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Nailing It: How To Choose The Right Dab Rig For You?


As cannabis concentrates such as butane hash oil, wax and shatter become more popular, several ways to consume these “new” forms of cannabis have emerged. Perhaps the most popular is “dabbing” – burning a dollop of concentrates on an overheated nail and inhaling the results.

Dab rigs vaguely resemble bongs of yesteryear, but with one important difference: that nail.

Rigs can look intimidating, but if you’re serious about experiencing the full flavor and effects of concentrates, this is the only way to go.

Ask yourself a few questions when choosing a dab rig:

What is my budget? Is form more important than function? Can I have both? And what are the right accessories?

Rig Talk

Ideally, your piece is aesthetically pleasing and smooth to strike. Beauty may be subjective, but I believe there are two opposing goals to glass aesthetics: scientific and intoxicating.

An “intoxicating” piece is made with a lot of work. It can be made of colored glass and decorated with marbles or horns. It could have “worked” color sections with psychedelic or wigwag patterns, all made of glass. My Carsten Carlile mini tube made of colored glass called “serendipity” and “purple rain” is a bit intoxicating.

“Scientific” glass is generally all clear, apart from the artist’s brand, chemistry-esque, and focuses on function over form.

Scientific pieces contain innovations that improve the hit. For example, diffusion can be created through a percolator with many small slits. These slots create a large amount of bubbles, giving you a smoother hit than the classic bong-style pull of an intoxicating rig.

There’s no need to sacrifice form for function, as a harmony between intoxicating and scientific is trending. Recyclers and “Fab Eggs” are rigs that are focused on function, but also include intoxicating details such as colored glass, machined sections, and often with marbles or other embellishments.

There are also standard tubes with a more than standard diffusion and added decorations, such as my personal favorite: my Caliber Glassworks mini tube with six-hole diffusion, three marbles attached, machined base and rainbow horn attached.

Nail Conversation

Aside from that, an important factor in how your piece will function is the nail. Nails are made of titanium, quartz or ceramic.

Titanium nails are the most durable and are standard for solvent-based concentrates, while quartz and ceramic are better for preserving the flavor of solvent-free concentrates such as cold water hash or ice wax.

Nails are “domeless” – bare metal or ceramic only – or have a small dome on top. Choosing between them is a choice of aesthetics or convenience. Often the rig you buy is already fitted with a nail. If your rig comes with a dome, you can use a standard nail that goes down into the rig’s joint so that it is inside the dome when it’s put back on the rig.

A domeless nail is designed to work without a dome by providing a large, cup-shaped surface with a hole in the center that allows for suction. Domed nails can come with an accessory called a carb cap. Carb caps imitate a carb on a dry pipe and trap smoke from a hit. You can use almost anything as a carb cap, as long as it doesn’t melt or break from the heat. Devices with a cap on one end and a thin piece of metal that can be used to place the dab on the nail are popular.

Of course you can’t dab without heat. An important accessory is a flashlight. A quality, over $50, refillable butane torch, such as a kitchen torch used to make crème brulee, is the best choice.

High temperatures are unavoidable when dabbing. You will probably burn yourself at least once. But if you’re concerned about a fluke, consider investing in an e-nail. Here’s exactly what they sound like: a nail plugged into a power source that lets you choose the temperature the nail is heated to, and can be bought for about $150 and up.

Quartz and ceramic nails are also “self-cleaning”. Most of the remnants of the previous dab will burn away as you heat it up with your flashlight. These nails need more attention: they should be heated thoroughly and evenly for good cleaning and stability, then allowed to cool for about 15-20 seconds before taking your dab.

Each medium heats and cools at a different rate, but you should be able to hold your hand about an inch away and feel an acceptable heat.

Low temperature dabs are the best way to enjoy your concentrates; finding the right temperature for your nail and rig will take time, but it’s worth the work. Like the others, you need to get your nail HOT to burn off any residue, let it cool, dab and enjoy the flavors!

Makers Fair

Glassblowers are constantly adapting their work to market demand. This means it’s easy to spend thousands on a show-worthy rig made by an artist whose name is a top brand.

But if you’re not an aspiring glass collector, you’re probably looking for what I call my ‘everyday driver’: an affordable, visually pleasing, well-functioning and smooth-falling piece. These can be had for between $150 and $300.

It’s easy to find cheaply made disposable glass, but with research you can find an affordable rig that supports a local and emerging artist. Instagram and Twitter make it easier than ever to connect directly with artists. Buying through them can be cheaper than buying through a headshop.

And with glass trade and social media sales communities and sites like BoroBook, it’s always possible to get a popular artist’s work at an affordable price.

Photo by StoneyXochi



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