Characterization of Paper Fiber Flat Braided Cotton Wicks

Paper fiber flat braided cotton wicks are generally considered to be self-trimming wicks with a predictable posture and good rigidity.  This type of wicks are good performers in a broad number of different base material formulations and are offered by all the major wick braiders servicing the candle industry around the world.

The braiding pattern utilized in the construction of this type of wicks, in combination with the fiber components utilized (cotton and paper), result in a natural braiding pattern of intertwined light colored cotton and dark colored paper fibers.  The unique pattern is different on each “side” of the flat braided wick and can be observed with the naked eye.

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wet waxed
wick

Paper fiber flat braided cotton wicks are generally considered to be self-trimming wicks with a predictable posture and good rigidity.  This type of wicks are good performers in a broad number of different base material formulations and are offered by all the major wick braiders servicing the candle industry around the world. The braiding pattern utilized in the construction of this type of wicks, in combination with the fiber components utilized (cotton and paper), result in a natural braiding pattern of intertwined light colored cotton and dark colored paper fibers.  The unique pattern is different on each “side” of the flat braided wick and can be observed with the naked eye.

During the waxing process, it is normal for the flat wicks to align on the reel on their different “sides” and, may “rotate” several times on the same reel. As the flat wick rotates from side to side, the visual appearance of lighter and darker areas on the reel may be apparent. This is a normal occurrence which does not affect the performance of the wick.

 

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An Accountant’s Look at Waxing Wick

In our travels and discussions with people in the candle industry, we have been surprised to learn that there are still manufacturers who believe that their cost to wax their candle wick is simply the cost of the components…the wick and the wax. Surprising, but true.

Fortunately most people in the industry realize that this is just the beginning of the cost of preparing the wick for the candle making process. But how much does it really cost to wax your wick? To try and answer this question, we put on our accounting hats and prepared an outline of what we view to be the typical and “hidden costs” of waxing your own wick.


Phase 1: Raw Materials – The cost of raw materials (wick and wick-wax) is the beginning point. To this we need to add an allocation of time of the purchasing staff, as well as the time of receiving and inventory personnel. To be safely prepared we need to purchase and inventory raw material in adequate quantities to ensure availability as required by production. Space must be allocated to store both raw materials and in-process product. Are these overhead expenses minimal in relation to the cost of the actual raw material? They probably are. But they are there and need to be accounted for. But what about the space demands of storing the waxed and unwaxed wick and of the wick-wax? Minimal space demands, probably not. Could this space be used for more productive purposes? Probably so.


Phase 2: Production – Next we move to the production process. The wick is removed from inventory and the wax baths prepared. Care must be taken to ensure a satisfactory and consistent application of wax. Drying the wick perfectly is imperative. Timing of the flow of waxed wick to candle production must be maintained. If there is a delay, there is downtime and loss of profits. What costs have we incurred up to this point? We have the direct labor of the wax bath operators, as well as the indirect labor of the material handlers and supervisory personnel. Then there is the maintenance of the waxing machines. We are all aware that traditional waxing machines require maintenance. The finished waxed wick is then forwarded to candle production. What costs have we now incurred? Well there was material handling into, within and from the department. There is the waxing personnel. There is the maintenance and engineering staffs. There are fringe benefits and employee safety programs. There is downtime and vacation time. And, we really haven’t gotten to overhead yet.


Phase 3: Capital and Factory Usage – Waxing machines are not inexpensive and depreciation and repair outlays add to your waxing cost. Next, let’s give some thought to the significant amount of floor space required for the storing of raw and in-process wick, and especially as needed for the waxers. How much space do they occupy that could be used for other needed purposes or expansion to meet the needs of the marketing team. With square footage, don’t forget to allocate their proportionate share of overhead in the nature of real estate taxes, electric, building depreciation and maintenance.


Phase 4: Allied Expenses – Do you need to invest more money in waxing machines just to keep up? Then there’s the Human Resource challenge of finding and hiring operators and mechanics…and let’s not forget the cost of their fringe benefits, vacation time and sick days. And, we need to add in a factor for machine downtime. The operators continue to accrue labor and benefit costs as the mechanics repair the waxers once again. Now the accountants’ adding machines are really cranking away. Now we’re getting a feel for what it really costs.


Alternative: So, these are the tangible expenses of doing your own waxing. The option (whether to do it yourself or take some of the burden off of your own team) is to receive top quality product made to your specifications, in house, on time, every time, ready to go into production. Seems a lot simpler. You work with us to select the wick and wick-wax. We provide you with exactly what you choose. Let’s be straight forward here, if you don’t like our product or service, we lose. If all goes as anticipated, you’ll feel like a genius. Simple, delivered to your door, ready to go. We see ourselves as a value added premium combustion component supplier to the candle industry. You purchase the candle wax, fragrances, glass as a finished product. Why not the waxed wick? The choice is yours.


And, Now for the Fun “Stuff”: Enough of the cost accounting, let’s touch base on some of the inherent benefits you will reap by obtaining the finished waxed wick, ready to go into production, from Wicks Unlimited.

    • No need to secure and stock raw wick. Wicks Unlimited maintains large quantities of the most technically advanced wick from Wedo, Technical Braiding, Sao Vitor and Atkins & Pearce. We work with the leading wick manufacturers to develop new wicks to meet the requirements of today’s candles. Once your wick requirements are determined, we go out and purchase and maintain in inventory a minimum of six months supply of your raw wick. The potential for delivery delays is curtailed right from the start.
    • It gets better. With our very popular “Make and Hold” program we will wax your wick and maintain it in OUR inventory. You place orders for your upcoming requirements and agree to take shipment of it within six months. We go ahead and wax your orders to your specifications and put them into inventory. When you call up requesting shipment, it goes out our door the same day!
    • Now let’s talk about the quality of the product you will be receiving. Let’s start with the machinery itself. Traditional waxing machines “cover” the wick by applying a thin coating of wax to the outside of the raw wick. It is not uncommon that during this procedure, gear or chain driven waxing machines will not smoothly pull the wick through the wax bath, but will tend to stress the wick, distorting the braid. Furthermore, the waxing machines available to the candle industry today are not engineered with the most reliable and consistent rewind components to ensure consistent stress free waxing. The result of these deficiencies is that you have a wick that is inadequately saturated, contains air pockets and has braids that are not evenly tensioned for the burn process they were designed for. The end result is inconsistent flame height when your customers burn your candles.
    • In contrast, Wicks Unlimited’s waxing machines saturate the wick to its core by gently forcing air out of the wick, without stressing it. This allows the wick to burn in a more uniform and predictable manner and makes it stronger to work with in production. All our waxing machines are engineered and built in house to our exacting specifications. Our goal in the design of these machines was 100% predictability in the quality of the waxed wick.

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  • As a final note, we are pleased to provide confidential preliminary and problem solving test burning and wick selection for our customers. Drawing on decades of experience and with the assistance of formidable library of wicks, time lapse and infrared photography, our busy lab is not only a place of technical assistance, but also continual learning.

Conclusion: 

Combustion 101

Diffusion:

Liquid wax diffuses into the wick saturating the cotton fibers.


Capillary Action:

The fuel moves up the wick as it is consumed through the process of capillary action.

Candle-Capillary Action

Vaporization of Fuel:

The flame’s heat vaporizes the liquid fuel to begin the combustion process.

 

Candle Combustion-Vaporization of fuel-01 (1)

Incomplete Combustion:

All candle flames have varying degrees of complete and incomplete combustion.

Fuel Reduction:

Mushrooming, carbon capping, or carbon deposits are the result of unburned fuel and soot accumulating on the end of the wick.

Ideal Complete Combustion:

All combustion takes place on the outside edge of the flame where oxygen and heat are at their maximum.

Candle Combustion Ideal Complete Combustion

Common Burn Issues

The proper wick for any given candle provides a correctly sized burn pool, does not extinguish before end of life, and has a safe, pleasant flame height.

When observing the characteristics of an optimized burn, it is important to achieve a properly sized burn pool, minimal sooting and a well-sized flame throughout the length of the entire candle’s life. Container candles may entrap an increasing amount of heat as they burn, so the way a candle burns in the first half of its life may not indicate how it will burn toward the end.

That’s why a candle needs to be thoroughly tested to its completion.  There are no shortcuts in the pursuit of a quality candle.

Problem #1:  The Burn Pool

The burn pool serves two main functions for a candle. It provides the liquid fuel required by the flame and it regulates the “hot scent throw”.

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In general, choosing too large a wick will result in excessive flame size and hence a deep burn pool, causing too large a portion of the candle to liquefy, and, in the case of pillar candles, collapse the walls.

Too much heat will also cause the fragrance to break down, reducing the evaporation of scent and requiring a greater flow of oxygen which, in turn, contributes to burning inconsistency and “sooting.”

Too small a wick will either cause the wick to drown in its burn pool or to create too small a pool resulting in “tunneling” and reduction of burn time.

In both cases, the customer will almost certainly feel disappointed by his or her purchase. The choice of the proper wick for a particular candle’s composition will determine the success of the burn pool and ultimately, the customer’s satisfaction.


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Problem #2:  Flame Height

Flame height is another determining factor in judging the overall burn of the candle and it is also ultimately determined by the wick choice.

After all, the wick is the candle’s sole conduit for fuel. Too high a flame not only will cause “sooting” but can also become quite dangerous.

Soot is the black substance found in smoke. It is comprised of tiny particles of unburned fuel and its excessive presence indicates incomplete combustion and the improper wick choice.


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Problem #3:  Mushroom Capping

Mushrooming occurs when there is an overabundance of wax fuel to be combusted, creating a build up of partially reduced molecules which are unable to reach the flame, combining with oxygen and completing the burning process.

As a result, the incompletely combusted material falls back onto the wick and builds up as a carbon cap on the end of the wick.

This excess fuel can be caused by an oversized wick providing more wax to the flame than can be burned; or the wrong type of wick in general.


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Problem #4:  Afterglow

Afterglow occurs when an individual manually extinguishes the flame but the charcoaled mass at the end of the wick continues to throw off soot. All wicks do this to some extent when they are blown out, but it becomes “afterglow” when it continues past a reasonable amount of time.

This condition most often occurs as a direct result of mushroom capping during the burn.


The Solution

Wicks Unlimited’s free wick optimization candle test burning support service.

Smoking, sooting, wick drowning, short burn times, glass breaking, unsafe flame size and tunneling can all be remedied by the choice of the right wick.  As such, we purposely did not offer “this wick size for this candle size” recommendations on this website.  We will be pleased to individually analyze each of your applications and make our recommendations as to the proper wick-clip assemblies for your product, taking into consideration your wax formulation, scent, dye and candle size.  We perform this service at no charge for our Customers.

We appreciate the opportunity to assist you with your test burning as we want our Customers to feel good about their finished product and about their relationship with Wicks Unlimited.  Test burning a wide assortment of candles allows Wicks Unlimited to gain a great deal of product knowledge which then helps everybody.  The individual results of all our test burns are considered proprietary between Wicks Unlimited and our Customer.

One would hope that 300 wicks were enough to cover every possibility…but they are not.

With the imagination and creativity of the candle industry, new challenges are constantly being presented.  The communication channels between Wicks Unlimited and our wick manufacturers are wide open, with new wicks being created based on the feedback from Wicks Unlimited’s testing lab.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR WICK 

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With a little help from your friends in the candle industry…

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You can have this.  

PerfectBurn