Picking the Right Incense Burner

When faced with a plethora of incense burners in a store, sometimes it may prove tricky to choose the best burner for the task. In this guide, we will explain the benefits and caveats of various styles, a little about their history, and how they are typically used.

Abalone Shell

Abalone shells used to be a popular way to smudge herbs, resins and other fragrant plant material. The shells themselves are quite beautiful and when placed on a stand, can prove to be quite the conversation starter. When burning non-combustible incense, it is wise to insulate the abalone shell with 2 or 3 inches of natural ash or sand, placed on the bottom of the burner. The sand helps protect the shell from the heat and helps aid with durability. Charcoal tablets may often burn up to 1500 degrees fahrenheit.

Ash Catchers

The ash catcher – the most common variety of wooden incense holders, these are typically fitted for stick incense, often with a bamboo reed. In essence, this is a flat piece of curved wood with a small hole in the end where the incense stick is placed. Often-times the middle is etched out to catch the ash more effectively. These types of incense burners are available in many different sizes and materials, including steel, ceramic, glass, wood, or stone. Designs may be carved or inlaid with brass into the setting.

Smudge Pots & Bowls

A smudge bowl burner could be just about anything, from a simple ceramic bowl, to an ornate brass bowl, fitted with screens and a lid. Similar in style to the natural abalone shell, just add some natural ash to the bottom of the bowl, and light a charcoal on-top. Be sure that the bowl is capable of withstanding heat from charcoal.

Box Burners

Box burners are quite versatile in nature. Essentially they are an ash catcher with an enclosed storage box hidden underneath. Most commonly, aromatic resins or joss sticks are placed within for added convenience.

Although these are most-often made from carved wood, steel or aluminum frames are not uncommon either. Most of these burners are imported from India and may include brass hardware or ornate decorations.

Charcoal Burners

Traditional charcoal burners were often made of brass with a fitted screen fitted vertically across. These types of screens can burn charcoal, cones, scented ropes, or even small smudge sticks. If using charcoal, simply place 2 or 3 inches of on the bottom of the burner, under the screen to protect it from heat. The incense itself is usually placed on-top the screen.

Coil Burners

Coil incense is designed to require a constant flow of air around the coil while burning. A common design uses prongs to support the coil, holding it above the surface for more adequate airflow. These types of burners are harder to find and it is not uncommon to find coil incense itself being sold with a burner. If you’re unable to find this style of burner, coil incense also burns well on-top of ash.

Cone Burners

When cone incense burns, it burns throughout the entire shape of the cone. While burning this type of incense, avoid burning it on unprotected word, as it will likely scorch it unless it has an inlaid metal tray. Most often these burners are metal or stone. To use, you simply apply about an inch of sand or ash to the bottom of the burner and light your incense. The sand also helps improve the airflow under the cone, which helps it burn more evenly.

This article was last revised on 02/28/2020.

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