Most candle supply stores sell pre-cut, primed, and tabbed wicks, and most of the time those will be all the wick you ever need. Sometimes, however, you need a really long wick for a tall container. Or you need a particular size but no one has it in stock or sells it.
You can buy spools of raw wicking (and tabs). I get mine from Candlewic (I don’t have any affiliation with them, but I use them as a supplier for my business too.)
Raw wicks on spools will look a little different from what you are used to when you buy pre-tabbed wicks. The wicks don’t stand up on their own because there is no wax to stiffen them. Likewise, because raw wick is literally braided and woven cotton threads, these will have air bubbles that will either be trapped in the wick or will create bubbles around your wick when you use them.
While I could work with raw wick directly, I prefer to pre-prime my wicks. For this, any type/color of wax will work! The only thing is to make sure the wax you use has a higher melting point. I use white beeswax because I make lip balm and I always have some beeswax lying around.
First I cut the wicks to the length I want. Right now I am still testing wicks, so I cut them pretty long (I’ll cut them into thirds after they’re primed). I then drop the wicks into the melted beeswax and stir them around until I’m sure they’re soaked through. Then I pull on some poly/plastic gloves to protect my hands.
I fish out the wicks with a skewer or with tweezers, and then lay them on parchment paper or wax paper. I have a very small window in which I won’t burn my fingers (from hot beeswax) and I quickly straighten and smooth out the wicks by pulling them between my fingers and laying them out on the wax paper.
If I work too slowly the beeswax solidifies on me and leaves me with a tangled mess, but if that happens I drop the clump back into the melted beeswax in my cup and it all melts down again. (I should have taken pictures during this process but was too busy to do so. Next time, I’ll do it and put up a TikTok video!)
It doesn’t take long for my straightened wicks to be ready for me to pack them up for future use. I bought tabs and I have pliers–I will use some of these in candles and tab them as I wick the vessels.
I am going to experiment with dying the beeswax in the future. Just imagine: red wicks in green wax for Christmas, purple wicks in pink wax for Valentine’s Day, or red-white-blue wicks in a triple wick candle for Independence Day. The possibilities are endless…