We sell only quality incense that has
been soaked in quality oils for a pleasing fragrance and quality burn.
To light stick, cone, or cylinder incense, hold a lit match or, better
yet, a butane lighter, to the tapered or coated end of the incense (or
either end of a spaghetti stick or cylinder). Hold the flame there for
ten seconds (more for some) then take the flame away. If everything is
perfect, the incense will continue to flame for a second or two and then
the flame will go out and the end will continue to glow and slowly burn.
Some incense will not go out on its own. If it flames for more than
twenty seconds, blow the flame out.
The smell you get just after the flame goes out is not necessarily the
way the incense really smells. Incense is made up of materials that will
burn at different rates while flaming, so all you smell in that first
few seconds are the materials that didn't vanish in the flame. Give it
twenty or thirty seconds, then the true scent will start to come
When it comes to dipped incense (as most commercial incense is), you
might even notice that long after the incense is lit there are long
wisps of black smoke in the air. If you reach up and touch one you'll
discover that it's not smoke at all. It is actually a long chain of oil
molecules. They use such high quantities of synthetic oil that it
doesn't all burn so these chains of oil are also spewed into the air.
One of the most popular brands of incense in the United States is
notorious for doing this. That's one of the reasons I recommend sticking
with natural incense instead of that synthetic stuff. Remember, your
incense should give off a pale white smoke, that's the sign of good
combustion. If your incense gives off black smoke, that means that it's
not burning completely and needs to be reformulated (reducing the amount
of oil in a recipe usually helps). As you make incense, you might roll
cones (or other shapes) that won't burn. This is also a problem with
commercial cones, both rolled and dipped. Although I will discuss this
in-depth in chapter 9,1 wanted to mention a clever little trick when you
encounter this problem. Try burning the cone upside down. Try it—it
really works. Read chapter 9 for other ideas.
There are a number of factors you need to keep in mind when it comes to
safety. First is fire safety. Since incense must be burned you should
always be conscious of where it is and what it might come into contact
with. Here are some important fire safety guidelines.
1. Make certain that no part of burning incense comes into contact with
wood or other flammable materials.
2. Never burn incense inside cupboards or with anything hanging above
the burning incense. The rising heat from the incense (along with the
smoke) can cause discolorations and is potentially a fire hazard. If you
want to use incense smoke to scent clothing, hang it at least eighteen
inches above the burning incense.
3. Incense burners can heat up. Even soapstone burners get hot. Always
be careful where you place the burner. A hot burner can damage or
discolor wooden surfaces. They can also burn you if you try to move them
while they are in use unless they have a chain or a handle.
4. Never leave burning incense unattended. If you have to leave while
your incense is still burning, put it out. If you have to, you can put
it out under water. A better method, if you use a censer, is to turn the
incense upside down and bury the burning end in the sand or ash. That
will put it out but still allow you to relight it at some future time.
To put out a coil of incense you can break off the glowing tip and
discard it in water.
5. Although this seems obvious to say, burning incense is hot. Just
grazing the glowing tip of burning incense can cause a significant burn
on skin and clothing. It really smarts!
6. Watch burning incense and make certain the ash is dropping where it
should. If the ash is falling outside its container you might need to
reposition it or use a different burner. It's a very good idea to
contain the ash. It can discolor furniture and might even be hot enough
to be a fire hazard itself.
7. Remember that the sign of Fire is powerful and deserves your
reverence. Do not be careless with burning incense or charcoal out of
respect for the power of Fire. Another important consideration with
incense and safety is the material that you burn. Burning loose incense
over charcoal may pose a hazard according to some experts. I personally
have never noticed a problem, but some have suggested that burning
charcoal in a well-insulated, poorly ventilated, or enclosed environment
may cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to collect. This is
especially true when you are using the "self-lighting" type of charcoal
or incense that contains saltpeter, but even the finest charcoal might
have this effect. As I said, I've never encountered a problem myself but
it's best to be careful.
You can buy one very good incense burner and it will last your entire
life. Or, if you prefer, you can collect them and own hundreds. Just
keep in mind which type of incense can be used in which type of burners
and where to place them for safety. If used with care, incense is quite
safe and amazingly pleasant.