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October 01, 2018

Science 101 of Candle Making

The 'En-Light-ener' Candle Making Newsletter
October 2018
School is in Session: 
Science 101 of Candle Making

By now, all levels of school are well into the semester, so we're a bit behind in starting class. Don't worry. There's still plenty of time to be ready for this year's final exam, which is always graded by how well your business does during the holiday season. In our October issue, we're going to focus our studies on the science of candle making. With these basics under your belt, you should be able to make a better candle. Although every component of candle making does have a great deal of science behind it, the good news is that just having a basic understanding can help.

In our November issue, we'll focus on the math of the candle. And then – as always for our December issue – we can focus on the music of candle making. (Be sure to read this issue; it's always one of our most-read issues.)

The Science of the Candle Wick 

A candle's wick is the pipeline that feeds melted wax vapor to the flame using capillary action. Initially, the heat of the flame melts the wax at the top of the candle. Once the melt pool is formed, the molten wax is then drawn to the flame by the capillary action of the wick. Once the wax reaches the wick, a chemical reaction occurs between the vaporized hydrocarbons and the oxygen in the air.

Candle FlameWhen you take a look at a candle's flame, you'll notice that the flame is nearly invisible near the wick, and a yellow, luminous zone surrounds the wick. It is near the wick that the wax vapors are breaking down, releasing hydrogen. As a result, long unsaturated carbon chains are formed. These carbon chains are actually tiny particles of soot. It is these tiny soot particles that burn and release the yellow light of the candle's flames. If there is enough oxygen and not too much wax vapor being created at the wick, the soot particles are completely burned up in the flame, and the candle releases only heat, light, water, and carbon dioxide. If there's too much vapor and not enough oxygen, the flame is going to release the soot and not fully consume it, causing the wick to bloom (mushroom).

When choosing and testing a wick, it's important to use a repeatable process. 

The standard protocol for wick testing is:

  • Light the candle, burn it for four hours, then extinguish.
  • Wait one hour, trim the wick and relight.

This process should be followed for the entire burn cycle. It will determine not only the proper wick to use, but also the burn time of the candle. If you include proper burning instructions on your candles, you will always have a basis on which to defend your product if a customer is not happy with how your candle performed.

Don't forget to also perform wick testing for different color/fragrance combinations. A burgundy/cinnamon candle will more than likely require a different wick than a white/hyacinth candle.

A candle that is lit and burned continuously will yield a different wick size and burn time than one determined with the above process. It is extremely difficult to get a wick to perform properly when it is not used as designed.

When you're going through your wick testing process, you should be reviewing:

  • Flame height
  • Whether the wax pool reaches the sides in a reasonable time period
  • Temperature of the container
  • Carbon build up
  • Smoking or after glow that occurs after extinguishing

We can't emphasize enough the importance of wick testing. You might have the most fragranced candles and sell them at the best price, but if the candle does not perform to the customer's satisfaction, the customer more than likely will not come back.



For this issue, we are going to limit our discussion to an extremely basic explanation of color and candle dye.

The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These three colors are mixed to create all the other colors in the rainbow. It is by mixing primary colors that you achieve the secondary colors, green, orange, and purple. From there on out, you can mix any color you need. This is how a color wheel was developed. When using multiple colors in a single candle, a good starting point is to use analogous or complementary colors. Analogous colors are those that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as shades of yellow and green. Complementary colors are those that are opposite on the color wheel. These are just the basic starting points to a phenomenon that knows no boundaries. You can use colors that resemble groupings found in nature, school/team colors, the latest popular interior design colors, or anything else that connects with your or your customers' feelings and preferences.

Candlewic offers a variety of dye and color options for the candle maker. Our EVO line of liquid dye is well-known to candle makers for its consistency, deep color, and user-friendly attributes. The liquid dyes are extremely concentrated, so measuring in smaller batches can be difficult.

Our color blocks are an easy way to use color with less mess, and our large selection eliminates the need to manually mix colors (but you may mix them if you prefer). Whether you choose color blocks or liquid dyes will depend on the batch size you plan on making.


Fragrance is definitely the most exciting of the candle topics and one that generates the most reviews and discussion. But, besides smelling good, fragrances have a formal structure that can be categorized by the "notes" of the fragrance.


Top Notes – The initial impact. The very first perceived part of a fragrance. It usually consists of citrus notes and/or light fruity or green notes. The top notes are also the first to dissipate. (Examples of Top Notes: Aldehydes, Citrus, Fruits, Herbs, Ozone.)

Heart/Mid Notes
 – Predominant character. Middle notes emerge just before the top notes dissipate. They are the body of a fragrance and help cover the base notes that take time to develop their depth and richness. (Examples of Heart/Mid Notes: Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Spices.)

Base Notes – Long lasting. The foundation of a fragrance, the base delivers the undertones that modify and enhance the layers above it. (Examples of Base Notes: Musks, Powders, Resins, Sweet, Gourmand, Woods.)


When choosing wax, it's important that you choose one that will optimize what you want out of the candle. For example: Do you want the candle to be natural? Are you looking for maximum fragrance throw? Are you seeking a mottled surface or other attributes that various types of wax offer?

Science of a Wax
Wax in today's society is a generic term. Wax can cover a broad spectrum of products that include petroleum, animal, vegetable, and synthetic-based materials. One of the primary waxes used in candles today is refined from petroleum. However, other types of waxes have become extremely popular in recent years. These include vegetable or plant-based waxes such as soy, palm, or bayberry as well as waxes made from insects such as beeswax.

Basically, paraffin wax is a petroleum product that has gone through a refining process. The end result is a product that is solid at room temperature. Within the refining process, waxes can be classified as fully refined wax, semi-refined wax, scale wax, and slack wax.

Most candle makers generally work with fully refined and/or semi-refined wax, which is available in melting points ranging from 121°F to approximately 160°F. Waxes such as slack and scale can be used to make candles, but their applications are generally limited to filling containers or jars, because the melting points on these waxes are generally below the 121°F level. Also, slack and scale waxes have a tendency to have an "oily" smell.

Even though paraffin is very dominant, plant-based waxes are growing in popularity and, in many areas, their market share may be larger than that of paraffin candles. Plant-based and most other natural waxes are a renewable resource. Due to this property, plant-based products offer a secure and reliable supply for many years to come.

Anatomy of a Jar

One would think that selecting a jar would be easy, but there is a whole anatomy to a jar that can help you choose the type that will work best for your application.

Who would have guessed there is so much involved with a jar?

When you call our tech support to discuss jar candles, the following information may be helpful in facilitating the discussion. Please remember to measure the "body" of the jar when asked about the diameter of the candle.

Hi. I'm Chandler.
As I have stated in my column a couple of times, the topic of candle wicks is definitely a confusing one, and the numbering system manufacturers offer does not help. One question that is commonly asked is:
"What do the numbers identify?"
The answer varies depending on which series of wicks is in question. For example, the cored wicks with numbers such as 44-24-18 zinc do not mean much to the average candle manufacturer. These were developed many years ago by the wick manufacturer and refer to what type of cotton to use, how many strands and other specifications that do not transfer over to actual candle making. In most instances, the larger first number signifies a larger wick, but this does not always hold true for the smaller sizes.

However, if the same question is asked of the ply wick, there is some logic in that this signifies the number of strands used. If you need a larger burn when using a 21 Ply, the next logical test wick would be the 24 Ply.
Shop Wicks
Fall is Here

Fall has arrived. The leaves soon are going to begin to change colors, the weather is just perfect, and people can't wait to fill their homes with every fall scent imaginable, from pumpkin and cinnamon to apple cider donuts and spiced cider. We may be a little biased, but what is the best way to make that happen? Candles!

Fall Candle
Materials needed for project:
Fall Fragrance Combo Pack Yummy Fall Fragrance Combo Pack (includes 4, 1 oz. bottles)
Dye Block Orange Dye Block
Burning Instructions Burning Instructions
Candle Tins 8 oz. Candle Tins
1 lb pouring pot 1 lb. Pouring Pot
Bow Tie Clips Bow Tie Clips
Pre-Wicks Pre-Wicks
(8" ECO-10)
Premium Soy Wax 1 lb. Bags – Premium Soy Wax
Thermometer Thermometer
Glue Dots Glue Dots




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