Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The art of making incense

Huh?.. How does making incense help you survive in the wild? Well it doesn't but it does make a fun experiment when you're out in the woods for a while and yes it does have some practical uses.
Other then being an aid during meditation the scent can make you fall asleep easier or it can even be used as a insect repellant (depending on the ingredients). You can find alot of good ingredients at your local supermarket, alot of typical kitchen herbs can be used but many other ingredients can be gathered for free in the outdoors and that's what making it is so much fun.. If you want to mass produce your own incense it's gonna cost ya, If you want to make some incense for personal use it can be done without spending a penny.

So here's what I did.. Remember that this is not a tutorial, this is an experiment.

Incense is made by using a Binding ingredient, a Burning ingredient and finaly the ingredient(s) that cause the Scent. When we think of incense we immediatly think of Asia, that's where most of the incense is made. Therefore when we look for recipies to make incense we see that most of the ingredients are herbs, resins, flowers and woods that grow in Asia only.  For example the sticks in sticks incense are thin slices of bamboo. One of the ingredients you often find in incense is Makko, if i'm correct this is a binding and burning ingredient in one.
Unfortunately I live in Holland so either I have to buy the special ingredients (expensive in the long run, and where's the sport in that) or I have to improvise, and that's just what I did.

For my burning ingredient I needed to make charcoal. I already did a tutorial on how to make charcloth, you can find it here. Making charcoal can be done with the same method.

After leaving it on a fire for 30 minutes there was no more smoke coming out of the small hole. After cooling it down I opened up the tin  and out came some nice chunks of charcoal. Knowing how to make Charcoal is very usefull.. It can be used for Drawing, Heating up a fire, Explosives (that's between you and me haha) and fireworks, Blacksmithing, making Dyes and pigments, Blackpowder and even to tread food poisoning or in this case, to make incense.

I could not find my mortar and pestle so instead I used a pencil and a small glass to crush up the charcoal in a very fine powder. I got another glass and in there went the ingredients that should cause the smell, in this case Basil and the bark of Ficus Ginseng (a bonsai species). I also took a few leaves of a purple flower, dried it, crushed it, no idea what it's called.. I didn't even leave the house. After crushing that up I took my binding ingredient which was.. here it comes.. water! That was easy..

All the ingredients mixed together

So here is the incense I've made. I decided to make those cone shaped incensebecause that seems easier. If I ever get better at this I might try stick incense. The two cones look the same but they're not.
The cone in the front has a water binder, it is very brittle and I guess it can easily fall apart, I made it two days ago and at this moment it has become very dry and I will test it today (for the result look at my next diary entry)

The cone in the back is with a honey binder (I've read somewhere it could be used as a binder). I made it approx 2 weeks ago and it is still sticky and not ready to burn. It is far from brittle but who cares if it doesn't even burn.  Both cones are pitch black from the charcoal, not what you expect incense to look like. Then again.. this is what my ancestors would have come up with if they'd made incense instead of the ancient Chinese... It was a fun experiment and I will try this more often. If you want to make your own incense then give it a try, now you know this can be a hobbie that can be very low costs. experiment with all kinds of herbs, resins and make mixtures of your own.


  1. Just to let you now, I am still following this blog.

    Again, I'll be doing more or less the same thing in a few years. But, since noone else really comments or something, you might feel like this blog is quite 'useless' so I'll let you know you have atleast one follower :)
    Also see this thread I created talking about my way of looking at things, and the discussion with people about it. (Don't worry about the type of forum, I'm there to help them edit a wiki + download some (legal) mods)

  2. Hi again and thank you for following.

    To be honest back when I created this blog I never expected to get many followers. Nowadays there are not alot of people who are interested in outdoor activities and just a handfull of people want to live outside of the urban jungle or are interested in this subject. Lately I get about 60 to 80 hits a day, which isn't bad :)

    I have read the entire thread and man it was hard to find even 1 positive comment.. But that is no surprise. A year ago I posted something similar on a forum and I got the same comments, and that was on a bushcraft forum with people who do know a thing or two about this stuff. But it's ok, do what you want to do, what others think of it is less important. Liked the forum, I mostly play minecraft ;)

    Thank you for your reply and I hope that once you begin your quest that you know a trick or two about survival skills (or maybe you already do). Learn stuff on a daily basis, that's how I started and very soon I'll see if it pays off.

    Good luck to you