Incense Waterfall Upcycle Project


Incense waterfalls are a product found typically in Chinese Feng Shui, and are often created with religious imagery like the Buddha shown in the Figure 2. The origins of incense go back to the Babylonians thousands of years ago; however the backflow incense are attributed to Chinese culture. The inspiration for my upcycle project are the visual aesthetics of the smoke falling and pooling as well as some of the design elements like petals and a convex shape.

Figure 1: Typical Incense Waterfall Design                             Figure 2: Waterfall with Buddhist Imagery


  • Glass: Kombucha Bottles, alcohol bottles
  • Gallon jug handle: To hold incense
  • Towel: To smash glass uupon and prevent shards from flying
  • Hammer: To smash glass
  • Hot melt glue gun (+ three sticks of glue): To adhere shards to bottle
  • Safety Glasses and Gloves
  • Backflow incense: The only purchased part in the project was a jar of Jeffsun backflow incenses. These incense are designed to burn internally where a majority of the smoke gathers within the hole. In the absence of significant convection within the hole the smoke cools, and pours out the bottom of the incense. Once cooled the smoke is more dense than air and falls through the water fall. [3]


The assembly began by placing a glass bottle on a towel and folding to cover completely. With gloves and glasses on, I tapped on the glass bottle to attempt create a convex shape to act as a base. This took me about 5 bottles before I tapped towards the neck and a large piece shattered perfectly shown below. I continued shattering the glass to create small petals that also have a convex shape to catch the smoke as it falls (something seen in the typical incense waterfall design). Once I had decided on some satisfying shapes I mocked up an incense and lit it to see how the smoke would fall. I continued to hot melt glue petals that best fit against the bottle.

Functional Goals


  1. Convex Shape to prevent drafts from displacing smoke
  2. Petals flow seamlessly and prevent turbulent flows
  3. Incense is stable and majority of smoke cools and flows smoothly out of the backflow

Possible Improvements

  1. Plastic milk jug handle can melt slightly when the incense is about to finish burning (requires a safe place to dispose of hot incense)

Aesthetic Goals


  1. Visual performance of smoke pooling after gracefully falling
  2. The use of multiple parts of a bottle

Possible Improvements

  1. Remove label and paint a darker color to better show the contrast between the white smoke (seen in the typical incense waterfall
  2. Remove excess hot melt glue with an Exacto knife
  3. Change the way the incense is held




Breakdown Video






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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hey Hannah, I hadn’t really considered sanding the edges of the glass down, but that seems like a great idea. What would be the best method for sanding glass?

  • Jake Leicht
    March 3, 2021 7:43 pm

    Cool Project Peter. Incense waterfalls are very interesting and definitely bring a meditative feeling to any room. I really like your inspiration and execution of the project in general. If I were to be permissioned one opinion I would say that I agree with your idea to paint the bottle darker, but would add that the steps where smoke flows be painted a different color than the bottle. Or that they be made from a different color glass. Great job sticking to the true upcycle theme and avoiding spending lots of money!

    • Thanks for the critique Jake, I agree with your opinion in that the change in color would be a great improvement to the project.

  • Great job on getting your final upcycle project to visualize the flow of the smoke how you wanted to. I definitely agree with your observation to paint the glass a darker color to help make the smoke pop more. I also would be concerned if at the end you didn’t sand the edges of the glass down since it wouldn’t be fun to cut yourself when trying to enjoy the incense. Overall though I think your concept was solid and would be happy to hear what you plan on doing with your project now that you’ve finished it.


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