Many of you have come up to us recently, asking about wood wicks and how to use them in your handmade candles. So today, we’re sharing with you one of our favorite informative posts by Armatage Candle Company!
*The following has been lightly edited to make it more concise and relevant to Malaysian handmakers.
by Armatage Candle Company
Wood wicks are easier to get started with than you think, even if you’re a complete beginner.
Their elusive and unique characteristics appear as a challenge for novice candle makers compared to traditional cotton wicks, but they really aren’t once you understand them.
Building wood wick candles is not terribly different from normal candles. In both cases, you melt and combust wax with a wick in the middle – the only difference being the wick’s design.
Not that choosing a wick is easy, but incorporating wooden wicks follows the same process as before.
Candle makers using them in their product line easily differentiate themselves in the market by offering a trendy and alluring design compared to traditional cotton wicks.
In this guide, we’ll cover the following:
- Overview of types
- Wood wicks vs cotton wicks
- Recommended wax types
- How to pick the right wick size
- Why wooden wicks crackle
Let’s dive in!
Wood Wicks Overview
Wood wicks aren’t much different than cotton wicks, but they are unique and relatively new.
In recent years, their popularity has grown as more and more people start to make their own candles. Making your own wicks is possible, but difficult to scale and control quality.
Wicks come from cherry, oak, birch, maple, balsa, rosewood, or some combination (according to the patent’s description), available as one of the following types.
Single Ply Wick (Flat Wick)
The single-ply wick is the de facto wooden wick most people think of.
A single strip of wood characterized by three factors:
- Crackle type – Whisper (quieter) or Crackling (louder)
- Thickness – the thinnest dimension. Ranges from 0.02″ to 0.04″ usually.
- Width – the flat side of the wick. Ranges from 0.375″ to 0.75″ usually.
Single-ply wicks perform best in non-natural candle waxes, like paraffin, parasoy, or blends that contain palm or coconut wax. Most natural waxes struggle to maintain consistent performance without a booster strip.
At Craftiviti, we carry two types of single ply wood wicks. The first is the Cross Wooden Candle Wick and the second is the Double Candle Wood Wick (which can be used as a single ply or doubled so the second acts as a booster).
Booster wicks function a lot like single-ply (flat) except they have an additional strip of wood down the middle.
They have their own function and have a little more oomph than the non-boosted wicks. If you’re trying to integrate wood wicks with natural waxes, boosted wicks offer the capacity and strength required to handle them.
Just like single-ply, you can characterize booster wicks by their crackle type, thickness, and width. Ignore the extra strip and you’ll be fine.
The spiral wick is kind of like a core-less cotton wick made from wood.
Spiral wicks are essentially just a sheet of wood wrapped into a spiral. The main differentiator between them is thickness. Thicker wicks burn hotter, so use them in larger diameter containers.
As far as recommendations, these are fairly difficult to consistently design around and aren’t recommended for any serious candle products unless you’re okay with frequent changes in behavior and test results.
Wood Wicks vs Cotton Wicks
By design, wood wicks operate the same as cotton. Larger cross sectional areas offer greater throughput of wax fluid plus higher thermal energy output by the flame.
The primary difference with wood wicks is you don’t need to choose a type of wood… you simply use the wood wick designed with a booster strip or not (unless you go fancy with a spiral or tube wick).
Cotton wicks exist in many different thread designs and core types – ECO, HTP, etc.
This offers a lot of flexibility in candle design, because you can manipulate the relative size AND type of wick during testing.
Wood leaves you with… wood.
Some candle makers say it’s easier to select wooden wick while others struggle for any consistency at all. Your mileage may vary. Most corrections to wick size are a change in width or thickness, which limits you because there are so few thicknesses.
You can pretty much test about 15-20 wicks in the cotton world for a single candle whereas wood wicks end up being only about 12-15.
Cotton wicks offer more flexibility, but this doesn’t always translate as “ease”.
The only similarity is that some cotton wick types are better for soy than others, similar to how booster wicks play nicer with natural waxes compared to single-ply.
Building amazing candles that burn safely and perform at world-class levels can happen with wood or cotton – it’s all up to your testing.
Which Wax Works Best With Wooden Wicks?
Wooden wicks are capable of working with most every wax. Use the following chart to find out how compatible your wax is with each type of wooden wick.
|Wax||Compatible Wood Wicks|
|Paraffin||Single Ply (Flat)|
|Parasoy||Single Ply (Flat)|
|Coco Apricot Creme||Booster|
|Virgin Coconut Soy||Booster|
|Beeswax Coco Creme||Booster|
|Natural Blends with Palm, Coconut, or Apricot Oils||Single Ply (Flat),
Below are the recommended wick sizes for wooden wicks based on your wax type and container diameter:
Use this table as a starting point for sizing your wicks. There’s always exceptions to the table, as there is with every wick chart.
How To Size Wood Wicks for Candle Making
Selecting An Initial Wick
Selecting the right wick for a wood wick candle is a multi-step process:
- Find the recommended wick size and type for your wax and container diameter
- Prepare and LABEL your container with the wick from step one, plus containers for wicks one size larger and one size smaller.
- For example, if you’re using paraffin wax in a 3” container, your recommended wick is a 0.02 x 0.5″ Crackling Flat wick (single-ply).
- You should also prep a container for one size up (0.02 x 0.625″) and one size down (0.02 x 0.375″)
- Create a batch with your wax and fragrance oil and pour into prepared containers
- After curing them an appropriate amount of time (depends on wax), conduct a burn test.
Conducting A Burn Test
A burn test, or wick test, makes sure the wick meets two criteria:
- Performance (scent throw)
Typically you don’t formally test performance until you lock down a safe wick, which may require several rounds of testing.
Testing wooden wick candles is the same procedure as testing normal cotton wicks with one exception: trim your wick lower than 1/4″ before each burn.
This isn’t a requirement, but if you leave wooden wicks longer they tend to burn too bright and hot. The ideal flame is roughly 1/2” tall.
Repeat the following steps until the candle FAILS or is completely used up:
- Place all candles you’re testing on a flat surface in a room with no breeze spaced 8” apart. Make sure the temperature is between 68°F and 86°F (20°C to 30°C).
- Trim each wick to about 1/8″ in height.
- Light the candles and start a timer for four hours. The test should run for exactly four hours.
- Every hour during the test, if any of the following things happen the candle is considered unsafe and you’ll need a new wick:
- Outer container temperature is more than 150°F
- The container cracks or breaks
- Candle tips or spills
- You see more than one flame per wick (this is called secondary ignition)
- Wick emits black smoke constantly or in excess of what you’re comfortable with
- Flame exceeds 3” height
- If you make it four hours without any of the above happening, blow out the flame and let the candle sit for 5 to 6 hours to cool back to room temperature before starting a new test.
Wood wick candle wick designs should not be considered complete until it reaches the end of life without failing.
Why Do Wood Wicks Crackle?
The natural aspect of a wood wick means it has a bunch of plant material in it.
If your wooden wick isn’t crackling, it’s probably not legit! Kind of like a campfire, they have cellulose trapped in the structure of the wick.
While it’s burning, cellulose transforms into a gas and tries to escape the wood pores.
But it can’t!
Eventually, the gas expands enough to explode from the pore, completely disrupting the cell walls and causing a crackling sound.
So many people desire this unique aspect of wooden wicked candles, so understanding the science behind it allows you to explain it to customers (or yourself) if you want.
Obtaining a strong crackle depends on a few other factors besides just the wick. You can increase or decrease the impact by paying attention to:
- Wax type. Soy and higher-density waxes tend to mute the effect more than paraffin and palm.
- Fragrance oil. Depending on the oil, higher fragrance loads can increase crackle, but the opposite effect occasionally happens too. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, testing will lead you in the right direction.
Honestly, wood wicks are cool. If nothing else, they appear to be a minor disruption to classic cotton wick candles.
One more drawback is they seem somewhat inconsistent.
In the candle making community, many people note their inability to produce consistent results from the wicks, citing the material and quality as the main reasons.
Nonetheless, they work just fine most of the time.
If you’re interested in building a product line with them, keep in mind that you want to trust whatever you’re creating will behave the way you need it to.
Don’t be hasty in your attempt to “have a wood wick candle” in your shop – safety, performance, and customer satisfaction are incredibly important for your brand.
Check our more related posts here:
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9 Common Candle Making Mistakes and How to Avoid or Fix Them
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Your Ultimate Candle Wick Guide
Types of Wicks and Which to Use for Candle Making
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4 Common Candle Myths Debunked
Your Ultimate Scent Category Guide to Craftiviti’s Fragrance Oils
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