Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Burning the candle at both ends.

You'll have to pardon the interruption, there will be no music this week as the only sound I'm hearing is the purr of my computer fan. In light (haha) of this crazy week of deadlines, discussing candles is only appropriate.

Remember this post about our unsuccessful first attempt at candle-making?

The problem with our test candles was that we experienced too much pooling of the wax, enough that it suffocated our flame. A bit of research was required, and little did I know how extensive the world of wicks would be. There are wicks with zinc, paper, and cotton cores, flat braided wicks, square braided wicks, and even wooden wicks! The wick you choose should be a function of the diameter of your candle, whether it's a pillar or a container candle, and the type of wax... if you're interested, here's a great chart to get you started.

Since we were working with beeswax container candles, that's where I focused my research. I discovered that beeswax, unlike petroleum wax, is particularly viscous when melted, and it requires a thicker wick {more capillary action} to pull the wax to the flame to be burned. As a result, we needed square-braided wicks which were designed specifically for beeswax. Square-braided wicks come with their own numbering system from 6/0, "six-aught", to 1/0, and then from #1 to #10. 6/0 wicks are for the smallest candles and #10 are for the largest. Something between a 2/0 and a 3/0 was perfect for our containers, so I went with the 3/0 {it turned out to be a lucky guess}. Silly me for thinking this candle-making was going to be easy!

Here's test candle #2:: We have a winner! When I lit this candle, the glass was full of wax, and after 6 or so hours I took that picture. The candle burned cleanly and slowly ~ just perfect for our all-day wedding affair. At first I was skeptical ~ the full surface of wax was not melting, just the area around the wick. After the flame was below the level of the glass, the problem went away, and we had an even, clean melt with a nice flame. I'm chalking initial uneven burning up to a draft when the flame was exposed; to eliminate that problem, we decided to only fill the glasses half-way with wax.

In addition to pulling the wax to the flame, the square-braided wicks form a "carbon cap" at their tip which makes the wick extra hot and helps it to melt a larger area of wax. This is particularly useful in our case because with the right size wick it will melt the whole top surface and there will be no wax stuck to the sides of the glasses as the candle burns down.

On a whim I decided to fill some tall jelly jars with wax:: With a bit of wire or twine, I think these will look great hanging from the trees and under the arbors. Oh, and see that polka-dot thing in the background? It's one of our two wedding-day kickballs {the other one is green with hearts}. We still have to rent the tents and tuxes, but I can sleep a little easier knowing we have kickball checked off of our list ;-).

And a serendipitous extra ~ we cut more bottles than we needed for the candles. I picked the ones with the best edges to fill first, and only used about half of the glasses. That's when I realized that these green glasses make the cutest little vases:: When filled with a bunch of low-cut ruffled flowers like carnations, we can hide any imperfections in the cut edge. It's a fun, easy, and oh-so-cheap addition to our wedding {and house} decor!

Here's a picture with my phone for scale::

And one more because eating breakfast next to this little vase makes me smile::

As an aside ~ I never found one comprehensive source with detailed information on every type of wick, wax, and candle type. There are plenty of websites and books that give you bits and pieces of info, but was looking for the Holy Grail of wick info and never found it. If you have a great resource, please pass it along!

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Always seeing the glass as half-full. Way to go!