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Why and how to prime your wicks?

Priming a wick is a simple but often misunderstood and underestimated operation, yet it is essential to ensure that your candles will burn as they are intended.
Because this is well worth an individual article, let's take a look at the "why" and the "how".

In order to fully understand what this article is about, you need to know how a wick works.
This is explained in the article How do candles work?


In most of the cases, a wick is made of braided cotton yarns.
As tight as the braid is, inevitably there will be some amount of air trapped in the wick.
The article titled How do candles work? shows that it's the gasified paraffin that keeps the flame burning and not the wick. However, the first time a candle is lit, it takes some time before the flame reaches the level of the wax and some more time before the heat starts to melt then gasify enough of the paraffin to feed of it.
"Some time" and "some more time" put together can result in a relatively long time. If you add to this the chemical treatment a wick receives, aimed at slowing down its combustion, you'll understand that before enough paraffin can be gazified to feed the wick, the flame has major chances to just die out.


To avoid this, a simple operation is necessary: before you set it up in the mold, let the wick soak for a few minutes in the liquid paraffin.
You should notice that, after a few seconds, a noticeable quantity of small air bubbles escape from the wick and float to the surface of the paraffin. That's exactly what you want: that the air present in the fibers of the wicks be replaced by paraffin.
Thanks to that, the flame will find enough "fuel" inside the wick and will not die out, even if it hasn't reached the surface of the candle yet.
After two minutes (or more, that's not a problem), fish the wick out of the paraffin - using an used fork, for example -, let it drip above your double boiler for a few seconds then take one end in each hand and pull the wick tight. Let it rest on a piece of waxed paper and give it time to cool off completely. A freshly primed wick should be straight before it is allowed to cool off: it's almost impossible to fix afterwards!

Priming your wicks has another advantage : once the air has been replaced with paraffin and because paraffin gets back to a solid state, it will be much easier to insert your wick through the mold's wick hole. Less efforts will also be required to keep the wick straight while pouring.

It is recommended to prime your wicks in pure paraffine, without additives. Don't prime your wicks in a wax formula for container candles, for instance.


For more creativity, you can try and prime your wicks in coloured paraffin.
Nobody ever said a candle wick must be white or remain white!
An entirely white candle with a black or red wick is gorgeous! Of course, don't over do it with candle dye: your wick will always have a pastel shade; you'll never get a wick of a deep black (or whatever color you're trying to get).
And don't think you can anyway: all you will do is clog the wick and prevent your candle from burning properly.

Priming a wick is a simple but often misunderstood and underestimated operation, yet it is an essential one.
Priming a wick is a simple but often misunderstood and underestimated operation, yet it is an essential one.
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