Dab Rigs 101

Everything You Need to Know About Dab Rigs

Joints, blunts, bongs, glass pipes, vaporizers – the many and varied means of getting your weed on can get pretty confusing. We’re here to explain dab rigs, which is just one of those aforementioned means. Using a Dab Rig is becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason – compared to joints or bongs, dab rigs provide a more concentrated hit of THC that’s unlike anything you’ll get with anything else. How do they do that? Read up on dab rigs here, and find out if they’re worth your money.

What is a dab?

Dabs are made by mixing butane with marijuana to produce a waxy, gummy substance. That’s why they’re also known as BHO, or butane hash oil. The butane extracts THC from the dry flower material, producing a concentrated substance that’s a lot more potent. That’s what makes dabbing unique – it produces a high that’s both stronger and hits you faster. Dabs can contain 80% more THC than the regular herb, which only has 15-20%. That would definitely get you higher faster than the average joint! In fact, the name itself comes from a slogan from old Brylcreem hair product commercials: “Just a dab’ll do ya.”

There are a few different types of dabs around, known by different names. “Shatter” is a translucent, hard but brittle substance that, as the name implies, shatters easily. “Budder” is softer, with a consistency similar to a stick of butter, which makes it easier to portion out than shatter. “Wax” or “crumble” is dryer, and looks and feels like – for lack of a better description – ear wax. And as one of its names implies, it’s prone to crumbling and requires care to handle and store.

But those are about the only differences between the types of dabs. They all contain highly concentrated THC and they’ll all give you a more powerful, longer-lasting high. But only if they’re vaporized instead of just burned – and that’s where a dab rig comes in.

Dab rigs vs. bongs

They’re both made of glass, but that’s about where the similarity ends. Dab rigs tend to be smaller than bongs, because they’re made for smoking concentrates and designed so that the vapor reaches your mouth fast – in fact, you can even get “nano rigs” that are under 8 inches tall but still come with all the bells and whistles. You see, dab rigs tend to be complicated-looking things, with various joints and parts such as the nail, the dabber, the cap, and the recycler. Let’s go into the anatomy of a dab rig next.

The nail

The nail is where it all begins. You heat up the nail with a torch before placing the dab onto it. Dab rig nails need to quickly heat up to 300 degrees Celsius and above, in order to ensure that the dab will vaporize instead of burn. That’s why the nail needs to be made of tough stuff in order to withstand this amount of heat. Dag rig nails come in the following materials:
• Titanium – Popular among beginner dabbers for its heat-conducting qualities, but titanium nails tend to give off a metallic taste to the hit. (Though some people might like that kind of thing.) And they’re not cheap either.
• Glass or ceramic – The most common and affordable dab rig and nail materials. No metallic taste with either of these two, but they could be susceptible to wear and tear. Frequent use and excessive reheating could even shatter a glass rig.
• Quartz – The quality choice of dab rig nail material – strong, leaves no weird taste, and keeps a steady heat. You’d be the envy of your fellow dabbers if you show them your quartz nail.
• E-nails – But if your fellow dabbers are gadget fans, this is what’ll impress them. E-nails are externally powered, heats up quickly and stays hot indefinitely, and best of all, allows you to set a precise temperature. Of course, they’re pretty expensive.
Aside from the material of the nail, there are also a variety of designs. Banger nails are swan-necked, flat-bottomed buckets that allow for an evenly heated surface. Thermal bangers are another relatively new design that features a double-walled concentrate chamber, that helps to prevent that icky unused concentrate that clogs up the neck.

The dabber

The dabber is simply the tool you use to pick up the dab. Since dabs can be fragile, your average pair of tweezers won’t do. A dabber is a small wand-shaped tool made of the same materials as dab rig nails (titanium, glass, ceramic or quartz) and designed to hold a dab on its tip. That’s pretty much all there is to dabbers, although they do come in a variety of designs. (If that Hello Kitty dabber catches your eye, it’s okay, we won’t judge!)

The cap

Otherwise known as carb caps or vapor domes, the “carb” comes from “carburetor” – you know, the part of an engine that regulates the flow of air. Carb caps serve the same function, being a small piece of glass, quartz or titanium – the classic dab rig materials! – that covers the nail. This stops the vapor from dissipating, but a small hole at the top lowers the air pressure and allows the dab to vaporize at a lower temperature.

Why would you want that? For a couple of reasons actually. If you heat up the nail too much, you risk burning the dab and turning it into smoke rather than vapor – which defeats the purpose of dabbing in the first place. But if the temperature is too low, not all of the concentrate gets vaporized, leaving a residue on the nail that you’ll either have to clean or reheat. Sure, you can buy dab rig cleaning kits, but why not save yourself the hassle if you could? And heating up the nail too hot or too many times runs the risk of damaging it and breaking your precious rig.

Another reason is making sure the ratio of air to vapor is correct. You want a nice long hit of vaporized THC, not a mouthful of more air than vapor. But remember your high school chemistry: nothing can burn without oxygen. Hence the carb cap, which is designed to let in just enough air without letting any vapor out. Carb caps also help to keep the nail from losing its heat too fast.

Recycler Rigs

Recycler rigs are a particular type of dab rig that you might want to consider – they’re the more complicated-looking ones with various chambers and joints. The recycler part of it really only has two chambers – the first is the reservoir, where the vapor is filtered through water, and the second serves to keep water from splashing you in the face. Vapor from the second chamber will get recycled back to the reservoir through another tube, until you take a drag of all that nicely cooled and filtered vapor from the mouthpiece.

If you’re familiar with bongs and water pipes, you’ll know the benefits of filtering with water. Hits are smoother and taste better once they’ve been filtered and cooled, and when the moisture is retained instead of getting dry and stagnant. And when the vapor is cooled down, it won’t leave a residue on the inside of the glass. Finally, we think all that intricately wrought glass looks pretty beautiful. After all, why hide your dab rig in a closet? Put it out on display as an objet d’art!

So are dab rigs for you?

Dab rigs may seem intimidating at first if you’re relatively new to marijuana. But we hope we’ve cleared up the confusion a little, and we hope we can convince you to invest in a rig of your own. We’re huge fans of them ourselves, and like all good stoners, we’re all about sharing the love!

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