BUKIT MERTAJAM: With the Chinese New Year celebration drawing closer, the demand for traditional joss sticks is increasing, making this the busiest time for joss stick maker, Ong Chye Chin.

Ong, 63, said he has been receiving endless phone calls and people turning up at the factory to place their orders, which amounted to more than 2,000 this time around.

“During this festive season, we send out about three lorries containing 70 various sizes of joss sticks in each lorry daily,” he told Bernama when met recently at his factory in Kubang Semang.

He said that he starts making the traditional joss sticks from 8am to 6:30pm to complete the orders which come from Perak, Kelantan, Sarawak, Sabah and even Thailand.

Ong said orders for his products increased in demand due to the CNY celebration, with sales likely to increase by about 10% compared to other months.

“It all began with my grandfather Ong Ah Kaw, who started this factory 62 years ago. I took over this business when I was 22. I slowly developed my skills and currently employ about 12 workers,” he said.

He said he decided to maintain the traditional method of making joss sticks because most of his customers prefer handmade joss sticks compared to machine-made ones, hence enabling his business to survive up to this day.

Elaborating further, he said they use wood dust to make these joss sticks by hand before they are carved and painted.

Ong, who learned to make joss sticks from his grandmother when he was 14, said he sells about 50 designs of joss sticks with prices ranging from RM18 to RM600.

“The most challenging process of producing large joss sticks is making the dragon shape on the outer layer, especially the three-dimensional type that is the choice of many now.

“I am glad to be keeping this traditional business alive,” he added.