Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to make Japanese incense with agarwood and various traditional ingredients: Part 1

Hello again everyone, I know it seems that progress has slowed a bit over here at Par:Fum - yes it is the time of the holidays and unfortunatley I can't nerd out in front of the computer as much as I do during the regular season! although technically, you shouldn't be wasting your time on here either, so hopefully both forces will cancel eachother out. Anyways, I didn't want to tide you guys over with some low effort post so I went all out and made a pictorial how-to on making Japanese incense with traditional materials. Lets get started!

Ok, so the first step is to collect our materials, if any of these seem unfamiliar to you at first don't worry I will explain their purposes. I have coded them by letter in the photo above:

A - Cinnamon
B - Makko Powder
C - Sandalwood Powder
D - Agarwood Chips
E - Frankincense direct from Somalia (thanks bro!)
F - Cloves

I have used five traditional ingredients in this blend, and Makko powder which is a binder to stick everything together. Makko is the resin of a native Japanese tree, has virtually no odour and is very sticky so it is what will keep your dried finished product from crumbling back into powder! The agarwood and sandalwood make the heart of the perfume, frankincense adds a nice sparkle and of course the cloves add spice while the incense keeps things sweet and warm. The materials in the photo are not the ratios used, I just wanted it to look pretty for the photo! For a first time experiment, you might want to go easy on the spice!

Step two: We take all of our materials and place them in a mortar and pestle and grind until we have a fine powder.

Note: I have used the mortar and pestle to make this tutorial appear classy and aesthetically pleasing, in reality I would take all this stuff to the magic bullet (a super blender) and you should too unless you want to be grinding for an hour! Remember, getting it to as fine a powder as possible is very important for later steps!

Step 3: we add the water and mix

Mix the ingredients in with the water slowly until you get a thick paste, it should hopefully not stick too much to what your mixing it in with, if it becomes too sticky, you will have to wait a bit for it to get dry again, so add the water very slowly!

Once we have got it to the right level, remove some pieces onto a piece of paper, I used printer paper here but for non-stick purposes its better to use weekly flyers (the kind you get in the mail). This step is for making cones only so if you are wishing to make sticks, skip these two photos.

Step Four: Roll the incense into a cone with your fingers, then let them dry. If you are making cones this is the last step and you are finished. I recommend at least 2-3 days of drying time but the actual drying time according to Japanese tradition is about 9 weeks!

Step Five: Extruding on the cheap - Ok so I am assuming you don't have an extruder at home, I made one out of a caulking gun and empty tubes, but just incase you dont want to put that much work I have invented the plastic bag method as well. Extruding is a way of making coreless incense (ie: not wrapped around a little piece of wood like the cheap stuff is) by squeezing paste through a hole, similar to a pasta maker! For this, take a ziploc type back and stab a toothpick through the corner of it to make a hole.

Fill the corner of the bag with your paste and use a motion similar to how you would decorate a cake, squeeze the paste through the hole and make the bag across your sheet of paper in order to make as straight a line as possible!

In my example I didn't spend enough time powdering and I had some tiny chunks which kept clogging the hole :( As a consequence it was difficult to make the sticks the right length. This is why I recommend that you use a power blender instead such as the magic bullet. Blend it for 5 minutes if you have to, the finer the powder the much easier it will be to extrude after!

Step Six: Light your incense and enjoy :) Remember, even for extruded sticks you should let them dry at least 24 hours! The incense made during this tutorial exhibited a very pleasant and traditional aroma.


+ Q PERFUME said...

amazing pics, i will try one day!
I love this blog and it is getting each day more interesting!


Parfum said...

thanks so much for the kind words :) It really is a fun little project to try one quiet time!

Jennie Lanics said...

Many thanks for your advice. You can also look ready sticks of Japanese incense.
japanese incense