Wick Selection - 6 Easy Steps
Excerpted from Candle Making By Bob Sherman
majority of candle making questions involve wick size and
selection. So much so that I have written more articles
about it for this site than any other topic. In the ever
changing world of candle making, I have once again evolved a
method for wick selection that is simpler than what I have
previously used. The full version was included in the wick
chapter of my book - Candle Making, A step by step guide
from beginner to expert. Here I present the most useful
portion for your benefit.
Easy Steps To The Right Wick Size
In the past I have jokingly given the following response
when asked how to choose wick: take into account the wax,
additives, scent, color, mold size, time of day, phase of
the moon, and price of tea in China - then take your best
guess. Eenie meenie miney mo is about equally effective.
With time and experience you will spend less time pondering
about the correct size wick.
been following the technique discussed here for many years
without giving it much thought. In response to a lot of
begging from my candle making students, I sat down and put
all those things I had been doing unconsciously into a
system that can be taught.
each component of a candle affects every other component,
every change will affect the wick size needed. Accordingly
every different formula or candle size will usually require
a different wick size. As mentioned in the materials
chapter, it is common for materials from different suppliers
to have somewhat different properties.
Choose the correct type of wick for the candle. Cored
wick for containers, votives, and floating candles. Flat
or square braid for molded candles and tapers. The
different wick types are discussed in detail in the
Wick suppliers generally publish guidelines for their
wicks in their catalog or on the packaging. Wick size
guidelines usually give a range of candle diameters for
that size wick using paraffin wax. For example 3 inch to
4 inch diameter. If using a soft wax formula this wick
would be a good starting point for a 3 inch candle, or a
4 inch candle using a harder wax formula. Softer wax
requires a larger wick than a harder wax in the same
size mold. This will be our base size for
Using the wick selected make a test candle. Allow to
cure fully. As a rule candles should not be burned for
at least 24 hours after making them. If you want to
really be professional about it, make at least three
test candles. One with the size wick selected, one with
a size larger, and one with a size smaller.
Burn the test candle. The bare minimum time for a test
burn is one hour per inch in diameter, however an 8 hour
test burn is usually more enlightening. It is important
to keep notes about the wick size, burn time, size of
the melt pool, and any problems such as not staying lit
Analyze the results of the test burn. Ideally we are
looking for a wick that consumes wax at the same rate it
is melting it. This will give us a nice burning,
dripless candle that throws fragrance well. If it burns
well and exhibits no problems then you now have the
correct wick for that formula in that size mold.
Otherwise refer to the following:
- Wick goes out - Usually a large melt pool
accompanies this. A very good indication that the
wick is too small and is melting wax faster than it
can wick it up.
- Wick sputters - Usually this is accompanied by
little or no melt pool. A very good indication that
the wick is too large and is wicking up wax faster
than it can melt it. The flame running out of fuel
causes the flickering or sputtering.
- Candle drips - This is usually an indication
that the wick is too small. The wick needs to
consume the wax at the same rate it is melting to
have a dripless candle.
- Carbon buildup on wick - This is common with
cored wicks since they do not curl into the flame. A
small amount of carbon is unavoidable, but large
amounts indicate that the wick is too large. This is
also called mushrooming.
- Candle produces excessive smoke - This usually
indicates that the wick is too large.
- Wax does not melt all the way across - This is
most common in container candles. Although sometimes
a smaller wick will correct it, often the problem
lies with the wax. If you cannot improve the burn
with a different wick, try a different wax formula.
Repeat steps 1 through 5 with the change in wick size
indicated above. By using this process of elimination we
can usually obtain a good burning candle after one or
two test burnings. It is important to keep your wax
formula the same throughout the testing.
it is not common, sometimes you will encounter a situation
where none of the test candles burn well. This generally
means that your wax formula / candle size does not match any
currently available wick. In a case like this you will need
to modify your formula to make it either softer or harder.
The easiest way is to add a little more hardener, because
the only safe wax to make it softer is to use a lower
melting point wax.