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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
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.
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 –
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.
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
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
- 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.
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
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 !!!!
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
WickSuperStore Notes -
Listings are provided as an aid to those interested in candle,
oil lamp and industrial wicking. No warranties or guaranties are
expressed or implied. Those listed may not endorse this site.
This site is informational only. Email
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
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
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
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
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.
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. .
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.
- 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
- 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.