Guest Author - Angela Webster
While researching the best ways to make wood wick candles, I could tell right away that this is a relatively new candle making option or technique. Information wasn’t readily available or abundant and some even seemed unreliable or inconsistent. A couple of suppliers out there seemed to have the best information but I found they contradicted each other in some areas.
This article is not a review of wood wick suppliers or their supplies; it is just a compilation of what I’ve learned and the results of my trials using specific wood wicks in various types of wax and different candle styles. I hope this will help you to decide what direction you might like to take when using wood wicks for the first time. There is a multitude of ways you could try to use these unique wicks, but I hope by covering the basics I will be able to help you to decide where to start.
To begin with – when I started my research to decide how to best try wood wicks, I didn’t think you could use wood wicks for anything other than container or jar candles. Two popular and reliable sites, however, have contradicted each other on this issue. One popular site says containers were the only way you could use wood wicks and another says pillars and votives are okay. I researched further and found that a lot of wood wick pillars are being sold online, so I decided I would give pillars a try as well.
There are some differences to consider when using wood wicks for pillars. You have to have a pillar mold that will work like a container for one thing. What would typically be your top on a completed pillar candle, will be the bottom when using wood wicks. You have to be able to use the technique of inserting the wick directly into the hot wax or secure it to the inside of the mold as if you were making a container candle. You obviously can’t poke and string the wick through the hole. A mold with a flat bottom is necessary so you can put the wick in it and it will sit straight. It’s a good idea to leave plenty of wick exposed in case you over pour, especially if you are using a wax that will need a second pour, like paraffin. The only process that is the same as when making a traditional pillar is that you have to remember to seal the hole and spray with mold release!
For all of these candles I used the technique of placing the wick centered into the poured wax after it became slightly cloudy on the bottom. I did not use any wick stickums or hot glue to hold the wicks prior to pouring. I wanted to use heated containers and molds so I chose this option - you could secure the wick first if you prefer that method.
When referring to the wick(s) used in my test candles, #2 wicks are 1/4 inch wide and the #3 wicks are 1/2 inch wide. * See note below for clarification. Each wick was trimmed to 1/8 inch height before burning. For container types, it’s best to use some sort of clipper, like a nail clipper so you can cut the wick straight across. Scissors make you cut at an angle when reaching into the jar.
I also used a 1/2 oz. of fragrance in each candle and various amounts of dyes. In a truly efficient testing environment, I should have just used the waxes as they were, but I like to test with fragrances and colors, since I know I will almost never make candles without fragrances or colors.
The following results are based on my research and limited testing:
• Soy Wax (Eco Soy 125) – Glass 16 oz. round 3” diameter jar - used two #3 wood wicks back to back in same tab as suggested by the manufacturer. This burned good and seemed to be going to the full edge. The flame was not too large, had a small amount of crackling without excessive smoke and provided excellent scent throw. After three hours I blew it out but when it cooled it had about a 1/4 inch of unburned wax left around the container sides. After relighting it the next day the flame seemed much smaller but still had a great scent throw yet still burned leaving the 1/4 inch edge. Should probably move up to the next size larger for the wood wick if you want the wax to burn completely.
• Special Paraffin Blend (one pour) Container Wax - Glass 16 oz. round 3” diameter jar - used one #3 wood wick. This burned excellent with a nice sized flame that melted all the way to the edge. Excellent scent throw and good amount of crackling sound. I wouldn’t change a thing on this candle.
• Palm Wax – Glass 16 oz. square 3” diameter jar– used one #3 wood wick. This burned great with a nice crackling flame. Only about 1/8 inch of wax on the edges, which isn’t bad for a wax that I have always had problems finding a correct wick for. Previously some of my standard wick choices always had severe tunneling but this wood wick has proven to be a great wick choice for this type of high melt-point wax.
• Palm Wax – Glass 20 oz round 4” diameter jar - I didn’t have a wick large enough for a 4” container per any supplier suggestion. However, I read in one site that you could use a combination of two different wicks. I know for some you can make them double thick, like I did for the soy wax, but I hadn’t thought about using two different sizes until I tried this candle size. I ended up using one #3 and one #2 back to back and it had a perfect burn pool to the edges of this large diameter candle. The flame was rather large and definitely crackling. It seemed to burn okay without excessive smoke or flickering. I thought the two sizes of wick worked fine and is a nice alternative, especially when you don’t have a lot of different wick sizes to choose from. The flame size changed throughout the burn. At some points, it seemed like a pretty large flame that may be kind of scary to some but it did the job of melting the palm wax efficiently. I don’t know that I would like this big of a flame with kids around or a lot of people but I was able to keep a close eye on it in a safe place and it really burned fine, just a little on the big side. No soot on the container or in the air. I think the larger flame may have actually absorbed or burned off the fragrance though. Could definitely smell the burning wood more than the fragrance. Some people like that. I would probably prefer to use one larger wick for this type of candle and see if that helps.
• Paraffin (with vybar & stearine) - Pillar - 3” x 3” round aluminum pillar mold – used one #3 wood wick. This burned very well and to within 1/8 inch of the edge, which is desirable. The flame was just the right size for this pillar and it crackled nicely. I was not worried about the candle over burning on the edges within the 3-4 hours of burn time. I wouldn’t change a thing on this candle. By the way, I dyed this candle black and used Campfire for the fragrance. Very interesting in looks and smell!
• Paraffin (with vybar & stearine) - Votives – Standard aluminum votive mold – used one #2 wood wick. Burned good for about an hour and then the wick was barely a glowing ember. After two hours the candle went out. The next day there was a small amount of wick showing and when lit, it burned for only another two hours. Not very good results and not sure why. This was the same wax that was used for the pillar. May try again and see if I can get better results.
* I note this because different suppliers have different sizing and numbering systems for labeling their wood wicks. One of the suppliers I ordered from didn’t indicate the actual size or width of the wick. I went strictly by the numbering system, and I ended up buying an incorrect wick size. I was trying to test three different wick sizes and actually only had two different sizes, yet my wick numbers were #2, #3 and #4. The #3 from one company was the same size as the #4 from another company. My bad - but I am (was) new to the wood wick world.
Some of the nice features of using wood wicks are:
• They don’t glow or smoke much after you blow them out
• You don’t have to trim them after they’ve been burned
• They crackle and smell woody
• No mushrooming
Differences in information between suppliers:
• One site says to use wood wicks only in containers, while another says they work for pillars and votives. (I found pillars for sale online and the one I made worked great).
• One site says the higher the fragrance load the more crackle you’ll get, while another says it is very important that you do not use too much fragrance oil. Maybe this just means not to go over the fragrance amounts recommended by the manufacturer.
• Some sites sell the tabs separately and some don’t. I like them available separately because if I buy a 6 inch wick and only use 3 inches (which I did with most of my test candles), then I will need a tab for the second half when I use it later. There are at least three different styles of wood wick tabs that I found online through my most used suppliers.
• I found a “tip” that warns us to avoid pulling the layers of the wood apart, so maybe this is an issue you could run into. I didn’t encounter anything like that.
After this round of testing, I’ve decided I really like the look and performance of most of these candles. Due to the cost of wood wicks, in comparison to other wicks, I don’t know that I would do too many different types of candles with these wicks, especially votives. I think they could work well with and could compliment certain product lines and fragrances. They might not be a good fit with sweet fragrances. They are probably better used for woodsy or earthy fragrances but that’s just my opinion. They may even be better for the cooler seasons as well. They were very easy to work with and I will definitely use them again for certain projects. As with any other candle, you need to keep an eye on it and get familiar with this style of candle.