Whether you are making loose incense or continuing to make cones, sticks, trails or molds this first step is important. It is a chance to get your ingredients and measurements together.
Base materials often have a strong scent of their own that will need to be considered in your overall fragrance blend. Use a scale to weigh ingredients as opposed to using volume measurements like spoons and cups.
How to Make Loose Incense
From the censers of the Catholic church to the Pagan bonfire rituals, incense is one of the oldest known forms of prayer and spellwork. It’s easy to make your own fragrant blend using herbs, flowers, wood bark, resins and berries – many of which can be grown, harvested or found in the wild.
You can choose to measure your ingredients by weight (preferred and more consistent), or by volume, using spoons and cups. If you do use a scale, please make sure it’s accurate down to the gram to ensure the consistency of your recipe.
Once all the ingredients are combined, let them “age” for a few days in a dark place. This helps the aromas to synergize and merge as a complex aroma. The aging process also makes the incense more durable during burning. This loose incense can be burned on charcoal discs, or tossed onto a fire. It’s great to use before tarot reading, scrying or other divination methods.
How to Make Cones
Please note: Incense can pose a fire hazard if it is not burned correctly. It should be kept on a heat-safe surface away from fabrics, children and pets. Falling ash can burn skin and damage clothing. Always extinguish a burning incense before it can cause a fire.
Gum binders, like tragacanth gum or gum arabic, are softer and more flexible than wood binders, so you will find that they dry much faster. You can use these to make cones or sticks.
To begin, combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add enough water to bring the mix to a paste-like consistency (this will vary by climate).
Next, add the essential oil blend. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture evenly over your incense blanks. Place on a rack to dry. This will take approximately three days. The blanks are ready when the bottom quarter is completely covered with the blend. You can also make a different style of incense, known as backflow cones, which have hollow cores and smolder from the inside.
How to Make Sticks
You can make sticks at home by hand-rolling them, and most incense makers choose to use a mixture of aromatic ingredients. This process can take a bit of practice to get right. The most important thing is to plan your scents carefully. Most woods and resins have their own distinct aromas that are very strong when burned, so they should be balanced carefully with other ingredients in the blend.
You will also need a binder to hold your blend together and give it a slow burn. Most people use makko powder, which is made from the bark of the machillus tree, but you can substitute cedarwood powder, sandalwood powder or even powdered charcoal in its place.
Gum binders do not add their own scent, but they will absorb and distribute the fragrance of other materials in the blend, so you will want to use just a small amount. Most recipes recommend using 1/8 teaspoon of binder for every 2 tablespoons of material.
Find the scent that speaks to you.
Finding your signature scent is like a love affair – the right perfume can lift your mood and set you apart from everyone else. While many people are loyal to their favorite luxury perfume, the artisanal, independent scent crafters of today offer endless options for the fragrance-obsessed.
Scents can be divided into three categories: top notes (the initial smell when you put it on); middle notes, which come through as the top notes die off; and base notes, which linger and form the scent’s theme. You can also mix in extracts, which add subtle aromas and flavor without changing the scent or adding extra ingredients.
Use a wood binder, such as joss powder or tabu no ki, which is more forgiving for new incense makers. For best results, soak incense sticks in batches of 20-30 and keep them in a jar with a lid. This will give them a chance to dry thoroughly and prevent them from being crushed or damaged.