Basically, there are either indirect-burning or direct-burning incense types. Indirect requires a coal or other heat source to burn. Direct will smolder once set on fire and put out, like a cone.
Depending on culture or use, incense may be one herb, wood, or resin (tree sap) or any combination of all three. You can make any recipe out of one or all of these three things!
Today I is showing how to make direct-burning cones. This is basically one recipe. It is open to substitutions and especially experimentation.
If you don't have sandalwood or makko powder or olibanum, get a couple bucks worth of each @ somaluna.com, they're great, I don't work there, that's just the easiest place for me to get those.
Why are these important? Makko is a light combustable, so it keeps your incense burning and it won't go out easily, plus it gets sticky when moist so you can make cones with it.
Olibanum, or frankincense, or any resin (dry tree sap) has a powerful aroma, and gives that signature scent, too much will not burn well or at all. Resin should be about 1/3rd of whole mix or less.
So you're in the minority that already has sandalwood and the rest, or you're along for the ride, whatever. Use pine bark, coriander and dried mint leaves. Here we go:
Start by getting a workspace set up with elbow room and supplies nearby, preferably somewhere you are comfortable.
Put 1 tsp frankincense or other resin in mortar, grind to smallness (Mine was mixture of olibanum, dragon's blood resin, and palo santo wood = 1/3rd tsp each). Set powder aside in small bowl or jar.
Take 4 tsp your fav smelling combustable (sandalwood, patchouli, lavender, pine, etc.) and put into mortar. Now add 1 tsp makko powder for extra flammability and consistency.
Add 1/2 tsp clove or cinnamon to mortar. Any herb substitute for this will do. Whether it smells good or not is up to you. Toss in resin and grind it all up!
You have just created a loose incense mixture. If it has makko it should ember once you set it aflame and extinguish. Sometimes you need to add a little more makko if it won't stay lit.
If you did not add makko or other combustable, you can put a hot coal under your incense and it will burn, releasing the aromas.
If you used makko then you have the option to make cones now. Lay some wax paper or foil over your workspace, pour out some of your mixture and add a little water (distilled preferred).
When you mix this together you will notice makko reacts similarly to dough when moist. Too little water and it will crumble...
...too much water and you have a super sticky pain in the neck.
Add water or loose mixture to even the consistency. Knead it up, and you should have a slightly tacky mud ball when you have it just right.
Pinch off bits and shape them into cones, or whatever shape you want (I made one stick on the end you can't see. Again this is only possible with makko or joss powder, since it is sticky when moist).
Let dry overnight, middle may be moist still and will be dark, so rotate them when you check on them. Give a few hours and check again.
Once completely dry, light one and note what you like or don't: Too much smoke? Use less resin or less dry herbs. Won't stay lit? It needs more combustable (makko, joss, sandalwood etc).
Often times most ingredients won't smell like much till you burn them. Usually you won't know if it's good till you do. Find out what you like and what you don't, and experiment from there.
Common sense warning: ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR INCENSE DOES NOT CAUSE A FIRE HAZARD. Set cones on a fireproof tray and away from drapes and anything else that will catch on fire.
If your cones break when they dry, you can gently lay plastic over the next batch so they will lose moisture slowly. They will also break when they do not have enough makko, this is the main binder.
Please feel free to ask questions or request more specific instructions on any part of my method. I would also like to hear your experience, recipes or suggestions! Thanks for reading!