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The Importance Of Choosing The Right Wick

wicks

Your wick is the simplest and probably the most purest part of your whole candle system.
It is the engine of your candle; it is the part that drives the burn and determines how your candle will burn and for how long.

For this reason the wick is probably one of the most important parts of your candle that you need to get right.

Unfortunately most candles are wrongly wicked due to miseducation and lack of test burning.

A wrongly wicked candle can look very ugly indeed with big, fat ugly mushroom heads on the wick, black soot around the edge of the jars and in the worst cases, shattering glass.  The wrong wick can also inhibit your scent throw.

So how do you pick the right wick?

Unfortunately this comes down to hard work and trial and error. Due to the nature of soy wax and the different standards of fragrances that are available, there is no one and definitive answer that goes with certain diameters of glassware.

We can give you a starting point. From this starting point it is then up to you to make a candle using this wick, test burn the candle to evaluate itʼs performance and make a decision from there.

When producing my own candles it would take me many weeks and many, many test burns of different sized wicks to settle on the one wick that burnt to my satisfaction with the chosen combination of fragrance and dye.

There is a myth out there many candle makers believe concerning the melt pool and it is the reason most candles are over wicked. A lot of the information that is available on the internet stems from the days of paraffin candles. This myth of the melt pool is one of them.

You will often read articles saying that you have to burn the candle for the first time until it reaches the edges, because it will create a memory and then tunnel down the middle of your candle on all subsequent burns. This is true of paraffin but not of soy candles. If your candle creates a full melt pool in the first couple of hours then I can say with 100% certainty you have over wicked and you will more than likely get large, sooty mushrooms and even black soot over the inside of your jar. If your wick is overly large, you run the risk of your candle glass cracking due to the excessive amount of heat it is producing.

Underwicking also produces itʼs fair share of problems. A candle that is under wicked will ‘tunnelʼ which means it will burn straight down the middle of the candle and never get out to the edge. This is a waste of wax and fragrance and you will never get a strong enough throw.

So what then is a correct burn in a correctly wicked candle?

Ultimately the perfect burn is a full melt pool after the third or fourth burn (at least 5 – 6 hours depending on the size of the candle. I am talking about something like our large monaco jar).

A correctly wicked candle will not mushroom badly if at all. Not every candle can be mushroom free as some fragrances affect how the wick will burn. When manufacturing my own range of candles I had 95% of them burning mushroom free. The other 5% no matter what size wick I used or what percentage of fragrance I used, it still produced a small mushroom at some stage of the burn. As a rule of thumb, if, when your candle has burnt to the end, it has left no wax or very little wax on the side of the glass and did not have a huge ugly mushroom throughout the burn, then that is successful. The ultimate aim is to have a clean burn with no wax residue left on the glass at the end. Some of my candles never achieved a full melt pool until at least half way but were always clean at the end.

When test burning you will notice that the candle can go through stages of burning with and with out a mushroom. It is so important to test burn and keep notes. Notes need to include what time you started the burn, what did the wick look like at different stages in this first burn, what time did this burn finish and for how long did it go. This is repeated every time you light your candle. At the end of the burn when you look over your notes, you have a very clear picture of how your candle performed and whether or not you need to dramatically change it up or down or slightly tweak it.

Not only is choosing the correct sized wick important for your ultimate throw and aesthetic look of your candle when burning, itʼs also so very important in keeping your clients safe and healthy. A sooty soy candle is as bad as the old paraffin candles everybody likes to bag.

How To Trouble Shooting

What makes a candle throw?

paraffin-candles-blog

This is always an interesting question and there are many “theories” floating around the industry on this topic.

At first glance, everyone looks at the wick for the answer, because that is the most apparent source for the heating and the melting of the wax; to me it starts way before that.

A candle is a system and, like most systems, is made of many parts. In this case wax, wick, dye, fragrance, container and/or shape.

To me, hot throw is primarily the function of the wax and fragrance combination. I have always developed and used wax that have a wide range of carbon distribution and a moderate melt point, ranging from 130 – 140F.

It is important that the carbon distribution of a wax does not have many “holes” in it. By this I mean that it has a complete range for example of C15 – C30 including 15, 16, 17…..29, 30.

My house blend was composed of 130 MP FRP, 140 MP FRP, 180 MP Microcrystalline and Petrolatum. This wide range insured that there were no gaps, and if there was, the petrolatum would fill them in.

When soy came into play that changed the way most people looked at wax. Soy waxes tend to have a real wide distribution, with a few “holes” in it. This is why you see the fat bloom or cauliflower look in some candles. This can be controlled by adding different levels of hydrogenated material (hydrogenation controls the amount of “oil” left in the wax). When you mix partial and fully hydrogenated soy wax it closes some of the holes.

I alway used beeswax for the same reason I used petrolatum; because of its wide distribution. Bottom line, if you have an evenly distributed wax base you are heading in the right direction to create a good hot throw.
I may be one of the only people left out there who even think this deeply about this but I feel that prices and competition have led to companies losing sight of making the right product instead of the right price.
Then, of course, you need to have a properly developed fragrance. I am not as well versed in the chemistry of the building fragrance but having worked with most of the major fragrance houses in the past, here is my opinion.

This industry, too, has been tainted by the need for price over the need for the right fragrance. When I did development work for Avon and SC Johnson, there was no focus on price, just quality. So I saw first hand the difference between a $25.00 and an $8.00 fragrance. A proper fragrance has top, middle and bottom notes built in. All of these together give the sensory smell of what the
label says it is. It is important that these are balanced, if the lighter notes are all made of strawberry then after the candle is burned for 4-6 hours, that layer of wax looses its essence of Strawberry. It is important that all the layers support the top notes.

One of my “favorite” discoveries is that some fragrances have a fecal note..that’s right poop! This added a bottom note that supported the top notes and if balanced wrong just smelled like s@%t, lol.
My favorite part, of course, is the wick or, more importantly, how the candle burns. The poor wick always gets the blame; when in fact this is the most stable and purest part of the system. Most wicks are 100% nice clean cotton or other single part material e.g. paper, rayon, etc. A wick can only perform with the fuel that it is being fed. If you put dirty gas in your lawnmower then it will
perform poorly.

Ironically I have the least to say about the wick because, in essence, it is a simple machine that, when uninhibited by poorly developed waxes, color, fragrance and containers will ALWAYS perform to its fullest potential.
In conclusion, I have found that all of my success in formulating the proper candle consisted of the following criteria:

  1. Proper wax blend (as described above)
  2. Properly formulated fragrance…not just cheap
  3. A wick chosen that, when burned in just the wax base alone is not greatly reduced when dye, fragrance and container are introduced. These sometimes increase the performance; which I consider more of a positive, unless it becomes too hot or uncontrollable.
  4. Proper container shape and size. I feel that the container should contribute positively the melting of the wax pool. The wick alone may not be able to get a full melt pool so the container should also contribute. An improperly shaped container can be as big an influence as an improperly formulated wax or fragrance.
  5. A dye system that does not diminish the wicks potential. So many people “wick up” to beat this. The fact that there is a material in a dye that is non-combustible will not change, it will only burn, turn to black carbon and clog the wick.
  6. Slow and steady wins the race. The best candles I have seen and have made did NOT burn to the edges in the first, second or even fourth hour. Think about it this way. A candle fragrance is delicate and formulated to be released when the wax heated. When a candle burns hot and fast it is burning off the best parts of the fragrance and if it has a 1/2″ or more deep melt pool then you are creating even more modified wax. The idea of leaving “fresh” wax on the sides of the container when burning is two-fold. One, the wax pool is not overheated to the point where the fragrance is burned off and broken down and two, the fresh wax continues to replenish the melt pool with “full strength” fragrance as it melts down from the sides.

So there it is, my thesis on what makes a great candle. Feel free to leave a comment.

Fragrance & Essential Oils Trouble Shooting

FAQ: Why doesn’t my candle smell strong?

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The scent of your candle is what is going to sell it first and foremost! Do not be fooled into thinking however, that the ‘smellier’ your candle, the better it is. Not everyone likes a ‘stinky’ cloying smell.
When choosing fragrances, especially if you intend on selling your candles, make sure you offer a wide range of choices to your customers including some more subtle pleasant scents as well as the strong throwing more overpowering ones.

The ‘throw’ or ‘smelliness’ of your candle depends on many factors – the type of wax you are using, the actual strength of the fragrance, the size of the jar and the size of the room and how long you have been burning it for.

1. The type of wax – some types of wax eg soy and paraffin throw differently when compared to each other as does each brand of waxes.

2. Strength of the fragrance – some fragrances are designed to be ‘stinky’ and will fill the room with fragrance almost instantly. Some on the other hand are more subtle and you may only get a hint of the smell (depending on the size of the room) If putting a candle in the toilet you want to be able to stand the smell for the time you are in there and as it is a small enclosed space a very smelly candle may not be the right choice.

3. The size of the room – do not expect a small candle to fill an open plan lounge room. Again the specific fragrance will play a role here as you can put a subtle fragrance in a very large candle and still only get a smallish scent throw.

4. Length of time of burning – after around 10 minutes or so we experience what we call ‘sensory overload’ or ‘olfactory fatigue’. This means our brains have had enough of that one particular smell and switch the brain off so we no longer smell it. It is a protection mechanism and one that most of us are glad of (our work place is particularly ‘stinky’ with a rainbow of scents permeating the air daily. None of us can smell it, but customers that come in always comment on how ‘nice’ it smells.) If you can no longer smell the candle it does not mean the scent has disappeared, more than likely your brain has had enough. Leave the room for 10 minutes, clear your nostrils and go back in and you will notice the smell immediately.

For more interesting reading on scent perception and how to educate your customers click here to read our article about fragrance perception.

Trouble Shooting

FAQ: Why does my soy candle have a white coating aka frosting?

frosting-blog

Frosting

We use this term to describe the white coating that appears on your soy candles.

What causes it?

Frosting is a perfectly natural effect of using soy wax and is unique to vegetable waxes. It is the natural wax re crystallizing and trying to return to its natural state.

All soy waxes frost and is a sign that you are using 100% natural soy wax. Some soys have additives to stop this frosting however if you want a 100% natural product then expect frosting.

Frosting does not affect the performance of your candle and is something that you shouldn’t stress over.

You can minimize frosting with these simple tips:

  • Play around with your pour temperature. Pour temp is only a guide and is very relevant to your conditions and surroundings and also the fragrance you are using. Try pouring hotter in small increments and keep a diary.
  • Keep your candles warm overnight. Don’t leave them out especially when you know the temperature is going to drop. This is certain to promote frosting. Soy hates difference in temperatures.
  • Frosting will also occur with age so try and move your candles quickly if its something you don’t like.
Trouble Shooting

Candle Making – Where to start

candlemaking

The best place to start if you want to make soy candles is with a candle making kit . We’ve done a lot of the work for you already and given you the basics to start you off to get your confidence up.
JARS
If you want to start out on your own then start with a jar. Once you have chosen a size and shape of jar, we tell you some information about that jar including what wick size to start with.  This recommendation gives you a starting place to test burn your candles from. You can then go to the wick page and select the wick we recommend to start with.  For information regarding the differences between the two wicks please read the header at the top of the wicks page.
If you want to use a jar you already have, measure the diameter of the jar at it’s widest point then find something similar on our website.  From here you can work out a wick size to use

SOY WAX
If you are a beginner we recommend starting with GW 464 soy wax as it is the easiest and in our opinion the best wax to use.  It is completely natural.  We give approximations on our jars about how much wax they take, so calculate how many jars you are getting by the amount of wax it takes, to work out roughly how much soy wax you need.  It’s always better to be over than under.

FRAGRANCES
If you would like to fragrance your candles work out if you want fragrances or essential oils.  Our fragrances are candle specific and pure and with 200 to choose from there is something for everyone.  Fragrances usually throw (smell strong while burning)  stronger than essential oils as they are made of both synthetic and essential oils so can be manipulated.  Essential oils are purely natural and may not have that strong throw.
To work out how much fragrance you are going to need per candle read our information under the help section on how to make candles. It is better to buy 10mls of fragrance just to have a smell to decide if you like it before buying larger quantities.

DYES
The easiest method of dyeing your candles is to use solid colour dye blocks.  To achieve the desired colour just shave a small amount into your melted wax and stir thoroughly.  One block will dye a lot of wax as they are very concentrated.

EQUIPMENT
To melt your soy wax either purchase a pouring pot to use as a double boiler or use 2 saucepans you have at home.  You melt the wax as you would chocolate.  Do not put the pouring pot directly on the heat as you will burn the wax.
It is also important to pour your wax at the correct temperature so get a thermometer. 

Once you have everything set up to go print off our ‘ how to make a soy candle’ sheet.

These instructions are basic and will get the process of making candles started for you.  After you have made your first batch of candles the learning really starts.  We have a wealth of information on our website under the help section to guide you with any problems you might be having.

Enjoy!!

Trouble Shooting

What is the difference between candle wicks?

wicks

The main difference between ACS and CDN wicks is the core.

CDN have a paper core whilst the ACS range are purely cotton throughout.

Both ranges of wicks we stock are manufactured in the USA and Germany by top wick manufacturers. These companies are professional and have been manufacturing wicks for many many years. Their quality and experience is paramount in producing a wick that is of the highest quality to ensure the correct burn of your candle.

Both brands of wick work equally well in candles. Some people prefer the pure white look of the ACS brand whilst some prefer how the CDN range burn. Over the years we have used both in our candles. During the testing phase we burn the candles with both a CDN and ACS size of wick. From there we can choose which wick burns that particular fragrance better. Because the ACS range has more wicks, it’s easier to ‘fine tune’ the burn of your candle.

If you find a particular wick is not burning a particular fragrance try the other brand. Some fragrances might be better suited to a paper core wick whilst others may prefer the pure cotton braid. It all comes down to TESTING!

Trouble Shooting

FAQ: Why does my soy candle have a lumpy top?

lumpy-top-2-blog

In the majority of cases a lumpy top on a soy candle is the result of pour temperature. Many people do not place enough importance on pour temperature, some not even using a thermometer.
If you want a great looking soy candle with smooth tops and good glass adhesion, investing in a good quality thermometer is a must.

A lot of people are caught by surprise, when after a couple of months of pouring, their candles all of a sudden develop holes or pits when they have changed nothing. They may not have changed anything but the weather may have changed. The season and your ambient temperature of the room you are pouring in, all play a big part in how your candle dries. You may use air conditioning in summer and a heater in winter. This will all affect your candles. On a particularly cold day you may also have to heat your glass or container slightly so it is warm to touch.

Lumpy tops can usually be fixed by increasing the pour temperature in increments until the problem disappears. The recommended pour temperature is a recommendation only and should be used as a guide for a starting point. If the recommended pour temp does not work you will have to experiment to find the correct temperature for your conditions and fragrance.

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Fragrance and essential oils can also cause holes and lumpy tops. Fragrances like vanillas and essential oils such as lavenders and rose geranium are notorious for ‘curdling’ the top of soy candles. This can be overcome by pour temperature adjustment once again however if this does not work you may have to adjust the amount of FO or EO you are using.

It does come as a surprise to many but pour temperature is absolutely critical for your candles and may change with the seasons. Extensive testing and a detailed diary is a must for all candlemakers!