There are also several different types of wicks for candles – about 80% of them are made of cotton or cotton/paper combinations while the rest are metal and/or paper. I prefer a cotton-paper combination because they’re less expensive and tend to burn more slowly which makes your candle last longer.
- Flat Wicks are usually made from three fiber bundles braided or plaited together – they’re very consistent burners and curl in the fire so that you don’t have to trim before or after each burn. These are the most common types of wicks so if you already burn candles at home, you’re likely used to these.
- Square Wicks are also braided or plaited fiber bundles but they are a little thicker than flat wicks as the name would suggest. These work really well in beeswax candles as these wicks are less likely to build up and clog which usually results in unfortunate smokey candles as the flame is burning the wick more than the wax itself. Keep in mind that whichever wax and wick combination you use, the wick is always a just conduit between the flame and the wax.
- Cored Wicks are braided or plaited fibers around a core material such as cotton, paper, or tin which to the wick straight upright while it burns – this is great for jar candles and pillar candles where you really don’t want the wick to flop over. Digging a partially burned wick out of dry wax is a real challenge and can ultimately kill your candle!
The wick kinda acts like a fuel pump drawing liquefied wax up into the flame to burn so the size, thickness and strength of your wick is going to deliver different amounts of wax up to the flame. I’d start experimenting with different combinations of wax and wick with tealight candles. Too much wick and the flame will smoke; too little and the flame won’t stay lit.
You want to ensure you have a consistent flame size (no sputtering, flaring, smoking), the outside of your candle or candle vessel should never be too hot to touch, there should be a good wax pool at the top of the candle with no dripping down the sides (unless this is the goal which is an entry for more intermediate/advanced candle-makers – we’ll get there!) and a minimal glow after the candle has been blown out, so no bright red wick remaining.
These are of course beginner wick types – as I’m sure many of you have seen in stores and online, there are all sorts of specialty candles now: ones that crackle and sputter, ones that drip deliberately to make color combinations, those cute little kitty candles that when entirely burned demonstrate a cat wick skeleton etc. In order to get to these more advanced and intricate candle types, we need to first get the basics down including testing candles and determining their burn-time, finding appropriate wax/wick combinations for current projects, and choosing scents!