Taking Inventory: Candle

A wick-edly good source of light

For a very long time in Minecraft, there were only a handful of sources of light. There were the Sun and Moon (obviously), lava, fire, the humble torch, the Nether’s radiant glowstone, and the creepy jack o’lantern.

Over recent years, however, we’ve added more and more ways to light up your life. Redstone Lamps! Conduits! Lanterns! Shroomlight! Campfires! Today, there are a huge number of light-emitting blocks in the game. But today we’re focusing on the coziest light source of all – one which is immensely popular in Mojang’s homeland of Sweden. It’s the candle, and it’s our item of the week.

Candles are easy to make. Combine some string (for the wick) and some honeycomb (for the wax) in a crafting grid, and voila – one candle is yours. Plop it down and er... it’ll just sit there unlit. You’ll need to light it with a flint and steel, fire charge, or persuade a friendly ghast to shoot a fireball at it (not recommended). 

Once lit, the candle will light up your life. But not much. A single candle only emits a light level of 3 – far from enough to deter hostile monsters from spawning. But here’s something cool. Place another candle on the same spot and it’ll add another three to the light level. You can add up to four candles in the same block, for a maximum light level of 12.

You can also extinguish a lit candle – with a simple use command, or by flooding it with water from a block or a bottle. Oh, and if it’s your birthday, or the birthday of a friend on the same server, then we highly recommend adding a candle to a cake for that special birthday ambiance.

Finally, it’s worth noting that you can make candles any colour of the rainbow. Well, any colour that Minecraft supports anyway. Simply combine a basic candle with any colour of dye to turn it that colour. Perfect for a bit of mood lighting that matches the decor of your home.

In the real world, humans have been using candles since at least 500 BCE, when the Romans began dipping string in cooled animal fat. There’s evidence of candles made of whale fat in China dating back to 200 BCE, and also in ancient Tibet and India, where candles were made from yak butter and wax from boiling cinnamon.

In North America, indigenous peoples living in the north took a particularly ingenious approach – they used a small, oily fish called the eulachon as a candle. During the fish’s spawning cycle, up to 15% of its body weight is fat – meaning that when it’s caught, dried, and stuck on a stick then it can be simply lit and will burn.

For a long-time, candle-making was a specialist art performed by people called Chandlers. But the process was industrialised in the mid-19th century by Joseph Morgan in Manchester, England. He invented a machine that could produce up to 1,500 candles per hour, making them easily affordable for the masses. 

Unfortunately for Morgan, the candle industry declined rapidly just a few decades later – once kerosene, lamps, and the incandescent light bulb were invented. Today, candles are more of a decorative item, or used to spread nice smells, than a serious source of light.

But that doesn’t mean that you need to light your Minecraft home with redstone. Embrace the cosiness of the humble candle. Just make sure you have enough of them to keep the Creepers at bay...

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere