30 Oct

 We bought quick-drying clay from which to make cones. Tami made a few nice cones–which is tough to do: you want it to be very narrow at the top, but big enough that a cone will have a good long burn time. Then I made the mistake of buying liquid _silicone_ instead of liquid _latex_. The liquid latex actually says “mold builder” on it; I think I used the same substance, same brand, back when I tried this task five years ago. Silicone is used for waterproofing leather; I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it. Latex will harden, and we’ll be able to peel it off the cone/wood combination once it’s dried. The idea is you glue an ideal cone to a piece of wood (I’m using 1.5″x1.5″ pieces); then you paint latex over the whole thing.
 When I tried this for the first time, this part of the process was the most difficult: after you stuff the incense dough into the mold, you need a way to remove the cone from the mold. The idea is to cut a slit up the side of the mold, and keep it together with a little bit of tape; then once you’ve stuffed the dough in, it’s simply a matter of taking the tape off, and gently popping the cone out. That part of it was difficult for me, partly because it was difficult for to make a straight slit (the tremor in my right hand was just beginning). With Tami and Pop, I can trust they’ll be able to make a straight slit. I won’t give up this time–trying to extrude joss sticks was a complete failure.
 The manual gun extruder and the pasta maker both failed miserably. I don’t feel liking paying a machinist to make an extruder just for incense joss sticks (as a professional incense maker told me I had to do); that process might be prohibitively expensive. If the first cone mold doesn’t work, we’ll try again. I plan to make at least four molds, but one might be all we need. It would be nice if we could make three or four cones at once; I could work on one or two, while Tami also works on one or two. The first necessary step is to come with some fine formulas–my benchmark is Mother’s Fragrances’ Nagchampas from India. Would that I could come up with some formulas which come close to the high-calibre of Mother’s incense.


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