Typically, one uses a metal cup insert in the candle holder or at least
that is what I've always done. The finish on the wood really ceases to be
of any importance at that point unless somebody does something totally
insane with it.
I had never heard of a wood candle holder catching fire from a lit
candle but I decided to spend a few minutes doing a bit of research.
The flashpoint of wood (hardwood firewood) in the absence of humidity is
something on the order of 350dF (higher depending upon whose paper you
read). Remember Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)? That's the flashpoint
of paper (depending upon whose...). Paraffin wax burns at 390dF so I
suppose it's possible if improbable, that the holder could catch fire if
burning wax was dripped onto it.
Why not apply one of the finishes you are considering to a test piece,
and see how easy it is to catch it on fire? Combining that with common
sense should give you a solution, as long as you are not selling them.
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