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Step by Step Guides to Natural Incense Making   

Burning w/Charcoal
The most traditional style of heating or burning incense is to do so on top of, or right next to, a red-hot charcoal.

Incense that's sprinkled directly on top of a hot coal burns very quickly and produces large amounts of smoke whereas incense sprinkled right next to, but not touching, the hot charcoal will release its fragrance more slowly and produce less smoke. It's a matter of situation and personal taste which style is preferred.

Materials Needed:

  • Natural Incense
  • Incense Burner (filled with ash)
  • Natural Incense Charcoal
  • Tweezers to hold charcoal
  • Lighter or candle flame
Incense Burning with Charcoal

Burning Incense with Charcoal

1 - Light the edge of a chemical-free charcoal* while holding it with a utensil (tweezers work great!)

*Many commercial incense charcoals contain toxic chemicals such as sodium or potassium nitrate, sulfur, etc. These can usually be identified by the charcoal crackling or sparking when lit, and/or by the odors it exudes when lit.

We prefer using chemical-free natural charcoals. So far, the best chemical-free natural wood charcoals we've found are made of bamboo or natural roots and come from Japan.

2 - Place the lit charcoal in center of burner
3 - Wait until the entire charcoal is red-hot, it should be a light grey all over... 4-7 minutes or so...

Note: if the charcoal is not completely red-hot the incense will probably smother and therefore extinguish the charcoal.

4 - sprinkle incense next to or directly on top of the hot charcoal to release it's fragrance and produce smoke

Note: not too much incense... keep in mind that burning charcoal needs to breathe... fire needs oxygen...

5 - you can continue to sprinkle incense on the hot coal as desired


Alternative Charcoal Methods:

Reduce the heat, smoke, and charred aroma by separating your incense from being in direct contact with the charcoal. There are infinite ways to accomplish this, here are a few ideas:

  • bury the charcoal about 1/2 inch under the ash, cover it with ash  and sprinkle your incense on the mound of ash - this will gently heat the incense with less burning - one of our favorite methods!

  • place a sheet of Mica on the ash mound or several sheets directly on the charcoal and then place your incense on the mica plate (for more detailed instructions see preparing a Kodo cup)
Raw Mica
  • place a small, thin piece of unglazed ceramic tile on top of the coal and then your incense on top of the tile
  • create a "bowl & stand" with tin foil or copper sheet to sit over the coal and hold the incense close to, but not directly on the coal
Foil Tent to Place Over Incense Coal
Tip: to keep the ash in your burner clean, sift it through a strainer regularly (after all coals are extinguished and completely cooled of course)

Use your imagination, adhere to safety, and enjoy creating your own methods of using incense charcoals!

Always keep hot charcoals, incense, and incense burners away from children.

Never leave burning charcoal or incense unattended.

Make sure charcoal is completely extinguished and cooled before discarding; hot pieces of charcoals can easily start fires and cause severe burns. It's best to wait overnight before cleaning and/or discarding any used charcoals.

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