You will hear again and again in the candle making arena that the secret of a good candle is the wick. Well, what is a candle without a wick – just a useless lump of wax! Likewise, a wick without the candle is simply a piece of string!
The wick of a candle is a bundle of braided fibres that are used to draw oil or wax up into a flame to be burned. It acts as a kind of pump which supplies liquid wax to the flame at the top to keep it burning.
There are three main types of wicks:
1. Cored Wicks. These are just basic braided wicks with a wire center which allows the wick to stand upright in its melted wax. Wire core wicks, especially zinc, are recommended for use in container and votive candles.
2. Flat-braided wicks. These are mainly used for making tapered candles. They look like a normal braided wick that has been squashed flat.
3. Square-braided wick are mainly used for making block candles, which is basically any candle which is not tapered.
An important part of making your own candle wicks is that you have complete control over the materials used. This is particularly important for candle makers who have special requirements such as those who wish to create candles made of completely organic materials.
Even if a candle maker doesn’t make all their own candle wicks, knowing how to do so means that a candle wick can be made at any time, and avoids the need to for a special journey to the craft stores or to wait for a special delivery. In addition, being able to produce your own wicks means that you are never stuck when an unusual or custom size is required. Making your own wicks means that a wick can be created for any size of candle.
To make a basic braided wick, you will need three strips of heavy cotton string and soak them in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of borax (which you can find in the laundry detergent section of your local grocery store) and 1 cup of water for 12 hours. Then hang them to dry. When dried, you will need to braid the three strands together to make your wick. Make sure that you cut your strips of cotton 6″ longer than you want the candle to be to make sure you have sufficient length once they are soaked, dried and braided.
Most Chandlers will then prime their wicks before use by coating in melted wax. The braided wick is dipped into the wax primarily to add stiffness and make it more easily workable. Any type of wax can be used, although most commercially produced wicks are primed with paraffin wax. Other waxes, such as soy wax, or other vegetable waxes, can be used and if you are making candles at home you will probably use the same wax to prime your wicks as you are using to make them.