All the cool kids are decorating with concrete. It’s a dope material, tough and durable, and heavy as hell. Concrete is gorgeous because of all its crack and crevices and color variations. It means business and looks both super industrial and ultra modern/minimalist all at once. Have I convinced you yet? Then stick with me and learn how to make your own concrete incense holders.
I often try to find new and different ways to incorporate concrete into our home decor. I’ve gotten into incense lately, but unfortunately, don’t have a burner/holder that I like. They are all very hippy-dippy (demonstrative of the general public that like incense, I suppose) or wood or ceramic. I’ve been hunting for a modern, clean incense holder on Etsy and elsewhere since December. Unwilling to pay $20+ for a small block of concrete, and determined I could make one myself, I started investigating that option instead.
Maker Mixes Up Makers Mix
Imagine my delight to stumble upon Maker’s Mix, a light-weight, quick-drying alternative to traditional concrete. Another plus: it’s available in a small, craftable container. (I got a little intimidated by true concrete upon learning that it’s only sold in like 80 lb buckets. Eep!)
By comparison, Makers Mix only costs $10 on Amazon for a 3 lb bucket. Upon opening it, I discovered the container to be a bit messy and some of the grit was loose. But I quickly learned how easy this stuff is to work with and started scheming how I would bring my vision to life.
Makers Mix only requires water and a mold to set in — the rest is up to you! Before getting into the real how-to, I got acclimated to Makers Mix by doing a small batch in a familiar silicon ice cube mold. I greased it up with canola oil, mixed a single batch of the Makers Mix and squished it in. To see how my concept for an ash-catching area would work, I pushed a greased shot glass in on top of the mix and let everything cure the required 30 minutes. Once cured, I tried to drill the hole to put the incense stick into. L O L. Here’s what I got:
A few quick lessons proved this to be a valuable experiment:
- When this stuff sets, it sets HARD! I honestly thought that my shot glasses were lost. Or at the very least, they now had giant concrete bases. Do not underestimate how much oil you need, especially if you want to keep whatever you’re molding with!
- When using a silicon mold, reinforce the sides so that you can get a clean straight edge. The Makers Mix wanted to “pooch” out the sides of the molds a bit. I made a mental note to accommodate for this in my final plan.
- WEAR GLOVES! This shit will get under your nails and there is literally nothing worse. Nothing. NOTHING. So wear gloves when you’re mixing and molding Makers Mix.
- This stuff does not drill. Drilling is not an option. The hold has to be made BEFORE it cures, because ain’t no drill bit getting in there.
Onto the how-to!
DIY Concrete Incense Holder Materials
This one’s pretty straight-forward, but I still had to noodle on it a bit. Finding the right mold was easy, but the solution to the “divot” was the hardest part. So bear with me and read on to see how it all comes together.
Once again, Amazon was my BFF for accumulating the necessary supplies:
- 3 lb container of Makers Mix – $10
- Silicone soap mold – $6
- Bouncy balls – $1 for a three-pack at Dollar General
- Canola oil
I’m assuming you have water, oil, some nails, and gloves of some sort on hand… if not, do it. All said and done, this project cost me $17 and I’ve been able to make 10 incense holders to give out as gifts. That’s a damn sight better than $16 each! Anyway, enough of the what and onto the how.
Step 1: Prep Your Molds
I used some spare wood to create a little frame that my soap mold would sit into. This is not absolutely necessary but I did it to pre-empt any pooching out once I got the Makers Mix into the molds. I wanted perfectly straight and square sides, no pooches. I just used wood glue to tighten up the sides of my spare wood and keep them in place. Kinda janky, but it works!
Once the molds were sitting in their frame, I put on my gloves and oiled up every mold with canola oil. I poured about a teaspoon into each mold and massaged it around with my fingers until I was satisfied that there would be no sticking. I also got the top face of the mold, just in case of overflow.
While I was at it, I oiled up the bouncy balls and nails so that I wouldn’t have to come back to those after mixing the “concrete.” One and done!
Step 2: Mix, Press, and Set
Pretty straight-forward from here, folks. To make three of these bad boys, I used 2 cups of Makers Mix and 2/3 cup water as instructed on the box. Mix that up with a spatula in whatever bowl and then get to pressing that into your molds!
Once mixed, it feels like the consistency of thick, wet sand, about as you’d expect. It’s a little tough to be sure that you got all the air bubbles out, since it’s quite thick, but if you continue to press down you should be able to squish out most of the air from the mold.
Use a knife edge or spatula to smooth off the top edge of the mold, then press the greased ball into one end of the form. You’ll want to press it down no more than a 1/2″ at most so that the curve of the ball doesn’t get stuck in the concrete. Give them a good spin to make sure the compression is solid.
Once you have a nice, firm impression from the ball, lift them out as cleanly as possible. Next, grab your nails and drive them as close to straight down, in the center of the divot, as you can. This will help make sure the incense stick stands straight and ashes into the area we just defined to catch said ash.
Smooth the tops and edges with the spatula or your fingers, trying to get all the concrete into the mold and relatively level on top. Don’t worry about getting it perfect; we’ll sand it after it sets as well. (PS, those white balls you see are what helps the Maker’s Mix cure faster/lighter and actually give them a cool speckle!)
Now take off the gloves and go make a cocktail. Just hang out for 30 – 45 minutes while your beauties set.
Step 3: Unmold and Sand!
Once the Makers Mix has cured, you can remove the bouncy ball and turn the molds upside down. Next, peel the silicone off the forms. They should pop right out if you oiled them up right!
There may be a little discoloration around the base of the forms from where excess oil pooled up. Don’t worry about that, it will fade as the form continues to cure and dry.
Even if you did a decent job leveling the top, you will probably want to hit them with a sanding block to help smooth it down. You can see on mine that a few had more “low” points; I sanded down to smooth things out but didn’t get everything perfect. These are hand-made… it’s okay if they look a little rustic! 😉
And you’re done! You may choose to spray your concrete incense holders with a shellac to give it a smoother finish. I used Thompson’s Waterseal and let it dry for about a day before using them. If you do choose to add this finish, make sure that you poke an incense stick (or the nail) back into the hole you made. You don’t want it filling up and sealed with finish!
The Perfect Gift
These concrete incense holders make terrific gifts, especially for people you maybe don’t know particularly well. I have a stockpile now ready for coworker gift exchanges, impromptu birthday gatherings, and white elephant gift parties. Who is going to be disappointed with a super cool, modern industrial, handmade concrete incense holder? Pair it with a nice set of coconut incense and you’ll make anyone’s day.
I also think these would make great alternative gifts for bridesmaids or Mothers’ Day presents. Not everybody wants or needs another piece of jewelry. These make for functional and thoughtful goodies that anyone can enjoy.
So get cracking! They’re easy, fun, and can be further customized with paint or other details… sky’s the limit, realake ly! I had a blast bringing this idea to life and can’t wait to enjoy them for years to come. (And, spoiler alert, I think my friends and family will be doing so, too!)