Introduction: Backflow Incense Burner

Backflow incense burners are beautiful. The incense smoke from the burner cascades downward like water over a fall. Standard incense burners burn their incense, and the smoke escapes upward into the area unimpeded. Backflow burners force the smoke downward (backflow) into an internal chamber where the falling smoke resembles flowing water. Very meditative.


Tube 3” OD x 8” long

Funnel from Amazon

Backflow Incense

Copper Cap for 3-1/8” OD pipe.

Mcmaster Carr part number 5520K813

Tongue depressors (for vanes)


4” x 4” x ½” wood (base)

¼” dia x 3” wood dowel (see text)

½” x ¼” x 6” wood

Step 1: Construction

The base of the Backflow burner is a 4” x 4” x ½” piece of wood. I used a hole cutting saw to make a 3” to 3-1/8 groove in the wood that the plastic tube will seat into.

Step 2: Copper Cap

Drill and Polish. A ¼” hole is drilled in the center of the copper cap. The outside of the copper cap can be cleaned with some steel wool to a bright finish.

Step 3: Plastic Funnel

The plastic funnel is hot glued to the inside of the copper cap. The funnel helps shape and direct the incense smoke straight to the internal fixture.

Be sure the funnel opening is directly aligned with the ¼” hole in the copper cap.

Step 4: Internal Fixture

The heart of the Backflow incense burner, both figuratively and literally, is the internal fixture.

I fashioned the internal fixture using a short piece of ¼” diameter wood dowel, a 4.25” x 0.75 x 0.18 thick, and a few tongue depressors.

On the 4.25” long piece of wood, I use a pencil to mark three 45 degree angles. Next, I used a hand saw to cut grooves onto the pencil marks into the piece of wood. The grooves were wide enough to fit the edge of the tongue depressors.

I cut the tongue depressors to about an inch in length, inserted them into the grooves, and hot glued them into place. Next, I hot glued the ¼ dowel rod to the bottom of the wood. The rod secures the fixture to the wood base. Next, I hot glued a ¾” length of a tongue depressor to the top of the wood stick at a 30-degree angle. The landing platform is a large target for the smoke to hit and direct the smoke to the vanes.

I spray-painted the fixture with black paint.

Step 5: Set-Up and Use

The fixture is secured to the wood base.

The plastic tube is placed over the fixture and secured in the round grove made in the wood base. The copper cap is placed on top of the plastic tube. The ¼ hole in the copper cap should align with the landing platform on the internal fixture.

Place the incense on top of the hole on the copper cap and light the incense.

Step 6: Improvements

You can’t build something like this without seeing improvements you could make in the design.

I have seen a few, and the list follows.

I initially decided on a copper cap because the long sides would hide the funnel. This, I feel, was a mistake. The funnel doesn’t need to be hidden. It could be painted black and seen as part of the design. I would choose to make the top of the Backflow burner using the same size wood as the base. I would fit a thick fender washer on top of the wood top to prevent the incense from burning the wood.

I would modify the vanes and make them curved or scoops to direct the smoke better. Also, I could use black construction paper to make the vanes instead of wood (smoke is very light).