Why Candle Testing?

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I’m constantly burning candles all day long. Testers, all of them–I’m constantly looking for my next favorite scent or that right fragrance to capture the perfect moment. It can get a little bit… ridiculous. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got more than one candle going on right now, too. ^_^

Six testers on the coffee table… but there are 10 more on the dining table not pictured too!

First Burn

What do you prioritize when you test? For me, here’s what I’m looking for on my first burn:

  • scent throw: does it fill the room? I usually use soy wax (though I do make some coconut/paraffin candles) and I always wait 2 weeks minimum before I test, but if something doesn’t throw, I give it one more week and try it again… and then one more week and try the third (and last) time before I decide that it truly isn’t working out.
  • scent appeal: what are the fragrance notes? Does it appeal? Is it off-putting? Some people absolutely love Sea Salt and Orchid, but to me that is just way too cloying and it just doesn’t smell “real” to me. On the other hand, I could immerse myself in Midnight Jasmine all day, all night, in my dreams… mmm.

I don’t worry about the melt pool on the first burn. If I’m lucky I’ve got the right melt pool, but I almost never get the perfect melt pool on the first try.

(Almost. I just triple-wicked a candle that burns perfectly, and I’m currently trying it one size down to prove to myself that I have the right size. For the record, it’s IGI6046, triple wicked with LX16, burning Red Sangria from Candlescience. I’m trying LX14 right now and it’s not really succeeding… but you have to try before you know, right? ^_^) [ETA 2 hours later: … actually, by spacing the wicks out more, LX14 is doing beautifully. And this is why you test!]

Subsequent Testing

Now that I’ve decided if the fragrance works, it’s time to tune in the wick. (I’ve already figured out the vessel–I match that and the wax before anything else!) I pour a wickless tester and set it aside for two weeks (or longer, if the first burn tells me that this is one that has to cure a bit more.) Yup, wickless. Just wax and vessel.

After it’s cured, I use a metal skewer and stick holes where I want wicks to go, and then I cut off a piece of wick (1-2 inches) and insert it. A couple of my vessels are between 3-4 inches in diameter, and so I do this “biggest single wick possible” thing, then “smallest triple wicks possible”, and then I tweak from there–if the single-wick tunnels but the smallest triple wicks burn too fast or too hot, it’s going to be a double-wick.

I also weigh my candles upon every burn, and I try to make sure I burn the candles for at least 4 hours each time. Weighing the candles allows me to estimate burn time and lets me decide if the candle’s burning too fast (another indication of the wicks not being suitable). I have an ideal wax consumption rate for each vessel, and I’m trying to get as close to that ideal as I can.

Once the candle is:

  • full melt pool
  • ideal wax consumption rate
  • fantastic hot throw
  • burn time estimate is within target range

… now it’s time for the final test.

Customer Testing – The Final Frontier

I unashamedly use my best customers as candle testers. I’ll pour a candle, wicked, and ready for sale… and they will take it and use it as any person would. Some of them have pets, some of them have children, and they burn in all types of conditions. I ask them to let me know how long they burn it for and what it looks like.

If it never gets too hot, consistently achieves a full melt pool, and throws scent throughout their house… it’s ready for sale!

And that’s my method.

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