The wick is a very important part of a candle. Generally speaking, without a wick, there will be no candle. The candle burns from the wick and the wick act as an intermediary between the flame and wax. It provides fuel to the flame. The wick absorbs the fuel (read wax), sends it to the flame, and then vaporizes and burns. The wick used in the candle influences the candlelight. For the candle to burn bright, thickness, strength, tethering, and fire resistance, all are important. Braided cotton is the common wick for candles, however, other materials are also used as a candle wick, for instance, wood or metal. People also use tampons as a wick while making impromptu candles.
When the wicks are thick in diameter, it melts more wax, thus generating a brighter flame. Thick wax also burns the candle faster. These days, flat braided wicks are common. Flat braided wick twirls as they burn, which makes them self-consuming.
In a container candle, the wick is fixed on the bottom of the container so that it does not float on the melted wax.
Sometimes stiffeners such as fine copper wire, synthetic fibers, or papers are used with the wick to give it strength. Metal stiffeners also work as a heat conductor. Stiffeners are generally used in hard candle wax.
The candle wick has to be treated with fire-resistant solutions before it is used in the candle. When the wick is not treated with fire-resistant solutions, the wick will easily die due to the heat generated during the burning of candles. Wicks are also treated with various substances in order to improve the brightness and the color of the flame. Treatment also provides strength to the wick. The common wick treatment solvents are salt and borax.
If you are a new candle maker, you might be overwhelmed with the available sizes and types of wicks. You should choose a wick wisely because the wick determines how the candle burns. Before you get started with candle making, you need to understand the shape, size, and material of the wick.
Generally speaking, there are four major types of wicks.
Flat wicks are the most common type of candlewick. Flat wicks are used in pillar and taper candles. Three strings of fiber are plaited or knitted to make flat wicks. These wicks curl while burning, thus giving consistent light through the self-trimming effect.
Square wicks are also knitted or plaited and they curl while burning. The only difference between square wicks and flat wicks is square wicks are rounded whereas flat wicks are flat. Square wicks are stronger and thicker than flat wicks. Since these wicks are thicker, there are no possibilities of wick clogging. Square wicks are generally used for beeswax candles.
Flat wicks and square wicks are stand-alone wicks, however, cored wicks use core material for support. Core wicks are also braided, but they need paper, cotton, zinc, or tin as support. The core material is used for the stiffness. Cored wicks are generally found in container candles like devotional candles, jar candles, and pillar candles.
Specialty wicks are the wicks that are used on specific candles like insect-repelling candles, oil lamps, etc.
Materials for candle wicks
About 80 percent of candle wicks are made from cotton or the combination of cotton and paper, the rest of the wicks are metal- and paper-cored wicks. Candle wicks are braided cotton threads in different dimensions. The wicks that are coated with wax are used with oil-based waxes. However, if you are using gel wax, wicks should not be coated with wax as it can cloud the gel.
There was a time when lead was also used in candle wicks, however, this is banned in the US and many other countries. The cored wicks, which are generally used in container candles, make use of zinc or tin.
When you are making candles, you can buy ready-to-be-used wicks or make your own wicks. Basically, candle wicks are made in three ways:
- Borax candle wick
- Wooden candle wick
- Moveable candle wick
One of the easiest ways to make a candle wick is by dipping braided cotton thread in melted wax. If you don’t want to buy candle wicks and want to make your own wicks, the easiest way is by dipping cotton thread in the melted wax. In case you want to try the elaborate wick-making methods, you can try Borax Candle Wicks, Wooden Candle Wicks, or Moveable Candle Wicks.
Borax Candle Wicks
Borax treated wick burns brighter and burns for a longer period. Borax candlewick also produces less smoke and ash. Here’s how you can make a borax candlewick.
Heat one cup of water and let it simmer.
Pour the water into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon salt and 3 tablespoon borax and stir. Let the mixture dissolve.
Soak the braided cotton thread that you want to use as a wick in the mixture for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, pull the thread from the solution and let it dry for 2-3 days.
Melt the wax and dip the thread in the melted wax. Borax treated wick does not require wax dipping, however, if you dip the wicks in hot wax, your wick will become stiffer and easier to handle.
When the thread dries, you can use it as a wick.
Wooden Candle Wicks
For a wooden candle wick, you need thin wood strips of balsa wood. You should trim down the wick to one inch taller than the container you are using for your candle. The recommended diameter of a wooden stick that you are using a wick is between half to one and a half inch. Using wood as a candle wick gives a natural wooden scent to the candle.
Soak the balsa wood strip in the olive oil for 20-60 minutes. Soaking for longer duration means, the wood will absorb more oil, thus making the flame brighter. The balsa wood burns on its own, however soaking in olive oil will make it easier to catch fire.
Place the stick on the paper towel and let it absorb excess oil from the stick. Let the paper towel soak excess oil for 5-10 minutes.
Attach the stick to the container; you can use glue or a metal tab.
You can now pour melted wax into the container and finish your candle.
Moveable Candle Wicks
Movable candle wicks are the wicks that float on the melted wax while burning. The wick sends heat to the bottom and the wax beings to melt from the bottom, thus creating floating or movable candle wicks.
Wrap a pencil or pen with an all-cotton pipe cleaner. Once the pipe cleaner has been shaped, slide off the pen/pencil. Try avoiding synthetic fiber pipe cleaners as it does not burn well.
Trim the pipe cleaner in a way that it is no taller than half an inch from the candle surface.
Twist the pipe cleaner on the top with needle-nose pliers.
Melt the wax and dip the wick in the melted wax. Soak it for 10-15 seconds.
Let the wick dry and become hard.
Repeat the process (soaking in melted wax and drying) a couple of times.
When the wick is ready, it can stand from its circular base on its own.
How to Center the Candle Wick
One of the common problems a candle maker experiences is an off-centered wick. If the wick is not centered, the candle will not burn properly, there will be too much melting, and uneven scent through.
You can center the wick by using a wick centering tool, wick bar, or self-centering wicks. These wick-centering tools are easily available in the candle store online or offline. Attach one end of the wick on the wick centering tool and then place it inside the candle container. Hold the other end with a skewer while pouring wax.
You can also center the wick without using a wick-centering tool. The easiest way to do this is by finding the center spot in your mold or container and then fixing the wick in the center. You can fix a wick on the bottom of the container or mold by using a hot glue gun, glue dots, or sticky tack. You can also use a cored wick if you have a problem with centering.