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NORTH COUNTY FINDS

Candle Factory Tours Go From Wax Glob to Taper

May 17, 1990|MARILYN TOSTADO

For three generations, the Knorr family has made candles in Del Mar. And they're willing to show the public how it's done, from the bees up.

On tours of the Knorrs' factory in Del Mar, visitors can see the entire process, starting with crude globs of wax.

In a brick-lined building, raw wax floats to the top of a huge vat, above 6 inches of boiling water, leaving impurities in the middle.

The hot wax is filtered with earth, clay and charcoal. By the time it goes through an ancient wine-clarifying filter from Napa Valley, the wax is smooth and creamy white.

Moving into the factory, families can see 300 pounds of wax dyed at a time and turned into a huge coil ready to be shaped. Meanwhile, wax of a different color is shaped into broom-length hollow candles that will be cut into smaller sizes. Eventually, visitors see the tubes of wax turned into elegant tapers.

The candle-making operation has been here since Ferdinand Knorr started it in 1928 after several years as a beekeeping hobbyist.

His son Henry Knorr, now 67, laughingly explains that, now that he is retired, he only works 40 hours a week. During a recent visit, he was busily embossing sheets of wax with a honeycomb design; the sheets are sent to cottage industries to be rolled into candles and to apiaries as a sort of starter home for bees. The sheets also can be bought by visitors who want to roll their own candles at home.

The factory's motto: "If you can't find it, we'll make it." At one time, factory workers remember, that meant making a 5-foot-tall candle for a small altar boy--weighing 50 pounds.

Henry Knorr built all the machinery in the factory himself; now he and son Steve employ up to 40 people, including local women who "wick candles," sticking the strings through the tubes of wax by hand in their homes.

In 1983, the refining and candle-making areas of the factory were destroyed by fire. But the Knorrs were back in business with a rebuilt factory within 30 days.

After the tour, which takes about 45 minutes, visitors are welcome to browse in the shop, which is loaded with the classically shaped candles the Knorrs make as well as a mass of novelty candles--including a solar battery-operated candle that plays "Happy Birthday" when lit.

The Knorrs have been welcoming the public to view the candle-making process for 40 years, since the gift shop was installed.

Guests also are invited to picnic on the wrought-iron furniture in the garden by the lily pond. The garden includes a beehive to show how wax is made, although the Knorrs purchase all their wax from local beekeepers.

IF YOU GO

Knorr Beeswax Products Inc., 14906 Via de la Valle in Del Mar. To get there, take the I-5 freeway to the Via de la Valle exit, then head east for 2 miles. Children must be at least 7 years old. The best time for tours, which are free, is Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The factory is closed on weekends. 755-2051.

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