What's up with wick trimmers?

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SierraStrider
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What's up with wick trimmers?

Postby SierraStrider » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:48 pm

This isn't a question that's likely to have huge applications in wilderness trekking, but it's something I've been messing with recently and which has had me rather puzzled.

I've run into some historical examples of wick trimmers over the years--special scissors used to cut wicks while the candle was burning to promote better light output with less smoking.
This is fairly straightforward on its face, but is made a bit perplexing by the fact that I've never once thought "Man, that wick could use a trim"--why did they stop being necessary?
I'd heard that it was because modern candle wicks were, well...modern. had some fancy properties that let them burn away completely instead of getting longer and longer until they became a problem...but I just got some candle wick that works quite well and it's...just hemp twine. Doesn't seem special at all in the way it was twisted or its substance, and once again, no trimming seems necessary.

Anybody know what's up with this? I suppose I should try making a candle with some hemp string that's not sold as wick material and see if there's a noticeable difference.
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Taurinor
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Re: What's up with wick trimmers?

Postby Taurinor » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:28 pm

This blog post repeats what I had heard previously (no citations, mind) - pre-19th century wicks were twisted rather than plaited. The asymmetrical braiding in modern wicks causes the wick to curl as it burns, allowing it to be consumed completely, as opposed to smoking and choking out the flame. To keep twisted wicks burning, they had to be trimmed.
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SierraStrider
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Re: What's up with wick trimmers?

Postby SierraStrider » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:06 pm

After messing with this a bit, you're 100% right. I think part of why the twisted wick was working relatively well for me at first is that I was using a pretty thick candle--so the wick's length relative to the top of the candle didn't change very quickly. Eventually, though, it stopped burning 'right'. Braided wick works way better in the long term.

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