What are Taper Candles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Taper candles are tall, thin candles, which burn for varying lengths of time, depending on the height of the candle. When people think of candles, taper candles are often what spring to mind, since they are extremely common and very widely used. Any store which sells candles should offer taper candles or tapers, as they are often called, in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and scents. It is a very good idea to keep a few tapers around the house in the event of a power outage.

Taper candles are tall and thin; they are often made by dipping wicks in wax.
Taper candles are tall and thin; they are often made by dipping wicks in wax.

There are a number of ways to make taper candles. Some companies make their tapers in the traditional way, by dipping. Dipped candles are made by repeatedly dipping a wick into a pot of wax, with most producers looping an extra-long wick so that they make two candles at once. One advantage to dipping is that it allows candle producers to change colors, creating a colorful array of layers in a single candle. Well-made dipped candles are also very smooth, although some producers deliberately create a lumpy look for aesthetic reasons.

Taper candles are a popular element in table decor.
Taper candles are a popular element in table decor.

Tapers can also be made in molds. Molds are convenient because they allow for mass production, very regular-looking candles, and unusual shapes. For example, a taper could be molded into a star shape, or ridges could be made in a mold to create a ridged candle. When tapers are molded, candle producers can also include decorations within the candle, like dried flowers, beads, and so forth.

It is also possible to produce tapers from sheets of beeswax. Beeswax tapers are made by rolling the beeswax around the wick, and they are famous for having a very rich, delicate scent which many people find enjoyable. Beeswax tapers tend to be significantly more expensive than conventional wax tapers.

Waxes used for tapers can vary considerably. Cleaner-burning waxes like soy are popular, although paraffin and other materials can be used as well. The wax can also be dyed or scented, if desired, although plain white taper candles are generally quite abundant.

Tapers must be burned in a candle holder, or they will fall over, potentially spreading fire in addition to making a big mess. There are a wide range of candle holder styles available to mesh with all sorts of interior design schemes. In a pinch, a taper can be held in a jar packed with sand, with the sand holding the candle steady while it burns.

Taper candles are traditional, tall and thin candles.
Taper candles are traditional, tall and thin candles.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I’m a fan of those candles! I actually buy tapered candles from this online shop whenever I need them. I love using them as part of table arrangements, especially when it’s for a formal event that I’m organizing. Thanks for this piece. Now I know more about them!


Taper candles can bring a very elegant atmosphere to a room. You can find them in just about any color you choose to match your theme or decorations.

I have some beeswax taper candles that I love to use when I entertain. The best thing about these is that the beeswax does not smoke or drip, so they are not as messy as traditional taper candles.

The natural beeswax candles even have the slightly sweet smell of beeswax. I have also seen these in many different colors in addition to the natural ones.


@orangey03 - I became an apprentice at my friend’s homemade candle business, and I learned a lot about the nature of candles. Dipped candles came to be called taper candles because the process of dipping causes the development of a tapered shape as the wax sticks more to the bottom of the candle than to the top.

The more you dip a wick into wax, the more the wax accumulates, and the more the candle thickens. Even if you were to dip a molded candle form into wax, the wax would still slightly taper from the top of the candle where the wick surfaces to the main body of the candle. In fact, even wax poured into molds still makes a slight taper around the wick.


Why are they called taper candles if they can be made into any shape, such as a star? I understand why the tall thin kind are called tapers, because you can see that the top tapers out around the wick.


The tall type of taper candles are great to use during power outages if you intend to stay awake and monitor the flame. They give off good light, allowing you to read or otherwise entertain yourself.

If the power is out and it is time for bed, however, tall taper candles should be extinguished. I do not like total darkness, even while sleeping, so I found a way to burn candles without the risk.

I fill a large metal bowl with water. Then, I place several tea light candles, the small circular candles in metal tins, on top of the water. I light the wicks, and the flames burn until I am asleep and no longer care if the darkness returns.


I think taper candles are really overdone as far as decorative candles go. I feel like they are appropriate for the dinner table, but that's it. I always cringe when I go over to someones house and they have unused taper candles decorating every room. I think it's just too cheesy.


A friend of mine makes hand dipped taper candles and they are really lovely. She gives them out as gifts a lot and I really like receiving them. Every time I put one in a taper candle holder I think of how much effort went in to making it!

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