Making Candle Wicks
For Complete Control
An important part of making homemade candle wicks is that the candle maker has complete control over the materials used. Candle makers who create candles with natural products, for instance, insist that their wicks also be organic and not made from lead.
Hands-down, the wick is the most important element of a candle to me. After all, a candle without a wick is just another jar of scent. The wick acts as a fuel pump in all kinds of candles and supplies liquefied wax to the top where the flame is produced. The wick with no wax is just a piece of string.
All wicks are just basic braided string with a piece of metal wire in the middle used for sturdiness and to create more heat when burning larger candles. Personally, I don’t burn metal core wicks anymore after reading about the health hazards; they release dangerous amounts of lead into the air and are unsafe, especially for children.
To make our own wicks, we start by making a basic braided wick, taking 3 strips of kite string or twine and soaking them in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of boric acid and 1 cup of water over night. Hang them to dry. When dried, braid the three strands together to make a wick. Cut to lengths longer than the candles you will be making.
Next we will prime the wick – dip the wick into hot wax until the wick is completely saturated with wax, using a paperclip to dip them and avoid burning your fingers. You will know when they are saturated when they release bubbles. Remove them from the wax, pull them tight and dip them into water… then lay on wax paper.
Dab the excess moisture off with a paper town and let them dry on the wax paper for at least 30 seconds. For a stiffer wick (one you may not have to anchor with a washer), it is recommended to repeat this step more than once. Primed wicks can be stored in rolled up newspaper.
Most consumers usually think of a candle’s shape, color or fragrance as its most important element before purchasing – I hope we have shown there’s more than what meets the eye and nose in this decision.
Lead wicks were banned from the U.S. marketplace in 2003, and for several years before that were found primarily in inexpensive foreign candle imports. NCA-member manufacturers voluntarily discontinued using lead wicks in the mid 1970s. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown both zinc and tin-ore wicks to be safe.
If you are a Candler whose business advertises ‘eco-friendly’ materials, you will want to make your own wicks; this is not a difficult process. As in the food business where they don’t serve what they wouldn’t eat themselves, you can do no less.
Esther B. Smith
You may not be able to tell a lead-core wick from a natural wick when buying a candle, particularly if it is plastic-wrapped tightly. Buyer beware.
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