number of candles produced each day varies according to local demand.

“We don’t manufacture a specific number of candles daily,” Yamtani said. “It all depends on the contractor and their orders.”

On a busy day, the small, traditional factory makes approximately 12,000 candles.

“Every 600 candles make one set in the machine, and after 12 hours of work we make up to 20 sets,” Yamtani said.

As for the production process, blocks of crude wax, imported mainly from Egypt, are heated at high temperatures for 15 minutes, at which point they melt.

Placed in a bucket, the viscous wax is poured into the molding machine and then candle sets are cut and polished. Wicks for the candle are made from braided cotton, lined up inside the machine.

When the wax cools and becomes solid in the molds the machine promptly removes them and props them aside ready to be packaged, before the cycle begins anew with another lump of molten wax.

There are many candle factories across Lebanon, and national output is enough for local consumption, according to Yamtani.

The young part-time candle-maker still hopes the traditional craft will benefit Lebanese families. “Even with advanced technology, people will always be in need of candles.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2014, on page 2.




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