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Tortoise Shell Palm Testing

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Sometimes it's helpful to take a break from something and then come back to it. It's time to do some more wick testing with tortoise shell palm, and I'm starting a new thread to represent a fresh start.

After doing a lot of testing with feather palm, I've found that most wicks work more consistently in feather than tortoise. Wicks seem to burn faster and deteriorate faster in tortoise shell palm. For instance, they may have a strong first burn but fade out during the second burn and end up with a very small flame. CDN would even fade out during the first burn in tortoise shell, while it's quite usable in feather palm.

One focus of the new tests will be NST2-treated German wicking from Wedo. LX NST2 wicks were relatively robust in this wax in my previous tests. I plan to revisit those and also test RRD NST2 wicks. While you can't easily get LX with the NST2 treatment in the appropriate sizes for palm pillars, RRD wicking is obtainable.

CSN wicks have exceptional burn qualities in feather palm, so I will be doing additional testing with those in tortoise shell in hopes of getting a more consistent burn. I will also be doing some testing with Classic flat braid at the suggestion of our friend Sabrina a.k.a. cybersix.

Since tortoise shell plam burns rather fast, the test candles will be made with concave-top (rather than flat-top) seamless aluminum molds so that the flames don't get quite as tall on the first burn. While most of my feather palm test burns were 4 hours long, test burns in this thread will be 3 hours unless otherwise specified.

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Here are the first two testers: RRD 47 NST2 on the left and 36-ply flat braid on the right, looking chic in sage green. The photos are at the end of each hour.

The wicks were trimmed to 1/4" before lighting. At the end of the burn, both seemed like they were probably a little large. I'll continue to burn them but also make a new RRD 40 NST2 tester. I don't want to wick down on the flat braid until we see how consistently it works.




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Happy to see you started a new test!

From the little I saw, I got the impression that tortoise shell palm wax is more "dry" (I don't know how to say it better) than feather wax, so maybe a 30 ply would work better anyway that's just the first burn.

We will see :)

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Burn 2 for the RRD 47 NST2 on the left and Classic 36-ply on the right. The photos are at 20 minutes, 1 1/2 hours and 3 hours.

Both candles started off with equal and slightly too-tall flames. The burn rate and flame height decreased dramatically during the course of the burn for both wicks. They decreased a little faster and a little more for the 36-ply. It is visible even at the 20 minute point. The last two photos are a post mortem of the wicks after the candles were extinguished. At least half the length of the 36-ply is shriveled up, along with about a third of the RRD 47.

That's the thing I don't like about the tortoise shell burn. In feather palm, this only happens with the wicks that have a less compatible chemical treatment. In tortoise shell palm (at least with the sample I have), it happens with even the most palm-compatible wicks. I've accepted that maybe you just have to live with it to use this wax. At this point I just want to make sure I know how to get the best results possible.






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Burn 3 for RRD 47 NST2 and Classic 36-ply.

The first photo is at 1/2 hour, at which point they are still about the same. By 2 hours, the 36-ply has fried again, just like it did before. At that point I extinguished it and took another photo of the wick. This tester is a fail and will be recycled. The NST2 wick burned consistently to the end. Based on previous experience, I would predict that it's "over the hump" and will burn normally from now on.

I don't really understand what's so special about the early burns, especially the second one. Apart from the Classic flat braid, which is now rejected, we will be dealing only with the wicks that are the most robust in palm wax--namely, CSN and the NST2 wicks. I hope to find that all of those burn fine after going through the rough patch.





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I have some new test candles to introduce, but let me just review what we're doing and expecting.

The idea is that wicks for tortoise shell pillars have to be highly compatible with (resistant to) palm wax and that "medium compatibility" wicks that worked in feather palm would not perform adequately in tortoise shell. I'm not putting additional effort into testing the medium-compatibility wicks except for the Classic 36-ply we just tried. It has now been eliminated, and the fact that it didn't work well is in line with the theory.

These tests are focused on the wicking that is most resistant to the wick-frying effects of palm wax. That would be Wedo wicks with the NST2 chemical treatment (we're using RRD NST2 and LX NST2) and also the Wedo CSN wicks sold by CandleScience. I expect that even these wicks may have a "rough patch" during which the flame could get small, probably during the second burn, but that the wicks will have normal burns thereafter. The rough patch is something that I assume has to be tolerated.

What we're doing is confirming that these wicks will perform as I just described, determining the pros and cons of each wick type, and finding the best sizes to use.

The new testers include all the high-compatibility wick types. We have RRD 40 NST2 on the left (a size down from the 47 we're already testing), LX 18 NST2 in the center, and CSN 12 on the right. The photos of the first burn were taken at 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours.




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Burn 2 for our trio of RRD 40 NST2, LX 18 NST2, and CSN 12. The photos are at 20 minutes and 3 hours.

At 20 minutes the flames are distinctly smaller than they were just 10 minutes earlier. By the middle and end of the burn, they're pretty small. But that's as expected for the second burn. Next time they should bounce back.



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Burn 3 for RRD 40 NST2, LX 18 NST2, and CSN 12. Photos are at 1 hour and 3 hours.

Everything is back to normal and should remain normal from now on. Burn 2 is the only one with a problem.

The sizes here are looking pretty promising, and the wicks all seem to be performing similarly.



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This wax is a totally different beats, isn't it? So did you consider trying a 30 ply or not?

I love this wax except for the burn #2 problem. Yes, it is a different beast in many ways, and one of those ways is wick compatibility. In my final summary, I expect to recommend only CSN and NST2-treated wicks for tortoise shell palm.

There are more options for the other waxes. Atkins & Pearce and CDN wicks are strong enough to work in feather and starburst, but only if you use larger sizes. They are rather fat compared to usable CSN sizes (see the photo). Their chemical treatments are strong enough for those waxes but not strong enough for tortoise shell.

I started to see this in previous testing, but trying the 36-ply helped to confirm it. If that one doesn't work, there is really no chance that 30-ply will work.


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trying the 36-ply helped to confirm it. If that one doesn't work, there is really no chance that 30-ply will work.

Well since my tests are less scientific, and my knowledge is not so wide I'd thought I'd try a smaller wick (the 30 ply) to see if a slower burn would have fried it the same.

But maybe you're right, the wax is killing what is not made right for it (I only had a short pillar to test, my 36 ply didn't fry, maybe the difference is in manufacturing, who knows!)

Thanks for the testing, as far as I can understand your result are quite matching the suggestions CS gave on wicking.


Edited by cybersix
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Well since my tests are less scientific, and my knowledge is not so wide I'd thought I'd try a smaller wick (the 30 ply) to see if a slower burn would have fried it the same.

I had exactly the same thought, but I already tried it in previous offline tests. I tried smaller sizes and a few different ways of slowing down the burn. In the end, the wax killed what it didn't like no matter what I did. :)

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The end of burn 4 for RRD 40 NST2, LX 18 NST2 and CSN 12.

Good thing tortoise shell is one of those spill-proof palms, because another RRD has melted through the side. It probably didn't help that I made it with the curl facing the wrong way, but anyway it's a fail. Next is RRD 37 NST2. I'm psyched about the way these wicks are burning so far and am looking forward to finding the right size.

CSN 12 had another weak burn. We'll keep going with it for now, but I probably want to try a CSN 14 at some point.

In case I haven't mentioned, I am trimming all the wicks in these tests to 1/4" before the first burn and before each lighting. I'm not sure that even the CSN wicks self-trim properly in this wax, which is unfortunate.



Edited by topofmurrayhill
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So here's how burn 5 ended up for LX 18 NST2 and CSN 12.

We've seen how even a slow burn can melt across a feather pillar and blow it out. My call would be that these burns are too weak and that's why the 18 melted through the side. When I tried the 20 in the previous tests, it burned downwards faster and didn't have a problem. So my guess is that larger is better in this case.

I wouldn't mind burning these for longer, seeing as there was no spillage, but I have a decision to make. I'm out of the fragrance oil that I've been using for palm testing. If I end these two tests now, I'll have just enough wax for remelting to make testers for RRD 37 NST2 (size down from last time), LX 20 NST2 (retest the wick the worked originally), and CSN 14 (size up from this weak burn).

I think I'm going to do that so I can try those wicks with the same fragrance oil.


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Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate that you're following my efforts. It's a lot to follow because I'm trying to cover possibilities that will be useful to others as well as myself, so the testing is more broad than deep. At the end I'll post succint summaries and recommendation for pouring and wicking the CandleScience/IGI palm waxes, so folks don't necessarily need to go through all these threads. These posts and photos however are the only record I'm making of what I've done.

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These photos show the end of burn 2 and the end of burn 3 for the RRD 37 NST2, LX 20 NST2 and CSN 14. Burn 2 ended poorly for all the wicks, which is something we've come to expect.

At the end of burn 3, the LX 20 NST2 bounced back and looked like it did in previous testing. That gives me confidence that it will burn the pillar down well, as it did before.

The RRD wicks seem strong in this wax too, but RRD 37 NST2 is looking a little weaker and I'm thinking that maybe the 40 was the best size after all. It did melt through that side, but we were going through a mini heat wave that day and everything seemed to be burning out wide. I also oriented it the wrong way when I made the candle. With this hard-to-burn wax, I'd rather have the larger size that burns more reliably, even if I have to be careful not to burn it too long.

CSN is again looking weaker than the NST2 wicks. I didn't previously test it much past the second burn and I was hoping that it would bounce back, but the larger size is looking no better than the CSN 12. I'm not yet sure whether to try larger or smaller or just conclude that it isn't up to the job. If anybody is getting pretty consistent burns with CSN in tortoise shell, I would appreciate hearing what your experience is.



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Here's the end of burn 4.

Not such a happy end. RRD 37 NST2 is looking OK. LX 20 NST2 started out strong but totally choked up. CSN 14 slowly battled back from its previous bad burn but generally hasn't been an improvement over CSN 12.

I'm starting to wonder if I should just focus in on RRD. It seems to have been the most reliable wick type, if it isn't my imagination.


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I decided to focus on RRD because they seem the strongest and everyone can get them.

Here we have RRD 34, 37 and 40, all with the NST2 treatment. The photos are at 1 hour and 3 hours.

The flames are overexposed, so they look fat in the photos. But even though they were skinnier, they did get tall by the end for all three sizes. That isn't unusual with this wax. It can depend on the fragrance oil or even the ambient temperature, but the first burn is often strongly downwards, so the wicks get long.



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