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Bee Smoker

Published : 10th A[pril 2004


I just bought a bee smoker. I haven't used one since I was a PA.

My recollection is that it was frankincense we used to put in them and they made pretty good smoke.

Am I wrong? Anybody know a good source of frankincense? Not sticks, but the stuff that goes in a bee smoker?

Thanks

Blain Brown
DP
LA



>You can get frankincense and the small self-lighting charcoal tablets >that go with it in religious supply stores.

Thanks. But do you use them together? Charcoal wouldn't produce much smoke would it?

Yes, you light the charcoal (like tiny hockey pucks), they fire up quickly, then you drop the frankincense on top. The frankincense is what makes the smoke, the charcoal just supplies the heat. Smells great, will give you church flashbacks/make you nauseous.

I was an altar boy in the Greek Orthodox Church a lifetime ago. Even considered the priesthood. They use loads of the stuff.

George "kyrie eleison" Nicholas



I recall burlap as the incendiary of choice on the few occasions I used a bee smoker as a "special" effect. This makes sense as it would bee readily available to the farmers and keepers who would need it.

Light the edge of the burlap and stick it in the smoker box, close the lid. Puff away.

Randy "haven't smoked lately" Miller, DP in LA



> I just bought a bee smoker. I haven't used one since I was a PA.

Which is probably why you don't have breathing problems.


Anything that burns to produce smoke on the set is strictly verboten, *especially* in LA. CAL/OSHA, DGA, SAG, and a bunch of other combination of letters have very strict rules about smoke. There are now extensive guidelines on smoke on the set. For example look on the IA-600 website and I think a couple of the other guilds have posted those as well. You can now get into big trouble (at least the AD and producer can) by not following the smoke safety guidelines.

Plus it is just stinkin' bad for you! (several million Catholics notwithstanding)

I survived the bee smoke era and the ammonium chloride era. Not to mention the smoke cookie era. Bleach! Hand me a stogie.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California
U.S.A.



>My recollection is that it was frankincense

I remember buying "gum olibanum" from an LA SPFX house... which was at that time, the standard stuff that was used then. I'll check my files and see if the catalogue (and vendor) is still around. I bring out my bee smoker every 3 or 4 years…for old times sake.

Jack Cummings
Buffalo DP



Blain writes;

>Am I wrong? Anybody know a good source of frankincense? Not sticks, >but the stuff that goes in a bee smoker?

You can get frankincense and the small self-lighting charcoal tablets that go with it in religious supply stores.

Check your local yellow pages under religious goods. I'm sure you can get it online, but you might want a sniff test first. Some incense is a little strong...

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



>You can get frankincense and the small self-lighting charcoal tablets >that go with it in religious supply stores.

Thanks. But do you use them together? Charcoal wouldn't produce much smoke would it?

Blain Brown
DP
LA



Blain writes:

>But do you use them (frankincense and the small self-lighting charcoal >tablets) together?

Yes.

>Charcoal wouldn't produce much smoke would it?


No. The charcoal tablets don't make any smoke; the incense produces the smoke -- the charcoal keeps the incense burning. It won't burn by itself for long.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



On a TV drama, back in 1975, we were shooting below decks on a historical Tall Ship moored in Newport, RI. The ceiling of this deck was maybe 5 feet high, and the shooting area was very cramped and close. It was hot and sweaty down there, which fit the script quite well except for the lack of a smoky atmosphere.

So one of the PA's was sent out to purchase a bee smoker. Finding nothing better to burn in it, he brought back a box of cheap cigars. At this point the shoot had been held up long enough, so we just went ahead and did what we had to
do.

Of course, everyone got plenty sick to their stomachs. Ain't never heard so much cussin' 'n' swearin' on a set before or since. On quiet days, and sometimes in my dreams, I can still smell that smoke....

Dan "Brian Heller might remember that shoot" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Back in the mid 80's when I was starting out people would make smoke with charcoal and dry coffee grounds. More than once I was told to make one of these, we'd use the empty coffee can for the charcoal smoker, punch holes around the bottom to let the air circulate, let some coals get nice and hot, hold it with a pair of vice grips, then dump coffee grounds on the coals when they were ready for smoke.

Anybody else do this, or was this just a Denver thing?

Nasty smoke, but it looked nice. Man, I can still remember the smell.

Yuck.

Phil Badger
Gaffer, LA



>I was an altar boy in the Greek Orthodox Church a lifetime ago. Even >considered the priesthood. They use loads of the stuff.

Hey, me too! (Ukrainian Orthodox, but close enough - we only use Greek on major holidays.)

I've got to say that I wouldn't recommend incense - even really good incense (partial to the Athos and Tinos Island, myself...) - for this purpose. A lot of people have allergies or sensitivities to fragrances, and I'd be VERY surprised if someone on the cast or crew wasn't negatively affected.

I don't mind incense at all, but I also know from experience that if you inhale at the wrong time, it can set off a major coughing fit -
That's never happened to me with fog juice.

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



I was just shooting a feature where we used bee smokers out side. The effects guys started them up and then placed them is safe spots out of sight too create a gentle smoke.

You have to be really careful because they are a real fire danger especially when pumping them. Sparks will fly. In LA the fire guy will flip out.

Bob Hayes LA DP



Why not hardwood chips, like in a meat smoker. The smell might be somewhat more tolerable and when the fire chief comes to collect you can blame it on the caterer.

Seriously, the smell's not the worst thing in the air.

Best,
Ari Haberberg
DP, New York City



<You have to be really careful because they are a real fire danger

Never, ever, put a hot bee smoker down directly on a wooden floor (so imagine on a carpet) for longer than two minutes at the most (better no time at all). The heat from the bottom is enough for burning the wood red hot. I had the chance to... ahem!... "test" this during a shoot at the film school’s main stage.

Arturo (Phil Mottram still wants to skin me) Briones-Carcaré
Filmmaker
Madrid (Imperial - but starting to recivilise - Spain)