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Incense Sticks

Making Sticks, Cones, Molds

To make incense sticks, cones, molds, or trails, you first must begin with a finely powdered incense mixture called "loose incense or non-combustible incense."

If you already have your powdered loose incense mix then you're ready to continue on with these step-by-step instructions and create your own incense trails, sticks, cones, or molds.

If you're making incense trails, you need only go to step 6 on this page, Do not go on to wet your incense. When you arrive at step 7 stop and proceed to how to burn incense trails (this is noted along the way for you).
 

Making Incense Sticks, Cones, Molds, and Trails
Step-by-Step

Photos coming soon...

1 grind each of your incense ingredients into a fine powder (or buy pre-powdered ingredients) photo
2 sift your powder through a flour sifter – using only the fine powder for your mix  
3 combine all ingredients into a bowl  
4 add a percentage of makko powder to incense powder

note: high resin content in your recipe means it will need more makko to make it burn  (add 40-90% makko for high resin mixtures), incense made with mostly woods, spices and herbs will need only 5-30% makko

weight of mixture x percent of makko = weight of makko needed

Example:
If your mixture is all resins and weighs 20 grams test it with 70% makko: 
20 grams incense x 70% makko (20 x .70) = 14 grams of makko is needed to add to 20 grams of incense

the percentage of makko needed changes with every recipe as each ingredient has its own burning qualities, etc. Trial and error is the only way to find the perfect amount of makko to add. Keep records if you plan to repeat a recipe.

 
5 combine makko and powdered incense and mix thoroughly  
6 it's best to test the mixture now by burning it as an incense trail. - if it burns slow and steady as a trail then it will also burn just fine once its moistened, made into a dough, and formed into sticks, cones, or molds  
7 if the incense trail doesn't burn well or goes out - add more makko

if the incense trail burns too fast with a mostly makko aroma, add more incense mixture

fine-tune the aroma to your tastes by adjusting the amount of each ingredient

test recipe again by burning trails

keep adjusting and testing until you have that final recipe and it's time to move on...

*if keeping records, remember to record all your recipe changes

Store the final mixture in colored glass jar, in a cool, dark, dry space for 48 hours or more - this helps all the ingredients merge their aromas together as one – to synergize. (You can also wrap a clear jar with newspaper to keep light out)

*If you're making incense trails, STOP now and enjoy! (How to Burn Trails)

 
8 Ready to Make a Dough & Shape:
set aside 10% of this combined dry incense/makko mixture in a separate bowl, leave this as emergency backup mix
 
9 in a small bowl, very slowly drizzle in warm distilled water into the remaining 90% of your prepared dry incense/makko mix  
10 you can use hydrosols, essential oils, wines, liqueurs, etc. as a replacement for, or in addition to, the water content in step 9  
11 knead the warm water into the mixture until you create a dough about the consistency of soft sculptor’s clay... remember Play-doh?  
12

you should be able to make a fist and have the moist but not slimy wet dough squeeze through your fingers but be firm enough to maintain its new shape without revealing any dry cracks inside

workable but not wet is the goal

slowly add more water if the dough is too dry but do so very carefully because too much water quickly makes the mix too soupy and unworkable.

If you do add too much water, pour what liquid you can out of the bowl, then add some of your emergency backup dry mix from step 8

 
13 knead the dough... knead, knead, knead… knead is all you need…  
14 now it’s best to age the dough in a bowl overnight. cover it with a damp towel and wait 24 hours  
15 the next day – knead the dough again, and if needed, slowly add more warm liquid (a spray bottle works best here)  
16 knead, knead, knead…  
17 pinch off a small piece of dough, roll it in your hands into a ball, place it down on a large flat surface that can be cleaned afterwards – i.e. cutting board, table, tile, etc.  
18 with the palm of your hand roll the ball top to bottom, first away from and then back towards you, and begin forming a stick  
19

now switch from using your hands to using the bottom part of a small box that fits in your hand

you want the straight flat bottom of a small box to replace your squiggly shaped hand for rolling the sticks - it makes for straighter sticks. Of course you may enjoy the squiggle's, in which case by all means feel free to use your hands or other inventive devices

 
20

roll the box bottom back and forth over stick and form to size and thickness desired

*using extruders can be lots of fun as well and is great for those who wish to experiment more... we've found meat jerky and clay extruders work well

 
21 use a butter knife to cut the ends – we usually keep cutting them until our sticks are about 4” long – shorter sticks help prevent curling in the drying stage, we call 'em "incense logs"  
22 roll your sticks until the thickness is anywhere from slightly thinner than a pencil at the thickest, to very thin like spaghetti – keep in mind the thinner they are, the more difficult they are to keep straight during drying  
23 drying sticks (bag method)
carefully lay the rolled sticks on a small cutting board covered with wax-paper - keep the sticks as straight as possible (use your fingers and the dull edge of a butter knife to help) - place the whole board in a large paper bag and scrunch it closed (or use clips)

alternative: you could use various sized "U" shaped wood-chisels to carve "stick grooves" into a flat wooden board - this can help prevent thin or long sticks from curling during the drying stage

 
24 at least once daily, preferably two or three times, open the bag and spin the incense a 1/4 turn like you would a hot dog on a barbeque grill (this helps them dry evenly) - then return everything into the paper bag and close the end of the bag - allow the drying to continue - repeat often until dry

sticks usually take 1 to 5 days to dry, depending on your local climate - slower is better so if you like tinkering then building a better drying environment is a great experiment; controlling heat, humidity, and air flow

 
25 for cones pinch off some dough and simply mold it in your hands making whatever shape you like, be aware that anything much thicker than a pencil at the base may not burn very well.

you can also make wooden or metal cone molds and mass produce cones - ask a carpenter or metal-smith friend

 
26 dry cones by standing up on a wax-paper covered board and place the whole thing in a paper bag and scrunch closed – once the outside of the cones are dried you can turn them on their sides to better dry the bottom and inside, check and turn several times daily  

Note: an added bonus of working with makko is that if your sticks, cones, or molds don’t burn well for any reason, you can simply grind it all back into powder again, adjust it, test it, wet it, knead, form, dry, burn and enjoy – no waste! No bad incense.

As you can see we don’t use wooden "blank" sticks. Many such commercially available sticks are all too often dipped in arsenic and/or formaldehyde or other preservatives and chemicals. They're often rolled in glue and sawdust from some unknown tree, etc. We prefer our incense infused only with the pure powers and aromas of nature and the freedom to shape it as we please.

As far as what ingredients to start with, we really recommend starting with ones you already enjoy; heat them one at a time and notice the many different kinds of aromas that are within that one, single ingredient... do you smell any citrus? rose? jasmine or other flowers, woods, green grassy herbs, etc.? If so, try adding ingredients that are similar to what you smell; if you smell grass try adding some vetiver, if you smell flowers try rose petals or dried lavender, etc.

Have Fun!

How to Burn Sticks, Cones, or Molds

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