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Oil Candles. How are they generally made? aka Rock Candles Indoor decorative oil candles are definitely in style. They usually comprised of the following: A glass tube (either lab, instrumentation or Pyrex glass) or a metal tube that holds a 1/16″ to 1/8″ diameter fiberglass wick. Fiberglass lasts indefinitely compared to cotton that will dry out over time and have its wicking capability degrade significantly. Also fiberglass does not burn. The glass wick holder (tube) is set in a decorative bottle holding a clean high grade liquid paraffin fuel. You want to use liquid paraffin because it has a high flash point which offers a good safety factor. I have seen designs made from decorative bottles, drilled out rocks and even slate attached to various types of glassware. The best fiberglass wicking is a loose braid. The tighter braids available on the market have limited draw capacity. They start off good then slowly die out as the fuel level drops.
How long should the glass wick tube be? All the tube does is hold the wick. A longer tube does not improve wicking action. Some folks prefer longer tubes because they are making lamps that are rather high and use the longer tubes to make sure the wick makes it to the bottom of the vessel. Some folks put potpourri in mason jars and use a longer tube to “push” through the decorative objects that are set in the fluid part of the oil candle. Some buy longer tubes just for the looks.
How do you adjust the flame on an oil / rock candle?
Before you slide the wick into the tube make sure it is cut evenly across the top. An irregular cut will cause smoking. Set the wick in the tube so it is even with the top of the tube. This will generate a clean burn. Having the wick set too high above the tube will cause smoking. It is similar to “flooding” a car engine, you are sending more fuel to the engine (flame) than it can burn. Therefore the excess passes through as black soot. This theory also applies to just about all oil type lamps and lanterns.
Rock Candles Continue - Should I drill the hole for the glass wick tube before I receive my order? Answer is no. The reason is the glass stock tubing used to make the tubes can vary from 6 to 7mm outside diameter. It is best to wait for the tubes, measure, then drill the holes in whatever device you plan on making an oil candle out of.
Why Pyrex, lab or instrumentation glass and not regular glass? You need a thermally stable glass that can take the heat whereas lower grades of glass will pop with slight temperature differentials. Its all about safety. The best performers are real PYREX.
My oil candle smokes! There are many fuels on the market. Perhaps you have used a crude fuel meant for outdoors. Look for “cleaner – purer” brands.
The most common oil lamp problem for new designers. THE VACUUM PROBLEM !  If the wick is set tight in the wick opening and there is no air vent for the fuel, a vacuum will be created in the can. You can tell if the fuel is not properly vented when the torch lights up strong and goes out for no apparent reason after 30 seconds or so. This is the most common pitfall encountered when making patio torches and rock candles. NOT venting the fuel, thus creating a vacuum in the can.
How far will a patio torch wick effectively draw fuel? In general, keep the can size in the 6″ long-high range. There are other ways to increase draw, but in general keep it shallow. People looking to make long burning lamps/torches ought to consider wide base type designs as opposed to tall can type designs.
Fiberglass or cotton wicks? Both work great, with an advantage going to the fiberglass because it will not burn (in-organic) itself like cotton (organic). Also the fiberglass is more durable and lasts longer. Loose braids are best.
Paper patio torch wicks ? NOT A GOOD IDEA !! One shot use at best assuming the paper did not absorb moisture prior to being lit !!
How should a patio torch perform ? Using liquid paraffin, produced a flame in the 4″ high range consuming somewhere around 11 grams of fuel per hour. The 1/2″ diameter wick was set 3/4″ above the opening of the can. Torches for the most part are dirty to some degree and meant for outdoors only.
Can you make torches out of copper tubing ? Yes, I have seen some very nicely made torches made out copper tubing and typical copper pipe reducers that you can buy at the local hardware store.
Safety for patio torch use ! Patio torches are for outdoors and should only be lit outdoors. Don’t use volatile fuels like gasoline. Stick with the liquid paraffin. Test your new design in a isolated area with a fire extinguisher nearby. Patio torches can throw off some large flames depending on how much wick is set above the wick opening.
Biofuels and Wicking - Biofuels are fuels derived from renewable biological materials such as soy beans. Oils and animal fats can be also processed into biofuel. These fuels are a thick oil like fluid that is viscous and does not easily flow through a wick. Produced through transesterification of organically derived oils and fats. They may be used as a replacement for or component of diesel fuel. Note when you mix biofuel with diesel fuel as a mix it is refered to as Biodiesel.

Biofuel Wick Design - Use loose braided wicking where the fuel source is real close to the the flame. Think whale oil lamps. Very viscous fuel. Wide based fuel containers whereby the flame is close to the source of fuel so it can flow a minimum distance. Research antique books on whale oil lamps for design ideas.

Wick Materials - Biofuel Wicking may be made of cotton or fiberglass. Biofuel is similiar to older day whale oil used in lamps to light homes during the whaling periods. Because the fuel was thick, whale oil lamps are constructed with wide cylindrical bases to obtain the desired volume of fuel as opposed to designing thin and tall containers. The key point is a minimum distance from fuel to flame. The shorter  the better.
Liquid Paraffin Oil Lamps - A staple in the restaurant business where every table has a lamp. Liquid Paraffin does not volitize like other fuels making it safer to use indoors. The fuel also burns cleaner than most making it a safe bet inside with minimal ventilation. Interesting is that the tops of the device are aerosol tops crimped onto a blow molded plastic bottle. The wick is just a 1/8" cotton wick. Folded and punched through the metal top.
Blanket Wicks - Used in incubators. These are hand sewed wicks made of toweling material. Why spend tons of money when you can just buy a roll of toweling fabric and have a local seamstress sew them up !!
Flat Cotton Oil Lantern or Oil Lamp Wick - These types of wicking are braided flat with natural untreated cottons. Usually available at the local hardware store.
Bulk Flat Cotton Wick - This manufacturer braids bulk shipments of flat cotton lantern wick. See Hooper Industries
Plant Watering Wick - Any loose tubular cotton braid that has been rinsed in a warm chlorine bath to remove the cotton oils will work as a watering wick. Natural cottons have an oil in them that inhibits water flow. Once removed the wick becomes water absorbent. The problem is that often times the manufacturer, due to lack of quality controls, forgets to run the braids through an oil removing rinse leaving the wick useless. There are better systems on the market for watering your plants.
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Candle Wick for Waxed Based Candle Designs - There are three types of candle wicking. Flat braid or plaited wick, square braided wick and tubular braids that usually have a zinc core. The best performing wicks are the flat braid (plaited) and square braided wicks. The worst performers are the tubular braided wicks with either a zinc or paper core. These wicks are used because the wick will stand up in a melt pool, not because they burn clean.
Candle wick is usually gauged by the burn rate. The burn rate is measured in grams per hour. That is just a start. Burn rates are relative to each batch of wax tested. The only way to ensure a wick works is to test it in your blend of wax, dye, fragrance etc. Different wax blends will generate different performance standards with the same wick. Again, testing is the only way to ensure quality. There is no effective way to cross reference another manufacturers’ wick other than to conduct burn tests.
Commercial candle making requires a great deal of quality control measures. Each harvest of a cotton crop has a slightly different density. That is why most textiles are sold by the pound and not the yard. Each batch of wax from a refinery has a slightly different molecular profile. Fragrances can have the same smell (such as Vanilla) but can and are made with different oil and solvent bases. Consider the heat a container will retain and its effect on the melt pool. Consider humidity. Consider dye concentrates. Some dyes like red are heavy in particulate concentration and actually clog the wick! Make your design fault tolerant. See how far each variable can change before the candle performs poorly.
Three types of candle wicking - In general, there are three types of wicks. Plaited or flat braid, square braid and tubular braid. The best performers are plaited and square braids. These wicks if deployed correctly will not generate carbon balls.
The size of the wick depends on the number of ply’s of cotton used to braid the product. There are square, tubular and flat braids depending on the type of braider used, but they are all constructed of ply’s of yarn and hence more yarn means a bigger wick, which will burn hotter. This is a general assumption.
Wicks are rated in the amount of wax or gel or liquaid paraffin they consume in a one-hour period expressed in grams per hour. The general method of finding the “burn rate” is by setting the test wick in an unscented and un-dyed wax (fuel) then weigh (in grams) and burn the sample for a set period of time. Re-weigh the sample and divide by the burn time to give you the “burn rate”. This is how wicks are tested at the factory. Burn testing is only relative to the batch, NOT to another manufactures’ product line.
Please note that it is imperative on the candle makers part to test a wick or wicks in the actual wax mix you will be using. Melt points, fragrance, dyes, container heat retention or lack of heat retention WILL effect the burn rate. Burn data provided by a manufacture are just generic generalized information generated by conducting the tests in an unscented and un-dyed wax at a mid-level melt point. The information provided by a manufacturer on burn rates is to get you in the ball park to start your testing. All testing is relative.
You may want to buy a precision steel ruler and take other measurements during your testing phase. We also measure melt pool diameter, flame height, and carbon head diameter deposits if applicable. Good note taking is a must. For those who buy wicking bulk and un-waxed on a spool must also consider humidity. It is not uncommon for wicking to absorb excess moisture during hot and humid days. Wicking with high moisture content will perform poorly. Consider how the wick is stored prior to use. ASK the manufacturer if they deploy temperature control measures to ensure the wick does not have a high moisture content. Poorly stored wicking that is then waxed and tabbed will burn poorly and perhaps NOT AT ALL !!!!
The relationship between “burn rate” and wick sizes is as follows. The lower the “burn rate” the smaller the wick, and the higher the “burn rate” the larger the wick (more ply’s of yarn). A lower “burn rate” will generate a small flame and a small melt pool diameter whereas a higher “burn rate” will generate a larger flame and a larger melt pool diameter.
The relationship between “burn rate” and candle size is as follows. The smaller the candle diameter the smaller the wick (lower “burn rate”) that should be applied. The larger the diameter of the candle, the larger the wick (higher “burn rate”) that should be applied. Please note that the “burn rate” is just the starting point. Wax melt point, scents and dyes will vary the results. Therefore, use the “burn rate” data as a guide to start your testing.
Commercial Candle Making - Commercial candle making has three to four components. Wax, wick, dyes and fragrance. Wax is part of the petroleum refinery process. Yes, wax is a fuel. That is why it has names like Mobilewax 140. The wax making process is very reliable. You can count on each batch you buy having a consistent quality to it. Dyes and fragrance are complicated in the sense that the same look and smell can be manufactured with different chemicals. Therefore it is best to stick with a dye or fragrance manufacturer once you have completed your testing. The good thing about wax, dyes and fragrances is that the manufacturer tells you what the loading factor is. In other words how much to add to each batch of wax. That takes the guess work out.

Problems with Wicks - The most troublesome area of candle making is the wick. A lot can go wrong in the manufacturing process if you do not have a QA program in place and reliable employees, not work a day or temps. Combine that with older machinery (sloppy tolerances means erratic pic counts) and what you get is variations on each batch of wick manufactured. Wrong pic counts and different cotton ply sizes all add up to a different burn rate. You are starting from scratch with each spool you buy! Then add on top of that factories that are not temp and humidity controlled you will have cottons that are high in water content or completely dried out from sitting in a hot warehouse. YES quality control counts in the wick making business. It is not unusual to have QA- less operations make three variations of the same product number causing a different burn rate with each batch.

Hobby Wicks - Another mistake people make getting into the candle business is to buy wicking at the local hobby store and start testing. Then go to the same manufacturer and ask to buy larger quantities only to find out that it is not working the same. The reason being is that the retail blister packs are put together by temp workers. QA is not a concern of theirs. This happens more often than you think. Stick with reliable manufacturers like Atkins & Pearce or resellers of their product line. See http://www.atkinsandpearce.com/
Wine Bottle Oil Lamps – These are attractive and easy to make. There are two key points to consider. First is the wick holder. Most often it is a ceramic cork shaped device with a hole in the middle to hold the wick. You can buy these online or take some time to head to your local Home depot and look at the electrical ceramics or porcelain knobs. Even better if you want to sell them in bulk have them made at Du-co Ceramics (http://www.du-co.com/). Make sure that the ceramic piece has a grove on at least one side to let the air equalize in the bottle. Too often people place the ceramic wick holder in the bottle then light it. It burns well for a few minutes then snuffs out. What is happening is the a vacuum is taking place in the bottle because no air can get in from the top as the wick pulls fuel and air from within the bottle. The second mistake people make is using a tightly wound fiberglass wick. The tighter the braid the less reach it will have. Better to stick with softer braids including cottons. Fold the wick in half and push the folded end from the bottom of the ceramic wick holder to about 1/8” above for a small clean burn. And use liquid paraffin for safety as the fuel. Another consideration for commercial type production is to buy fiberglass yarn and twist it into wicks. See http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/fiberglass-yarn.html
Oil Lamp Wicks and Wicking - Oil lamps are as old as mankind. With the Romans using twisted horse hair as wicks in olive oil lamps. Then the progression of fuels from the viscous whale oil, to kerosene and then the much safer liquid paraffin. We also have biofuels which are as safe as liquid paraffin but are very viscous like whale oil. If you are looking to construct biofuel lamps look at the older whale oil lamps. Use wider bases for the fuel instead of taller cylindrical designs. Biofuels are so thick a wick can only draw the fuel so high, therefore best to use loose braids of cotton or fiberglass for the wick. Flat braided cotton wicks do not work well with biofuel.
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Candlewick Tech Data:
What candle wick to pick from to start the testing process All wicks are made of ply’s of cotton yarns. There are other types of wicking that use hemp or wool. Anything fibrous can be used to make a wick. For the most part candlewicks are made out of cotton yarns. The more ply’s of yarn in the braid means a bigger wick, therefore a higher burn rate with a wider melt pool. Gel candles perform better with small size square braided wicking. Oil lamps perform best with loose braid fiberglass. More on fiberglass wicking in other sections of this website. In general, you would want to use the cored wicks for votives and container type candles. The best wicks are flat and square braids. They burn cleaner with less chance of generating carbon balls. High end candles are made of flat or square braid wicks. This is very general data. The best results are achieved by testing wicks in your blend of gel, wax, dye and fragrance.

Please note that the above information is just a starting point for testing. Wax melt points, viscosities, fragrances, dyes ALL HAVE AN EFFECT ON HOW A CANDLE BURNS ! All the above data is derived from burn tests in straight paraffin based wax.
What is a plaited wick ?
Also referred to as flat braided wicks. First designed in the 1700’s these wicks curl to one side thus self consuming themselves by having the tip of the wick in the hottest part of the flame. They are superb for pillars and tapers. Since they are coreless, they don’t work good in candles that generate deep melt pools like containers and votives in a glass votive cup.
Why do I get carbon balls ?
Too large of a wick. Go down a size or see if the manufacturer has the same yarn size in a tighter “pic” count also known gear pull-up ratio on a braiding machine. Tubular braids are notorious for carbon balls.
Why trim a wick ?
A flame only needs so much fuel (aka wax, gel, oil). The wick is  the regulator (Think carburetor !!). Too high an input of wax, means too much fuel to the flame, thus soot. Our preference is a sharp even cut with sharp scissors to a height of 3mm.
Why a wire core ?
Believe it or not all the wire is for is to keep the wick upright in a deep melt pool typical of container candles made with low melt point wax. SUCH AS VOTIVES. In earlier times lead was used because is was cheap and could easily be extruded. Lead was replaced by lead / zinc alloys then just zinc. Wire core wicks are inferior to those that use plaited or square braided wick. Most wired core wicks use zinc. YET there is no data on how safe it is to have a metal volitize!
Fragrance and dyes?
An often asked question is how much fragrance and dye for a certain type of wax. The answer comes from the wax, fragrance and dye manufacturers. They have what is typically known as “load” factors. They will tell you what the percentages are to mix.
What size wick tabs ?
The most typical wick tab size is a 15mm diameter tab with a 3mm neck. Some folks like the 20mm base because they “stand” a little better in a container type candle. Most folks working with gel prefer the 15mm diameter tabs with the 10mm safety neck. The  longer neck prevents the gel from burning all the way to the bottom.
What wax for what type of candle ?
In general, here is what to use. 125 degree F melt point or less for container candles. 130+ to 150 degree F for votives and pillars. 150 degree F melt point and above for pillars, tapers and novelties. The above is just general ranges, but is a good starting point. The higher the melt point the more structural integrity the wax has.
What temp to pour the wax at ?
In general we see no need to go much beyond 10 degree F above the melting point. A thermometer is a must. They are very inexpensive and are available at most hardware stores. Even better check with the wax manufacturer. Ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet.
Container Safety – Heat Retention ?
An often overlooked safety situation is the heat retention of certain container type candles. When testing a container candle make observations as to how hot the container is getting. Usually more heat is retained as the candle burns down to the middle and bottom of the container. Is the container getting so hot as to approach the flash point of the wax? Double wicking can also raise significant safety concerns. Two wicks can possibly generate enough heat to cause flashing. Test before you give your product away or sell it to the public.
Floating Candles - There are two types of floating candles. There are ones made of wax and the other uses vegetable based oils as the fuel source. The original floating candle dates way back to the Roman Empire where corks with some sort of fiber or horse hair wick were inserted through the middle of the cork and were floated in olive oil and lit as you would a regular candle. The principle is simple. The cork version has a hole in the middle to insert a wick. The cork and wick assembly are floated in an olive or other vegetable based oil then lit. The oil is drawn up from the bottom of the cork through the middle up to the flame. The oil is the fuel for the light.
Candle and Oil Lamp Suppliers - We have compiled a list of useful links to help those who are beyond the hobby stage of candle making. .
Glass Globes and Floating Candles - Alibaba China Source
Cotton Lamp Wicks, Fiberglass Wicks for Lamps - Alibaba
Catalytic Burner for Fragrance Lamps - Alibaba
Fiberglass Wick - Alibaba
Multipurpose Disposable Paraffin Lamps - Alibaba
Oil Floating Light Wick - Alibaba
Ceramic Wick Holders - National Artcraft
Plastic Funnels - Alibaba
Candlewick - Alibaba
USA Wick Manufacturer - Atkins & Pearce
High Quality Italian Candle Wicking - Stoppini Monterosa
Bulk Flat Cotton Lantern Wick - Hooper Industries - Some manufacturers give the impression that they manufacture flat cotton lantern wick when in reality they buy bulk from Hooper. Here is their address and contact data. Read More
Bulk Wax Facts and Suppliers - AFPM
Candle Gel Instructions - Read More
Gel Candles - Best practice for gel candles is to use square braided wicks. Use minimum wax on the wicks otherwise it will flow into the gel clouding it. It may take a day for the wax to slowly melt in your waxer. In house testing that we did required getting the gel to 220 degrees Fahrenheit to get it to flow. Wear gloves and googles. Hot gel and room temp glass may cause sudden breakage.
Wax Melters - The workhorse of any operation. Double wall tanks come in six different sizes. The large tanks have two immersion heaters. Equipped with water site glass, temperature gauge, valves, covers, and drains. 100% seam welded with water cooled TIG machines. 18 gauge stainless steel. Maxant Industries
Candle Wicks and Wicking - Candle wick may be made of any fiberous organic material. It made be jute, hemp or cotton. Cotton is the material of choice due to its abundance and number of plys available. Best to use the smallest wick possible. This way a minimum of fuel (wax) is entering it and burning. Too big of a wick will smoke. It is like flooding a carberator on your car. Votive and container candles use the lowest melt point wax. These may require a metal core to stand up in the melt pool. Pillars and tapers use higher melt point waxes for structural integrity. Pillars work best with square braids and tapers work best with plaited braids. The square and plaited wicks will twist to the side and self trim during a burn by having the tip of the wick at the hottest part of the flame which is its exterior. Some smaller braiding operations only make tubular braids. These have limited use. Best only for votives and container type candles.