The Candle Cauldron - Everything You Want to Know About Candlemaking!
     Waxes & Wicks     

Too hard on the eyes?  Change the background color here: 
(only works in Microsoft Explorer, not Netscape)

Encyclopedia of Waxes
There are many types and grades of waxes for candlemaking. 

Paraffin Wax For the home hobbyist, you can buy paraffin wax in any grocery store (in the canning section) or at a craft store.  It usually costs around $1.50 per pound.  This is usually a low to medium melt point paraffin wax that is suitable for making container candles and perhaps votives, but would not be ideal for pillar candles.  Paraffin waxes specifically formulated for candles can be purchased from candlemaking suppliers online, or some local craft shops and petroleum companies.  They come in several different grades and melting points for the different types of candle applications. 
Refined or Fully
Refined Paraffin
These are harder, lower oil content waxes, generally with an oil content of 1.0 mass percent or less, white in color, and meeting Food and Drug Administration standards for purity and safety.    The quality is determined by the extent of the refining process.  Refined waxes are suitable for the manufacture of drugs and cosmetics, for coating paper used in food packaging, and for other critical applications.    Food grade paraffin wax produces less smoke than other paraffin and burns more slowly. 
Slack Wax A semi-refined wax, distinguished from scale wax by having a generally higher oil content. Semi-refined slack waxes may have oil contents up to 30 mass percent.  Slack waxes with oil content below 10 mass percent are used for manufacture of religious candles.  Slack wax is the crude wax produced by chilling and solvent filter-pressing wax distillate. There are basically three types of slack wax produced, the type depending on the viscosity of the lube oil being dewaxed: low neutral, medium neutral, and heavy neutral.
Scale Wax Soft, semi-refined wax, distinguished from slack wax by having a generally lower oil content; usually derived from slack wax by extracting most of the oil from the wax.
Waxes with an oil content up to 3.0 mass percent are generally referred to as scale waxes.
Microcrystalline Wax Microcrystalline waxes differ from refined paraffin wax in that the crystal structure is more branched and the carbon chains are longer. These waxes are tougher, more flexible and have higher tensile strengths and melting points. They are also more adhesive, and they bind solvents, oil, etc., and thus prevent the sweating-out of compositions. Typical oil content by weight is between 0.5% and 2%.
Polyethylene Wax Polyethylene waxes are manufactured from low molecular weight, high-density raw materials, designed to give the particular performance characteristics required by industry.
Petrolatum Petrolatum is the wax byproduct of the heaviest lube oil, bright stock. Petrolatum wax consists of a natural mixture of microcrystalline wax and oil. It has good oil-holding capacity that when filtered and blended it becomes mineral jelly. When fully refined it becomes microcrystalline wax.
White Oils (Mineral Oil) White oils are colorless, odorless, tasteless mixtures of saturated paraffinic and naphthenic hydrocarbons that span a viscosity range of 50-370 SUS at 100F. These nearly chemically inert oils are virtually free of nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen and aromatic hydrocarbons. They are common ingredients in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, plastics, textiles and foods.
Bayberry Wax Also known as Myrtle Wax or Candle berry.  Rare and expensive natural wax derived by boiling the berries of the bush.  The waxy coating on the berries boils off and floats to the top to be collected.  This wax has a natural greenish color and a fresh natural scent.  This wax generally has a melt point of 116-120 and is very hard and brittle.  The wax (Myrtle Wax) consists of glycerides of stearic, palmitic and myristic acids, and a small quantity of oleaic acid.
Beeswax Beeswax is also available at several candlemaking supply companies and even some local beekeepers, but is much more expensive than paraffin.  Beeswax has a melt point around 146 and makes a high quality candle.  Pure beeswax burns longer and cleaner with minimal dripping and less smoke than candles made with other waxes.   It is a light to golden yellow wax naturally produced by honey bees, and it has a slightly sweet honey-like scent.  Often used in cosmetics and candles, as well as wood polishes, and various other applications.  If you don't want to use straight beeswax, you can also add beeswax to your paraffin wax to save some money and still end up with a better candle. 
Palm Wax A 100% natural wax derived from palm.  It is a hard wax with a high melt point around 140, and is known to produce a crystalline look.  It usually comes in flake form.  It can be used straight or as an additive to other natural or synthetic waxes. 
Soybean Wax Soy waxes are all natural waxes made from the soy bean.  They come in several melt points for different applications.  These are generally clean burning waxes that produce little soot.  There are low to medium melt point blends from 120 to 135 for container candles, and higher melt point blends for pillars & votives.   Some soy waxes are pure soy, and some are blends with other natural and botanical oils.  These waxes are known to be non-toxic, biodegradeable & environmentally safe, and longer burning than paraffin.  Advantages are that they can be safely melted in the microwave, they usually only require one pour, they clean up with just hot water and soap, and they work well with both fragrance oil and essential oils.
Recycled Wax You can use pieces of old leftover candles and recycle them.  Just save all of your old taper and pillar stubs and pieces of wax from old jar candles to remelt and make into new candles.  Or you can break them up into small pieces and fill a container, then overpour with clear paraffin to make recycled chunk candles!
Wax Additives There are also several additives many candlemakers use to enhance the appearance and burning quality of candles, such as stearic acid, vybar, micro wax and poly crystals just to name a few.  You can learn more about these on the "Dictionary of Candlemaking Terms" page on this site, and from the suppliers that sell them.  There are also a few other additives many candlemakers use that you may find in your home already.  These include petroleum jelly, vegetable shortening, vegetable oil and mineral oil.  These types of additives are usually used only in container candles as they soften the wax and lower the melting point.

Encyclopedia of Wicks
There are many types and sizes of wicks for candlemaking. 


You can buy several different types and thicknesses of wick in a craft or candle supply store.  You can get them on a spool by the foot, or pre-cut waxed and tabbed for container candles.  

When using spooled raw wick, it is best to prime your wicks before using, by dipping them a couple of times in melted wax to coat them.  This helps the wicks burn better and prevents air bubbles releasing from the wick into the surrounding wax.  

Wicking Pillars:  Some pillar molds come with pre-drilled wick holes that you wick before pouring the candle.   To hold the wick at the top, tie the wick to a wick rod or a pencil and lay it on top of the mold.  Make sure the wick hangs in the very center of the mold!  When making molded candles and you plan to overdip them, remember to leave a couple extra inches of wick to hold onto when dipping.  Other pillar molds have no wick hole, and require using an auto wick pin instead.  Some candlemakers also pour their pillars solid and then drill a wick hole afterward.  

Wicking Containers:  Container wicks need to be anchored to the bottom of your container.  Many people use a hot glue gun to affix the tab to the glass, or you can use Wick Stickums which are a double sided adhesive tape pieces cut to fit perfectly on the bottom of a wick tab.   You will need something to hold the top of the wick taut and straight on the top of the container while the wax dries.  Wick holder clips work very well, and if the container is very small a bobby pin will do the trick.  
(Note: It is important that the tab be secured to the container and not just set in the wax, because as the candle burns down and becomes liquid near the bottom, an unaffixed wick could come loose and float to one side of your glass and cause it to get too hot and shatter.)

Wicking Votives:  
Votives can be wicked after pouring when the wax has only slightly set up.  When the wax forms a slight skin on top, insert your pre-tabbed wick in the center, and push the tab down in the layer of congealed wax in the bottom of the mold.  

Wick Type Recommended Uses
Square Braid Square Braid cotton wick is used in the majority of beeswax candles, tapers, pillars and citronella candles.  This wick is also designed to give a slight bend at its tip when burning.
Flat Braid Flat Braid Wick is used in taper and pillar candles.  This wick is designed to bend slightly when burned allowing for an even burn and a reduction of carbon (mushrooming) at the tip.
Zinc Core Metal is used in wicks to help them stand up in candles that produce deeper melt pools.  Zinc core burns the coolest and is the most commonly used wick type in container candles, votives and tea lights.  Note:  These are known to mushroom and sometimes smoke more than other types.
(In the past Lead and Tin were sometimes used, but those are no longer on the market in the US.)
Paper Core Paper core burns the hottest and is good for waxes that require heavy duty wicking to achieve a good melt pool.  Used in container candles.  Note: Some candlemakers report that these cause candles to smoke more in some applications.
Hemp Core Hemp is a strong natural fiber which makes for rigid wicks that will stand up straight while burning.  Can be used in containers, votives and pillars.
Coreless Cotton These all cotton braided wicks are designed to bend at the tip when burning, forcing the tip of the wick into the outer portion of the flame where it burns the hottest.  This causes more complete combustion, leaving less carbon (mushroom) behind and less smoking, making for a cleaner burn.  These also tend to require less trimming, and are sometimes referred to as "self trimming".  Usually used in container candles as an alternative to cored wicks.

For the best selection and complete wick chart and info, visit Bitter Creek!

This site best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer at an 800x600 screen setting.
Some portions of the site may be distorted in other screen settings or other browsers.
In a hurry?
Click SEARCH Here 
to Search this site!

All contents, graphics & page design property of
Doneen St.John of The Candle Cauldron™
No materials are to be copied from this website or reproduced in any form without express permission of the author.
Copyright © 1997-Present.  All rights reserved.