Vol.2, No.1

A guide to choosing wick size in candlemaking

A guide to choosing the size of wicks in homemade candles. Includes information on what factors to use during wick selection, including, wick types, and additives.

Candle wicks
Photo Credit: Jack Larmour
The second most important part of candlemaking is choosing the wick size. While there is no exact formulation to figure what size wick to use there are some general guidelines that will help. The size of the wick depends upon a few factors. These factors are additives in the candle, size of the candle and the type of wick. The kinds and amounts of additives will vary widely from candlemaker to candlemaker, as will the size and wick type so this is what makes an exact formula for choosing a wick size next to impossible to create. The best method for choosing the correct wick size is through testing. Try different size wicks for different candle recipes and see what size wick works best. There are, however, some general guidelines that can help the candlemaker decide what size of wick to use.

There are some tips that have been handed down by veteran candlemakers that can help the novice in the quest to find the correct wick size. The following tips are just generalizations, but are still a good place to start.

1. Wick size should general match the candle size. For example, small candles use small diameter wicks.

2. Wicks that are too small for the candle will leave a lot of unburned wax around the outside of the candle or just drown in the pool of wax that gathers at its base.

3. Wicks that are too large for the candle will cause excessive smoke, burn too fast, or even cause the wax to overflow down the sides of the candle or container.

The best guideline to use when choosing a wick size is to first decide the type of wick to use. The different materials that wicks are made of also effect how it burns. The following list includes common wick types and the types of candles they work the best in.

1. CD wicks

wax types: some beeswax and gels, paraffin

candle types: solid color, no fragrance

2. CDN wicks

wax types: paraffin

candle types: solid color, free standing pillar, container

3. 3 ply cotton wick

wax types: paraffin

candle types: pillar, taper

4. Square braided wick

wax type: any

candle type: any

5. Paper core wick

wax type: petroleum

candle type: votive, pillar, container

6. Cotton core wick

wax type: any

candle type: tealight, votive, container, pillar

The following list contains three popular additives and the effect they have on how a candle burns. There are, of course, many more additives used in candlemaking, including fragrance and colors, so this list is only to give a rough idea of what could possibly occur when using additives. The real effects will be determined by the amount of additive used in your candle recipe.

1. Stearic acid

use: hardening agent

burn effect: raises melt point, causes slower burn

2. Lustre crystals

use: enhance colors

burn effect: lowers melt point, causes faster burn

3. Vybar

use: prevent mottling, hardener

burn effect: none

Candlemaking is a process of trial and error and perhaps wick size is one of the hardest parts, but if you use general knowledge of how candles burn, include the effect of additives, type of wick chosen and size of candle you should be able to choose a wick size that works. Check the manufactures recommendations on products you buy. Especially look for any information on how additives will effect the burning of the candle. Also follow all safety recommendations listed on the package. The guidelines here are a good start, but as mentioned earlier, the best way to determine wick size is to test your candle creations and see what works best for your candle.