The word "soot" refers to the carbon that is left over from burning organic fuels. Typically, this substance is thought of as a nuisance that must be cleaned. However, soot is a component in traditional ink and can be used as a pigment for black inks or paints. All that is needed to make soot is organic material that you can burn. If you have organic material of any kind, a safe spot to burn it, and something to collect the soot with, making soot for a project is very simple.
Things You'll Need
- 2 bricks
Arrange a small amount of wood in a location that is safe for burning. Grills and fireplaces are ideal for this. Typically, choosing wood that doesn't produce much smoke is a good idea, but in this instance, woods that produce a lot of smoke are desirable. Green or partially-seasoned woods produce a lot of smoke, and soft woods, like cedar and pine, also produce a lot of smoke.
Stand two bricks on their short ends on either side of your wood, then place a large bowl upside-down on top of the bricks. This will catch the soot. Metal or ceramic bowls are better for this than plastic bowls, and the setup must be high enough above your fire that the bowl does not smother the flames.
Light the fire with the matches. If the wood resists lighting, lightly crumple a little paper, put it under the wood, and light the paper first.
Wait until the fire has completely died out and the bowl has cooled. Turn the bowl over; the inside will have a layer of soot. Any wood that did not burn completely and remains as a solid charcoal can also be used for pigment once powdered.
Tips & Warnings
- Any organic material can potentially make soot. If a small amount is needed, a candle can produce a significant amount of soot with the same setup.
- Always be careful when working with fire. Keep a fire extinguisher or water nearby.
- Do not inhale soot. You may wish to use a mask for additional safety.
- Chemical and Engineering News: "What's that Stuff? Ink"; Steve Ritter; 1998
- Merriam-Webster: Soot
- Northline Express.com: How to Clean a Chimney
- MadSciOrg: How Can I Collect and Measure Candle Soot?; Sean Hunt; 2003
- Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics; Marc Lancet and Masakazu Kusakabe; 2005; p. 309
- August West Chimney Sweeps; 2010
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images