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How to Make Candle Wicks (Illustrated Guide)

Collage of how to make candle wicks.

A candle is as good as its wick. Commonly wicks are made from pure cotton twine and beeswax. In craft circles, the pre-waxing of wicks is essential in getting candles to burn with brightness. There are wooden wicks, too, and even offbeat and make-shift ones from paper or a torn and twisted bit of t-shirting. 

Candle crafting is fun, and wick-making is an exciting DIY project that can grow into small-scale home industries. With good wicks, you can make a range of candle shapes and sizes and even burn aromatic oils in waxes for cheaper. But get the wick right first.   

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 4: Start the Salt and Borax Mix

How to Make Candle Wicks

Materials

  • 100% cotton or butcher’s twine
  • Pair of scissors
  • 12-inch measuring ruler
  • 2-cup fluid measuring jug
  • Tablespoon-sized measuring spoon
  • Wooden spatula-shaped mixing sticks
  • Sharp and sturdy knife
  • Kettle or pot for hot water
  • Double boiler
  • Oven proof jug
  • Large saucer
  • Apron
  • Gloves

Ingredients

  • Hot water
  • Borax Powder
  • Table salt
  • Pure or synthetic beeswax

Tools

  • None

Instructions

Step 1: Use a Ruler to Measure the Lengths of the Twine

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 1: Use a Ruler to Measure the Lengths of the Twine

A good formula for wick-making is essential as the best burning wicks become sought-after candles. Some standout features of a good wick are:

  • A consistent flame size
  • A well-formed wax pool with no dripping
  • Smokeless

Before measuring the wicks' twine, find a clutter-free workspace. Set out the materials neatly: the ruler, the borax, salt, a pair of trimming scissors, mixing sticks, and the measuring jug. Also, have a kettle nearby for the boiling water or have a pot ready to boil water. Wear an apron and a pair of gloves when you work with the heated wax.

Properly wicked candles are brighter in the glow, even burn longer, and are known for their fragrance throw. Decide on what size candles you are making, as this will determine the length of the wick. The wick runs from the base of the candle to the top and sticks out about half an inch.

You want to use good yarn as twisted fabric wicks are often of a lower quality than braided or knitted ones. Once you know the length of the wick, you can start measuring the 100 percent cotton, also known as butcher’s twine. It's a slow and consistent flame you are after for the best wick.

To save time, you want to make the wicks simultaneously. So you won’t cut the lengths one at a time. But instead, roll down a length of twine that you’ll space on the ruler without cutting it.

Start by rolling out a length of twine, and measure the first one. If the wicks must be 6 inches long, measure this, then turn the string back for the second measurement without cutting it. You must continue measuring by turning the twine back and forth from the 6-inch start to the finish point. Hold your pointer finger down when you turn to start the next wick.

You will use a long piece of twine that's not cut in sections but neatly folded back, one length on top of the other. With a bundle of connected yarn, you can hold it in one hand. . A tip is to measure only a few out at the same time. Stick to a small quantity of folded twine that you can easily hold in your hand at one moment.

Step 2: Cut the Twine Into Equal Lengths

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 2: Cut the Twine Into Equal Lengths

Once the twine is measured and layered, hold these equally folded lengths in one hand. Use a sharp pair of scissors to neatly trim the ends simultaneously. Discard the cut-off ends and lay the lengths of twine on the flat work surface one by one. Check that the sizes of the yarn are equal. Now you are ready to start making the wicks.

The wick crafting process is simple, and you'll quickly get the hang of it. The candle wick-making process suggested is a simple formula working with salt and borax and using beeswax. The preparation stages follow a curing step before the cut twine is waxed.

Step 3: Measure Hot Water  

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 3: Measure Hot Water  

Once the twine lengths are sorted, measure one and a half cups of boiling water in a measuring jug. Make sure you have a kettle nearby or a pot of hot water before adding the wax. You'll need hot water to dissolve the two key ingredients used to cure the wax. You want to get the wax process right. If the wick burns too fast, the wax will kill the flame too quickly.

A good wick is why the preparation process is essential; it must not smoke, and the candle must have a long-lasting burn. The preparation for the durable wicks needs:

  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons borax (a commercially available kitchen detergent booster and multi-purpose household cleaner) 

Step 4: Start the Salt and Borax Mix  

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 4: Start the Salt and Borax Mix

This is the stage where you start to cure the pieces of 100 percent twine you’ve cut to make the wicks. With the hot water ready (Step 3 above), scoop and level out two tablespoons of table salt. Slowly add the salt to the hot water in the measuring jug.

Step 5: Add Borax to the Hot Salt Water Mix

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 5: Add Borax to the Hot Salt Water Mix

The next step is to add the borax to the salt and water mixture. Level out four equal tablespoon quantities of borax and add this one by one to the hot salt water mixture. At this stage, you must know that 100 percent twine gives the best results for wicks.

In the USA, 80 percent of wicks are made out of cotton or paper and cotton combinations. The rest are metal or paper core

So, are the braided and knitted wicks better options for wick-making than looser ones constructed of twisted fibres. We are looking at wicks from 100 percent cotton fiber twine, which is used widely and successfully as wicks in all types of candles.

Step 6: Mix Borax and Salt  

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 6: Mix Borax and Salt  

Use a wooden mixing stick or spatula to mix the table salt and the borax. It would help if you combined the salt and borax well. The ingredients must dissolve in the water to become a salt and borax suspension.

This early stage to get the twine to soak thoroughly is the preliminary effort for a suitable wick. And in fact, cotton wicks produce a full flame and are relatively smokeless when a candle burns. The twine is inexpensive and readily available at hardware and home improvement shops.    

Step 7: Dunk Cut Twine in Salt and Borax Solution

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 7: Dunk Cut Twine in Salt and Borax Solution

Put the newly cut twine into the salt and borax solution. You want the string to absorb the mixture. This is a slow process. It would help if you left the cut twine lengths to soak up the solution for at least 24 hours. Make sure that the twine lengths are adequately covered.

The soaking time should not be skimped on for the best results when you finely light your candle to impress friends and family.  

Step 8: Soak Twine Thoroughly

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 8: Soak Twine Thoroughly

The twine is soaked in the salt and borax solution for at least 24 hours. Make sure that all the pieces are covered. After a day, you will see a build-up of crystals on the twine, a natural product from the salt and borax mixture. You can quickly rinse the wicks in clean water to eliminate some of this crystal and residual build-up. 

Step 9: Remove Soaked Twine and Dry Twine Out

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 9: Remove Soaked Twine and Dry Twine Out

The soaked and rinsed twine can be left to dry by hanging these from the long horizontal width of a plastic coat hanger. The reason for using a plastic hanger is that metal hangers can cause rust on the twine when left to hang and dry. You can also dry the salt and borax-cured cut lengths of twine on a kitchen towel or lay these straight on butcher’s paper to dry.

The drying process is double the time used for soaking the twine. Leave the salt and borax-cured twine for at least 48 hours. Only after that can you start to coat these cured twine lengths in wax.

Also, the steps to cure the twine in a salt and borax water solution are essential to stiffen the wicks for the waxing process. You want the waxed wicks to stand up straight when set in a candle mold to form a candle.

The following steps are about getting the wax ready.

Step 10: Starting the Wicks’ Waxing Process

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 10: Starting the Wicks’ Waxing Process

Most candle makers say it’s the wick that defines the quality of a candle. And though you can buy waxed wicks, making your own is fun and less expensive. Coating wicks in wax is easy but depends on the three days of preparation for the waxing process to begin.

Different kinds of waxes can be used and are commercially available, like palm oil, paraffin, and soy waxes. But there, the formula for making candle wicks is to use natural and even synthetic beeswax. You buy a brick of beeswax that you can work with.

The first step is to place the beeswax in a position where you can chafe off tiny bits of the block of beeswax with a sharp knife. It is easier to melt down small chips of beeswax than larger chunks.

Be careful, though, as you'll be using a sharp knife to get the shavings off the corners of the beeswax block. 

Step 11: Melt Beeswax in a Glass Container in a Double Boiler

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 11: Melt Beeswax in a Glass Container in a Double Boiler

The ideal way to melt beeswax is to put the shavings in an oven-proof container in the top part of a double boiler. It would help if you then watched the wax as it was slowly liquefied. And the choice of using beeswax stands out as all-natural in candles made from beeswax.

The wax starts to liquefy at a low melting point of 160⁰ F (71⁰ C), and once the wax melts, it's ready to have the twine dipped in. Once dipped, allow the wax to solidify. You might even dip the twine a second time.

Step 12: Coat the Cured Twine in Melted Beeswax

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 12: Coat the Cured Twine in Melted Beeswax

Once the wax has liquefied and is pourable, lay some cured twine out in a saucer. Cover the twine completely with wax. You can pour in more if these bits of cured twine aren't covered.

Step 13: Remove Beeswax Coated Twine

How to Make Candle Wicks - Step 13: Remove Beeswax Coated Twine

Once coated and cool, the twine covered in beeswax can be removed. To solidify thoroughly, you must do the coating a second and sometimes even a third time.

But this is the final step in making your own inexpensive wicks that are guaranteed to be slow-burning and even smokeless. The process also results in the wicks being as stiff as arrows once dried.

Once candle crafting gets a hook on you, you’ll find this relaxing DIY project addictive. And mastering this wick-making formula could put you steps ahead of other candle-making fanciers.  

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Resource:

How To Make Quality Candle Wicks (Tutorial)

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