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.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you 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 set-up 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 and 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 set-up.
- 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.
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- 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