First, You will need a censer or heat proof bowl, preferably with legs. It is also a good idea to get something that can’t be damaged to set the censer on such as stone or porcelain tile, iron trivet or similar surface. Next, you should add a substrate like ash, sand or small gravel to allow air flow to the charcoal and shield the bowl and surfaces beneath it from the direct heat of the burning charcoal and resins.
Next, you will need to choose a charcoal, (or other suitable base*) smaller is generally better for home use. All brands do the job effectively, but from my experience easy-lite is the cleanest, inexpensive charcoal and it is dense so it burns long with almost no aroma of its own. It is, however, not that easy to light. A pencil torch or similar item makes lighting charcoal easier.
Do not hold charcoal in hands when lighting and use extreme care if using tongs. Some charcoals spark, sputter, or shed flakes of burning coal when lighting.
Do not attempt to pick up the censer after adding the charcoal unless it has a side handle or chain. Cauldron handles are too short for safe carrying by hand once the charcoal is burning. If a handle or chain is present and you must carry the censer use extreme caution.
Severe burns, property damage or fire may result from mishandling or spilling contents. Always keep all burning incense away from flammable items, young children and pets. Added caution is required with resin incense and charcoal.
After the charcoal burns for a few minutes it will turn fully white on the outside. Any time after this ocurrs you may begin to add a small chunk or a pinch of crushed resin or herbs to the center of the charcoal as needed.
This is the most common method. Some prefer to set the resin next to the charcoal, or to cover it with a layer of ash before adding the resin to temper the heat and release a finer aroma. This method is better for light copals, and some woods. Some choose to put an additional barrier between the resin or wood and the heat source such as a sheet of mica** above the charcoal being careful not to smother it by touching it or sealing off the airflow to the charcoal. This releases the essence without actually burning the resin when done properly. This is an excellent method for fine woods and light resins especially, and it can also be used to diffuse pure essential oils.
*Other suitable bases include, but may not be limited to, makko powder, herbal coals, sandalwood or certain other wood powders.
**Mica sheets available on the Charcoal and Accessories Page.
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