Frequently Asked Questions
Incense Burning Tools
- A Designated Place for Burning Incense
- Incense Charcoal
- Small Metal Tongs
- Matches or Lighters
- Incense Burning Receptacle
- Metal Scraper (optional)
- Large Tweezers (optional)
Incense Crafting Tools
- Mortar & pestle - for grinding/powdering resins, seeds, roots, barks, some woods, foliage, etc.
- Coffee grinder - for grinding/powdering most types of ingredients
- *Measuring cups/spoons - for formulation and creating recipes
- Varying mesh sifters - for sifting out clumps in resin and other powders
- *Mixing bowls - for blending (and smaller dishes for portioning out single ingredients or different variations of a formula)
- Hatchet & hammer - tools for breaking down larger plant materials (woods, resins, barks)
- Knives - for breaking down smaller pieces/chunks of certain materials
- Cutting board/surface - for breaking down materials
- Scissors/hand clippers - for breaking down wood chips, foliage, flowers, stems, barks, etc.
- Digital Scale - for weighing out materials (if you would rather use weight vs. using measuring cups/spoons)
- *Incense stick extruder tools - for making incense sticks
- Rubber gloves - a handy choice for handling sticky ingredients
- *Incense crafting journal/notepad/paper
- Additional tools: Glass jars & lids (recommended storage), & high proof alcohol or rubbing alcohol (recommended ideal solvent for cleaning sticky tools)
The tools above marked with a * next to them are necessities. The rest on the list are optional but will be very handy depending on what types of ingredients you’ll be using, and what consistencies you buy them in.
**In addition to these tools you’ll be needing throughout this program, you’ll also need small amounts of 10-20 raw aromatic botanical materials, a few ounces of a type of botanical gum binder, and base materials for experimenting with and making incense. You’ll find a list of common and easily accessible botanicals in module 1, and descriptions of common binders and bases. Please open the tools and ingredients pdfs in module one for a more detailed description of all that you’ll need.
Here’s a few suggested sources of quality materials to get you started:
Higher Mind Incense - Incense crafting materials, Sustainable Sandalwood varieties, Gum Tragacanth, Aloeswood (Agarwood), and more:
Mountain Rose Herbs - Wide variety of organically grown and sustainably wild-harvested herbs and spices:
Apothecary’s Garden - Various incense resins and botanical materials:
Pacific Botanicals - Wide variety of organically grown and sustainably wild-harvested herbs and spices:
**Additionally, you can find our International Incense Sourcing guide in Module 1, Lesson 2 of your course.
This is a personal preference. There are many types of incense, and many ways to dry them. Some folks strictly use a dehydrator and have amazing smelling blends, and there are those who swear only by open-air drying. There are also many regional factors like humidity, temperature, and season to take into account. For instance, in Washington state, 3 months out of the year there is excessive moisture in the air. Making incense with these conditions means drying them closer to a heat source like a woodstove or in a dehydrator. It would take longer to dry with no heat and would risk molding. There are also benefits to slow drying your incense at room temperature as you might retain the slightest subtleties of certain aromas. But many would not notice this. So it just depends on what you're working with and your personal preference.
Plastic oral syringes can be used as an alternative to a metal clay extruder. They aren’t as sturdy and can break apart if your mixture doesn't have enough water to help it squeeze through easily but they are easy to get a hold of and will last a while if you take care of them and don't use too much pressure.
Oral syringes with wider tips are available in many sizes and are often referred to as Slip Tip. The smaller the opening, the more pressure you will have to use to extrude your sticks. Some people have had great success using a 60cc Toomey syringe also known as a catheter tip. This style of syringe is available in different lengths and has a standard opening of 4mm.
You have the freedom to break different botanicals down in any ways you choose. Nothing needs to be powdered and there are no required consistencies in this form of incense. However, for woods, having them broken down to at least the size of rice grains works best for burnability. And of course, wood powders are also very commonly used.
All ingredients used in incense cones need to be the consistency between wheat flour and course sand. For wood powders and bases, using fine powder yields the best results.
All ingredients used in incense sticks need to be the consistency between wheat flour and course sand. For wood powders and bases, using fine powder yields the best results.
For dried plant resins and gums, if they are in larger pieces, use a hammer and tap them until they crack and break apart into smaller pieces. Then place the smaller pieces into a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder and grind down to your desired consistency. If they are already in small pieces when you buy or harvest them you can skip the hammer step.
Full resins that are totally dry should break apart very easily with a hammer, or any grinding tool. But oleo-gum-resins, or full resins that are not completely dried are much stickier and will be easier to work with when they are cold. If this is the case put them in the freezer for 30-45 minutes prior to working with them and they will break apart much easier.
For woods, barks, and roots, a knife or small hatchet can be used to make shavings or small chips, which can then be placed in a coffee grinder if you require a smaller consistency or powder. Seeds can be ground down in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Clippers, knives, or kitchen scissors can be used to break down all types of foliage, grasses, stems, and flowers.
The size and consistency of your materials will depend on the type of incense you will be making. Larger, inconsistently sized pieces work well in loose blends, while more uniformly powdered materials work better for cones and sticks.
Coffee grinders work well, especially those with a “spice” setting or spice blades as these tend to be sharper blades and allow for a finer grind consistency. Though normal coffee grinders work just fine. Make sure your coffee grinder is designated strictly for aromatic plants or your coffee will taste horrible!
When processing your woods, before you try to powder them, the most important first step is to ensure that they are completely dry. This can take some time, depending on the moisture content of the wood you're working with and your environmental conditions. Breaking your woods into smaller pieces will facilitate faster drying.
Once your materials are completely dry and broken into small pieces, you'll want to break them down even further using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. The size and consistency of your materials will really depend on the type of incense you'll be making. Larger, inconsistently sized pieces work well in loose blends, while more uniformly powdered materials work better for cones and sticks.
Coffee grinders work well, especially those with a “spice” setting or blade as these tend to be sharper blades and allow for a finer grind consistency. You can also grind them in your spice/coffee grinder and hand finish in a mortar and pestle. As you grind you can sift the powdered material out and continue to reprocess the larger chunks left behind using the same method until you've got everything ground down to a uniformly powdered material.
Common reasons that cones and sticks do not stay lit are that they are either not fully dried, your materials have not been powdered finely enough, your cones or sticks are too thick, or your ratio of combustible base materials to non-combustible botanicals like resins or gums needs to be fine tuned.
With cones, a taller and thinner shape will both dry and burn more easily than a cone that is thicker with a large base. The ideal cone for the beginner is 1” tall by ⅜” thick.
Sometimes it is helpful to increase the amount of wood powder or add a small amount of charcoal powder for added combustion if your ratio of combustible to non-combustible materials is out of balance.
Fruits, berries and resins can be tricky to use in cones and sticks due to their high oil content. It’s important to be mindful of your ratios when including materials like these that will not burn easily on their own accord. Usually small amounts of these aromatics will be used in shaped incenses.
There are a few reasons that cones crack. They may not be compacted enough, are drying too quickly, or contained too much water when they were dried.
You shouldn’t have to apply too much pressure when forming them, but you want them to be fairly tight. Sometimes certain ingredients and consistencies can affect how compact you can make them. Using Palo Santo wood powder as a single ingredient (along with a binder) for example, can present a similar issue. Palo Santo powder difficult to powder down past a sand consistency. It can’t be easily ground down to a flour consistency like with Sandalwood, for instance. This makes it harder for ingredients to fit together more closely. The smaller consistency of your ingredients, the tighter they will compact as there is less room between particles.
If that is not the case and your cones are still cracking, they may be drying to fast. Allow them to dry out for a few hours or overnight at room temperature before putting them in a dehydrator. It could be that water is evaporating too quickly, resulting in what you would see in a hot desert after a downpour.
The course contains approximately 6 hours of video lessons. The amount of time spent outside of the video lessons varies per person, but will likely be around an additional 6 hours of reading, hands-on learning and crafting.
To receive your certificate of completion, simply log into your student portal at https://training.aromaticmedicineschool.com/login and select the course you would like to receive your certificate for. Once all lessons have been marked complete you will be given the option on the right hand side of your member’s page to enter your name and email and have your certificate emailed to you.
You will receive 13 credits after submitting your certificate of completion to NAHA. Members should be able to access a link on the NAHA membership account home page to record CEUs (if one is not available to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance). Please select “add”, then insert the title “Traditional Incense Crafting” into the Source line. Underneath please type, “Evan Sylliaasen”, as the granting organization line, and proceed with “13 hours” entered in the hours box. That is all that will be needed to apply this credit at this time. Make sure to submit so it gets recorded.