charcoal burner

PSA: You don’t need charcoal to burn resin and loose incense.

For that matter, you don’t need a charcoal burner, tongs, sand, or the willingness to handle something that sparks and burns dangerously hot. You don’t need any of the things that every website insists you need to burn resin, herbs, or loose/granular incense mixes.

All you need is a tea light, aluminium foil, and a shallow (fire safe) dish.

Drape the aluminium foil over part of the dish and pinch around the rim so it stays securely in place. Turn up the inner edge or dent it a bit if you’re working with resins that liquefy when they heat up. Put the resin/herbs on the foil. Light a tealight and set it so the flame touches the foil (it doesn’t have to be completely underneath). Done!

My setup looks like this:

If you want, keep delicate herbs further away from the flame so they don’t burn until they’re acrid. Try to avoid touching the foil because it conducts a lot of heat, though I’ve never gotten an actual burn from it. Most herbs you can just brush off when you’re done and reuse the foil. If you’re using resin, some residue will probably remain after several uses and you might want to replace it if you don’t want a slight undercurrent of frankincense or whatever next time (or keep that piece of foil reserved for that specific resin).

This cost me nothing. It’s sturdy and I can’t knock it over accidentally. It’s not as smoky as charcoal methods because it doesn’t burn as hot, and if you arrange things right you can get scent with no smoke which is great if you’re concerned about smoke inhalation. I can just blow it out when I’m done. It doesn’t get the nasty smell that people complain about with self-igniting charcoal. Resins last a long time because they are heated gently and just ooze, solidify, and ooze again when reheated. It’s not as pretty as fancy burners but it’s safe, fast, and functional.

I never see methods recommended that don’t use charcoal, and charcoal burning just isn’t accessible for me. Hope this helps others having similar issues.


2015.12.5 Hangzhou, West Lake, China.  Photo from 视觉中国.

 崇祯五年十二月,余住西湖。大雪三日,湖中人鸟声俱绝。是日更定矣。余挐一小舟,拥毳衣炉火,独往湖心亭看雪。雾凇沆砀,天与云与山与水,上下一白。湖上影子,惟长堤一痕、湖心亭一点、与余舟一芥,舟中人两三粒而已。 到亭上,有两人铺毡对坐,一童子烧酒炉正沸。见余,大喜曰:“湖中焉得更有此人!”拉余同饮。余强饮三大白而别。问其姓氏,是金陵人,客此。及下船,舟子喃喃曰:“莫说相公痴,更有痴似相公者!” 

Huxin Ting Kanxue ——Zhang Dai (Ming Dynasty 1597-1679)
(translated from classical Chinese to modern English by adieudusk and Andy Patton)
In the twelfth month of the Fifth Year of Chong Zhen, I lived in the West Lake.  For three days, it snowed heavily, the sounds of people and birds on the lake were wiped away. And that day, the sounds had even given way to silence’s solidity. I rowed a little boat with a charcoal burner and a fine fur coat to keep me warm, and went to Hu Xin Ting (The Heart of the Lake Pavilion) to look at the snow.  The white of the soft rime suffused, the sky and the cloud, the hills, and the waters, up and down all was one white.  What shadowed on the lake were only: one faint trace of the long dike, one spot of Hu Xin Ting, and one mustard seed like boat of mine, in which were two or three bits of people, that is all. When we arrived at the pavilion, there were already two men sitting face to face on felt blankets, and a servant boy was warming the wine, the stove was boiling. At the sight of me they were greatly delighted, and cried: “how could we have this guy now in the lake?” Then they drew me in to drink with them. I managed to drink empty three full bowls of wine and said farewell. I asked who they were, and was told they were from Jin Ling and lived here now. When I walked into the boat, the boatman murmured: “Don’t say our Master is silly; there are others just as silly.”