Candles have been around for millennia and since their invention, thousands of years ago, many materials have been used in their making. Mankind’s quest for sources of indoor illumination led to the invention of candles and in earlier times, fat or tallow gotten from cattle and other animals were boiled down and used to make candle wax, while flax and plant fibres were commonly used as wicks. Nowadays, a large percentage of candles are made from paraffin wax while many other materials, including wood, have been used for making candle wicks.
Though not very typical, wooden candle wicks are much more common than many people think, particularly in the area of aesthetic and aromatic candle-making. A reasonable percentage of homemade candles are also made with wooden wicks however, not much is known about the care and maintenance of candles made with wooden wicks.
There are a quite a number of reasons for this lack of common knowledge about the maintenance of candles with wooden wicks, however the most important ones have to do with the fact that many people are not very familiar with this kind of candles. However, another reason which can be held responsible is the global aftermath of the invention of the electric bulb in the 1800s. After the electric bulb was invented in the 1800s, the global demand for candles fell drastically and as a result of this, the art of candle-making lost its appeal to many people over a long period of time. As the need for candles declined all over the world in the face of the invention of the electric light bulb, a lot of hard-won knowledge about the art of candle-making also started to become extinct. Even now, with the growing demand of candles as a result of the rising popularity of scented candles and aromatherapy, a lot of knowledge is still unavailable about many types of candles including those with wooden wicks.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF CANDLES WITH WOODEN WICKS
Candles with wooden wicks can be made with both soft woods and hard woods as either type can function well as wicks. The primary function of candle wicks is to soak up fuel (i.e. the constituents of candle wax, in this case) and supply it to the flame of the lit candle in order to sustain it, because no fire or flame can burn when fuel is not readily available to it. Regardless of the type of wood used in candle making – i.e. soft or hard, and single- ply or dual ply, among others – it is important to take good care of wooden wicks. A huge part of that care happens o involve trimming.
Trimming is the act of reducing the length of a candle’s wick to about one-eighth of an inch. It is very easily done with the aid of a measuring tape and a pair of scissors and it is a process that should ideally be carried out after the candle is bought and before its first use.
Trimming is done in order to aid the effective burning of the candle by controlling the length of the wooden wick. It is a very important maintenance process in candle-burning because it helps to reduce the amount of carbon and soot given off when a candle is burned. Also frequent trimming of wooden wicks after use also helps to prevent the wooden wick from assuming a dome-shape which will also contribute to the increased emission of soot when the candle is lit.
Apart from trimming, there are other processes involved in the care and maintenance of candles with wooden wicks. These practices do not only help to ensure the effective burning of candles, they also help to ensure the safety of the candle user, and they include the following:
- Not burning the candle for more than four hours at a time
If they are not made properly, using materials of good qualities, candles with wooden wicks can produce quite a lot of soot. However, the release of large amount of soot is also something undesirable that happens when the wooden wick of a candle is not properly trimmed. A very unique risk of wooden candles is the ash or burnt wood residues given off by the wood during burning. These residues tend to accumulate when the candle is used for long periods of time (i.e. for more than four hours at a time). When this happens, burnt wood residues can get into the remaining candle wax and hinder the burning process or the even melting of the wax. Eventually, this may contribute to tunneling; a process whereby uneven melting of the candle-wax results in the innermost part of the candle burning at a faster rate than the sides, thus resulting in the creation of a hole in the middle of the burning candle. To avoid this, wooden candles should only be allowed to burn for a maximum of four hours at a time, after which they should be trimmed and all accumulated burnt wood residues should be removed.
- Proper ventilation
Proper ventilation is very important for the proper burning of candles with wooden wicks. This is because the flames of lit candles require oxygen in order to burn, as combustion cannot take place in the absence of oxygen. However, fast flowing air or strong winds also have a negative effect on burning candles as they disturb the flames and result in the emission of an increased amount of soot.
Also, proper ventilation is essential during candle burning to prevent the accumulation of the gaseous emissions of wooden candles including soot. When too much of these smokes or gaseous emissions are present in a room, they can have a negative effect on the respiration of living things, including human beings. Too much of these vapors can also trigger asthma symptoms as well as nausea, particularly in the case of scented candles. Therefore, when burning candles with wooden wicks, it is very important to ensure cross ventilation by making sure windows are open. Yet, the candles should not be placed too close to the window to avoid interaction with heavy gusts of wind.