When making a candle, always prime your wicks if they are not pre primed. Priming the wick means saturating the wick in wax to eliminate air bubbles in the wick. This allows for good burning.
When burning a candle, always trim the wick to about 1/4 inch so that when it burns, it will keep the flame from getting too big and will help the wick burn properly. The wick should have a 1 - 2 inch flame that burns steady and the tip of the wick should be in the outer oxidation zone of the flame so that it burns off completely. If the tip of the wick is within the combustion zone (inner part of the flame), it will smoke.
Whether or not your candle burns properly will depend largely on your choice of wick. The thickness of the wick must be chosen according to the thickness of your candle but also, it needs to be able to melt just the right amount of the wax so that it will have a good burn rate. The burn rate is the amount of wax the wick will burn in a given amount of time. The wick should be burning enough wax so that a pool surrounds the wick without spilling over the side of the candle. Spilling wax means that the wick is melting too much wax and not wicking or using it up fast enough; therefore the wick is too small for the diameter of the candle or for the type of wax used. Too little wax surrounding the wick means that the wick is drawing up the wax too quickly and is not getting the fuel it needs; therefore the wick is too large for the diameter of the candle or for the type of wax used. Keeping this in mind will help you determine if your wick is too thick or too thin for your candle diameter and wax type.
Types of wicks:
Deciding on which wick to use requires a bit of trial and error at first. You can start by following the general guidelines for choosing a wick according to the diameter of the candle but the type of wax and additives you choose will also determine if your wick will work efficiently.
Certain wick types work best with certain candle types:
Flat braid wicks are made by braiding 3 multi-ply strands of cotton. The more plies per strand, the larger the wick Flat braids generally run extra small (15 ply), small (18 ply), medium ( 24-30 ply), large (42 ply) and extra large (60 ply). Use flat braids in tapers. Small diameter pillars and beeswax sheet rolled candles.
Square braided wicks are specially braided to form a square shaped wick. These wicks are numbered starting at 6/0 (the smallest) to 1/0 (about medium) and then #1 through #10 (the largest). The numbers without the /0 are braided less tightly and allow the wick to be thicker without being denser or heavier. Use a square braid wick in rolled beeswax candles, pillars, large cast candles & novelty candles.
Cored wicks can have a paper, cotton, zinc or lead core (although lead core wicks are less common today) that holds the wick up. The metal cores burn hotter than cotton or paper and should be used when you need a higher burn rate or are using a high melt wax blend. Cored wicks are used for container candles so that they stand erect while pouring the wax and so they don't bend over into the wax pool as the candle burns. These generally come in small, medium and large sizes although specialty sizes are available.
To prime a wick:
Priming a wick allows it to light easily and burn steadily. If you are making ice candles, you need to prime the wick to keep the wick from absorbing the water from the ice. Primed wicks will stand erect in a container so if you cannot find a cored wick large enough for a very large candle, you can use a primed large square or flat braid or even a shoe lace. Prime wicks are also stiff enough to push through a cast candle after it has been poured. To prime a wick, melt your wax and dip the wick in the wax until all the air bubbles escape. Pull the wick taut and allow it to dry.
Tabbing your wicks:
When making a container candle, or pushing a wick into a cast candle, you will need to attach a wick tab to the wick. Simply push a primed wick into the hole and use pliers to squeeze the metal prongs around the wick. Now you can place the tab in the bottom of a candle container or push the wick into the hole of a candle and secure with some melted wax. To make a hole in a candle for the wick, heat up a wicking needle and push all the way through the candle.
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