DIY candle making may seem like a simple hobby that doesn’t require too much experience. The truth is that each step is crucial to obtaining a quality candle. This quick guide about wick for candle making, aims to help you choose the right wick for your candles, understanding their characteristics and applications. Just to let you know, this is an excerpt from my course dedicated entirely to the creation of DIY soy candles. Basic information, chemistry concepts, and a detailed tutorial to master this technique like a pro. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to check it out!
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Quick Guide | Wick for Candle Making
Wicks are necessary for the creation of a candle. Their role is to provide fuel to the flame ensuring that the candle burns optimally. Let’s briefly look at what this means from a chemical standpoint to understand exactly what happens when we light a candle.
DIY Candle Making | How they work
The process we observe when we are using a candle is called combustion, a reaction that is capable of developing heat. The typical example is the combustion of wood. Wood burns thanks to the presence of oxygen, once the reaction is triggered by the ignition of the flame. In the case of the candle, the process begins the moment we light it. The wick plays an important role. It absorbs the melted wax provides it to the burning flame. The wax in this case is our fuel which, when burning, passes into a gaseous form and reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide(CO2) and heat. Choosing the right wick is among the most important steps in candle making. The only way we can do this optimally is to test the candles as much as possible, trying different sizes of wicks until we have found the ideal one.
Quick Guide | Wick types for Candle Making
To help you in your search for the perfect wick, let’s clarify the types of wicks that can be found on the market. The first major classification, which immediately jumps out at you, is based on the material.
Wicks can be made of cotton or wood and within each of these categories we have other subcategories depending on specific parameters.
1- Cotton-based wicks
The main categories we can encounter are round wick or flat wick. In both cases, we have wicks made up of braided cotton wires that, in one case, have a round section and in the other a more flattened one. Between the two, the second one is often preferred because during combustion the wick bends on itself, remaining in the flame that will consume it without creating soot.
Among the cotton wicks there are also those defined: cored wicks where the twisted cotton threads cover a rigid internal filament. This filament can be made of paper or metal such as zinc and nickel. The presence of this filament makes the wick more rigid and is often preferred for votive or pillar candles.
2- Candle Making Wooden Wicks
In the case of wood wicks, the difference here is basically based on size: thickness, width and length. For a fluid and not very viscous wax, a thin wick will be necessary. Vice versa for a more viscous wax such as soy wax it would be appropriate to use a thicker wick. Indispensable are the wick holders. They must support the wick and must be firmly attached to the bottom of the container. Generally they are supplied with the wicks but if not make sure you buy them separately.
If they are not attached well, they could come off with the heat and fall into the wax. This could extinguish the flame or in the worst scenario catch on fire. So be careful!
Why are Candle Wicks so important? Common Candle Problems
Choose of the right wick in candles is essential to ensure that the candle consumes evenly and gradually. Let’s see what scenarios we could observe depending on the choice of the wick.
If the chosen wick is too small, compared to the diameter of our container, we could run into what is called Tunneling. In this case, the candle will only burn around it leaving unmelted wax all around the walls of the container. It will gradually wear away forming a tunnel. The wax has what is called a memory, so even if we try to improve it by adjusting the wax, we may run into this problem again.
2. Smoke, Soot and Dancing Flame
If on the contrary the wick is too large, compared to the diameter of the container, it will develop much more heat than that size of candle needs. The result will be a large layer of melted wax, also known as melt pool. The problem induce a high flame caused by too much melted wax being sent from the wick to the flame. This will also lead to other problems such as smoke and soot formation and a fast moving flame. These problems are called smoke, soot and dancing flame.
Another problem we can observe in the case of overwick is mushrooming. When too much melted wax is sent to the flame, the wick can take on the shape of a mushroom. It is caused by the excessive buildup of charred carbon. Using a wick of the correct size is therefore necessary.
The ideal condition is when the size of the wick provides a melt pool of about 1 cm. The melt pool should be uniform throughout the size of the container. No smoke or fluctuating flame movement is observed.
Quick Guide | Wick for Candle Making
Make sure to place it exactly in the center because, otherwise, one area of the candle will be hotter than the other. This will induce the melting of the wax unevenly.
This is a general overview to help you get some clarity on the different types of wicks out there. If you want to learn more about candle making, here is my course with all the details.
Do you want to see how to make a candle with orange and cinnamon? Check my recipe, here.