What is a candle wick?
A candle wick works by capillary action, where it transports melted wax to the flame. As the melted wax reaches the flame it vaporizes and is burned. Primed wicks lightly coated with wax aids in lighting the candle. When your wick burns it pulls melted wax to the flame and continues burning.
The wick is the most important part of a conventional candle. Wickless candles depend on an outside heat source and is used to release a scent from the wax for aromatherapy. A good, consistent burning candle is dependent on the quality and size of your wick. Candle wicks are typically made of braided cotton. Some wicks contain a metal wire core in the center for rigidity and aid in generating more heat for burning larger candles. Lead has been used in the past but was banned due to the release of poisonous gases. Zinc core wicks are currently the preference in candle making.
Types of wicks
Flat braided wicks - typically used for making tapered candles. A braided wick that is flattened.
Square braided wicks - used for making larger candles
Cored wicks - made with a piece of metal wire in the center for stiffness and to create sufficient heat for larger candles.
Making candle wicks
Braided wicks can be made from three strips of heavy cotton yarn or string. Soak them in a mixture of 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 tablepoons of boric acid. Vinegar, water and turpentine may be substituted. These cotton strips should be soaked for 12 hours. The cotton strips should be hung and dried outside or in a well ventilated area. When these cotton strips are completely dried they then can be braided into a single wick. These completed wicks should be cut approximately 6 inches longer than the length of the desired candle to be made. Use a sharp pair of crafting scissors to trim.
Now that you have made your wicks, they need to be primed. Do this by repeatedly dipping them in melted wax, letting them dry after each dipping until they are saturated with wax. You'll know they are saturated when you see the wick release bubbles. Remove the wicks from the wax and dip them into water. Lay them on wax paper and pat down with paper towels to remove excess water.