candles, wicks

candles, wicks defined in 1909 year

candles, wicks - Candles, Wicks;
candles, wicks - The chief essential qualities of a wick are good power of absorption, and a capacity for burning freely, evenly, and thoroughly, while producing the least possible proportion of ash. It must necessarily be quite free from inequalities of whatever kind, and should be made of perfectly sound fibres. The forms and kinds of wick differ widely with the quality and composition of the candle; the melting-points, and other characteristics of the rocarbons forming the candle, vary to such an extent that, in order to burn to the best advantage - or indeed, in some cases to burn at all - each sort of candle needs to be accommodated with a special wick. One of the greatest secrets of candle-making is to have the wick perfectly suited to the peculiarities of the fatty matters employed; on this score, it is impossible here to do more than indicate the principles involved.

Rush Wicks

The original, and not yet obsolete, medium was the common soft rush, Juncus conglomeratus, to be found in moist pastures, and by the sides of streams and ditches. The rushes are in best condition in the height of summer, but may be gathered on to the autumn. As soon as cut, they are placed in water, otherwise they would dry and shrink, and the pe.el would not run. They are then stripped of half the peel, the object of which is to expose the pith sufficiently to enable it to conduct the molten fat, while enough of the rigid epidermis remains to afford it support. When duly peeled, they are laid out to bleach and take the dew for some nights, and are afterwards dried in the sun. These rushes are gathered m Lancashire, and abundantly in the Fen country, and in Ireland. Candle-wicks are ordinarily made of fine cotton yarn; Turkish cotton rovings are said to be the best, but of the cotton employed for this purpose there is certainly a great deal more imported from the United States than from Asia Minor. The wicks of night-lights vary greatly in composition, according to the fancy of the manufacturer. Sometimes little sections of rush are used, as well as very fine cotton yarn; but the majority consist of "inkle," a fine flax yarn.

Cotton and Flax Wicks

The manufacture of cotton and flax wicks is now performed almost exclusively by machinery, the threads of fibre being bound together either by twisting or by braiding. For dip candles, the wicks require to be bulky and of loose texture, in order that the melted tallow may rise freely. They are therefore made by twisting, and constitute the simplest form of wick after rushes. The cotton yarn chosen for the purpose must be "oozy" or furry, and the threads must be free from twist. This is placed ready balled in the cutting machine. By it, the yarn is doubled in proper lengths around a rod; a knife then descends and severs the yarns, to which a twist is communicated, by means of a rolling apparatus worked by a treadle. The twist is secured by dipping the wicks at once in molten fat.

Twisted wicks have a great drawback, inasmuch as they are only very partially consumed in the flame, and thus necessitate the troublesome operation of snuffing. At the present day, plaited wicks are made flat, by which means they acquire a natural inclination to bend. For all kinds of moulded candles, plaited, or in technical language, " braided," wicks are used, the old-fashioned twisted wick being reserved for "dips."


After being twisted or plaited, the wicks are bleached in the ordinary way, and thoroughly dried. Before being used by the candle-maker, they are dipped in a bath of pickling liquor, the effect of which is to retard combustion, and to help in causing the destruction of the ash. The pickle most commonly employed is a solution of about 1 lb. of boracic acid in 75 pints of water; in this, the wicks are soaked for about 3 hours. When taken out, they are either wrung, or put into a centrifugal machine, to remove the first excess of water, and are then completely dried in a tinned-iron box, provided with a steam jacket, or in a room heated with steam, with racks supporting shallow trays on each side. Various other pickles are recommended; the principal are:
  1. A solution of 5 to 8 grm. of boracic acid in 1 litre of water, to which 0.3 to 0.5 per cent, of sulphuric acid has been added;
  2. a solution of ammonium phosphate (used in some Austrian works);
  3. a solution of sal-ammoniac at 3°-4½°Tw. (2°-3°B.), proposed by Dr. Bolly;
  4. a solution of 2 oz. borax, 1 oz. potassium chloride, 1 oz. potassium nitrate, and 1 oz. ammonium chloride in 3 qt. water;
  5. the wicks of the newly-introduced "snuff-less dips" are plaited, and are then soaked in a solution of bismuth nitrate.
  6. Another good solution, in extensive use, is the following: sulphate ammonia, 1½ lb.; nitrate of potash, ½ lb.; borax, ½ lb.; distilled water, 1 gal.;
  7. J. L. Field treats wicks to prevent smouldering when extinguished, by steeping them in a solution of phosphoric acid, or ammonium phosphate, or ammonium phosphate and borax, or ammonium phosphate and boracic acid.
  8. By Duparquet's process, bleached wicks are soaked for ½ hour in a bath containing 16 grm. ammonium phosphate and 7 grm. sulphuric acid at 168° Tw. (66° B.) per litre of distilled water, the acid being added when the phosphate is well dissolved. Unbleached wicks require 40 minutes' soaking, and need a preliminary cleaning in a bath of 6½ oz. volatile ammonia, 1 oz. sulphuric acid at 168° Tw. (66° B.) in 246 oz. water, the mixture being boiled by steam, and the wicks kept in for 1½ hour, then boiled for ½ hour in pure water, rinsed in cold water, wrung, and dried, ready for the second bath.

  9. Proportions of Wick and Candle

    To get the best results there must be a careful adjustment of the size of the wick to the diameter of the candle of which it is to form a part. The size nomenclature of candles is based on the number of candles required to make up a pound weight, modified, so as to indicate differences in length required to meet the popular demand. Thus there are 6's, short 6's, and short short 6's, and other sizes of the same weight, but of different diameter. The size of the wick also is designated by the number of threads in each fold of the plait. For example, 3-20 plait is a plait of 3 ply of 20 threads each; any departure from the usual size of the ultimate threads is indicated as special. In ordinary plait for common paraffin candles, sizes 1's and 2's will be suited with 3-18 plait, 4's and 6's with 3-14 plait, 7's to short 14's inclusive, with the exception of long 10's and long 12's, with 3-11 plait, and for these and for 16's to 20's and smaller sizes 3-8 plait will be found suitable. When a candle, protected from draughts, emits smoke in burning, the wick is too large for the quality of the material used, and the adjustment demands attention. If a wick stands bolt upright during burning, it has either been imperfectly wrung, and excess of solution has gravitated during drying to particular portions of it, or by torsion it has been deprived of its elasticity. On the other hand, a wick which bends too low, making the edge of the cup to melt away on the one side, and thereby causing guttering, may be improved by strengthening the solution. Sputtering indicates wetness of the wick caused probably from an overflow of water in the candle-moulding machine. Dry wick feels crisp to the hand, and the hank when twisted and applied to the ear, will by an abundant crepitation give unmistakable evidence of dryness. Mere dampness of a wick does not cause spluttering, but the dampness will reduce its capillarity and reduce the rate of consumption, and consequently also its illuminating power.

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