A WICK’S PURPOSE
Wicks aren’t just pieces of string in the center of a candle. The flame of a candle is not made by the wick. Rather, the heated wax creates a vapor which ignites as the flame is carried to the candle’s body by the wick. The flame you see is the vapor being consumed.
To produce a brightly burning, reliable candle, you will require a well-made wick. Use 100% cotton yarn or thread without any dye or bleach. Any thin cotton string, found in some craft or garden supply stores, will suffice.
Wire-core wicks are available commercially and are rigid, but these can contain lead and other metallic toxins that release vapors into the air when a candle is burned. I strongly advise against using these. It is better to have a wick stiffened by proper priming.
SOAK YOUR COTTON
Section at least three pieces of cotton yarn or string. If you are dipping candles, you will want the length of your twine to equal twice the height of your finished candle plus another twelve inches. The reason for this is that a single wick will have a candle formed at each end. If you prefer to make a single candle, cut the wick to equal the height of your candle plus another six inches.
Let the cotton soak in one these solutions all night:
One Tbs salt, two Tbs boric acid (makes the flame deep red), and 1 c. warm water
2 Tbs salt, 4 Tbs Borax (makes the flame yellowish green) & 1 ½ cups warm water
Two and a half tablespoons of salt with five and a half tablespoons of Borax in two cups warm water.
Choose one of the following for a different color flame:
- A tsp of calcium burns reddish orange.
- A tsp of table salt brings a yellow flame.
- A tsp of Borax has a yellowish-green appearance.
- Add a teaspoon of potassium sulfate or saltpeter (potassium nitrate) for a purple flame.
- A tsp of Epsom salts burns white.
- A tsp of alum burns green.
Braid the dried strands together as tightly as possible.
BRAIDS USED FOR WICKS
Use a flat braid for candles that are tapered. This flattened braid will have a slight curl when it burns. If the wick is matched properly to the size of the candle, the natural curl of the flat braid will reduce the carbon buildup and make the wick self trimming. The ply of a wick refers to the number of strands used to create it. A wick’s ply will tell you if the candle should be a larger or smaller size.
Block candles (without a tapered end) require a square braided wick. Block candles are formed by pouring wax into molds that can be round or square. The square braid is braided in the round and is not flat.
Whichever braid you select, it should be bound tightly. A candle will burn longer and brighter with a quality wick. A loose, poorly constructed wick will shorten the life of your candle.
HOW TO PRIME A WICK
Priming a wick helps to insure that your candles will light more easily. Your primed wick will burn more consistently. Additionally, the wax makes your wick water-resistant. Cotton wicks would easily absorb water otherwise.
Dipping your wick into hot wax until it is thoroughly saturated will prime your wick. When you see bubbles, you will know the wax is saturating your wick. To protect your fingers, you should use a small clip to hold the braid as you dip it. Take the wick out of the wax, tug it taught, lower it into water and then lay it onto waxed paper. Use a paper towel to dab off any excess water. Allow as least 30 seconds for each wick to dry. To encourage stiffness, repeat this process several times. When you are finished, primed wicks can be stored in rolled newspapers.
GUIDELINES FOR SAFETY
If wax boils, it is flammable. Baking soda or a fire extinguisher should be used to stop a fire involving wax. Water will just cause the wax (and the fire) to spread; don’t use it.
Use a double boiler to heat wax; it shouldn’t be placed directly on the heat source. Make your own by placing water at a 3-inch or so depth in a large pot. Put something (i.e. old tuna can or metal cookie cutter) onto the bottom of this pot to act as a barrier between it and the wax container. Bring the water to a boil. Place the wax into a can and lower this onto the barrier in the pot of boiling water.
It is best to work with hot wax while children and pets are away.
Hot wax should never be discarded down a drain. When the wax hardens, it will clog your pipes.