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How to dab cannabis concentrates: oil, shatter, wax, and more

L earning how to smoke dabs may seem daunting at first, but it’ll comes easily once you read about it. To help ensure your first time goes smoothly, this resource will teach you how to take a dab.

Essentially, dabbing is the flash vaporization of cannabis concentrates, once they are applied to a hot surface and inhaled. These concentrates (you’ve maybe heard of shatter, wax, BHO, oil, etc.) are a lot more potent than flower, so a little bit goes a long way.

While bud tends to test between 15-25% THC, concentrates typically range between 50-80% THC, depending on the extract type and quality. You can even dab non-intoxicating CBD extracts for quick therapeutic effects with little to no cerebral euphoria, but in some regions these oils can be difficult to find.

Dabbing isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re new to cannabis entirely. The dosing process is more delicate, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, concentrates can offer you new heights of physical relief and unique cerebral effects. Extracts also contain a lot less plant material than flower, so you’re inhaling more cannabinoids (e.g. THC, CBD) and less combusted resin. Check out our tips for dabbing.

What dab tools are needed?

When learning how to use a dab rig, keep in mind that dabbing technology is evolving. The traditional setup includes the following items:

  • Dab rig. This water pipe is like a bong except it will have a fitting for a nail.
  • Nail. This is like the bowl for your bong and where you will put the concentrate. The standard today is a quartz banger, which has a bucket shape. Ceramic and titanium are other options, and e-nails are becoming more common. Be sure to get the correct joint size, where the nail slides into the dab rig: If your rig has a 14mm stem, you need a 14mm nail. Nails can be male and female as well—you need a male nail for a female rig, and vice versa.
  • Dabber. Use this tool to apply the concentrate to the nail. They can be metal, glass, or ceramic, and have many shapes: ballpoint, needlepoint, scoop, spoon, paddle, etc. Pick a shape depending on the texture and consistency of the concentrate you’re dabbing.
  • Carb cap. Although not necessary, we highly recommend one of these to help regulate airflow. Combination dabber/carb caps are increasingly popular.
  • Torch. Mini-torches used for crème brulee are commonly used, but you’ll have to stock up on propane for them. Again, e-nails are increasingly common (but expensive) and cut out the need for a torch.
  • Cannabis extract. These come in a variety of forms, but the most common ones used for dabbing are shatter, wax, BHO, and solventless extracts like rosin.
  • (Optional):Dab mat. To keep your dabbing surface clean and not sticky.
  • (Optional): Timer. To ensure you heat your nail up consistently dab after dab.

How to dose cannabis oils and concentrates

Measuring a dab can be daunting as well. Different extracts have different THC concentrations, so it’s helpful to know how potent your concentrate is before dabbing it. It’s generally recommended to start small and increase the dose if you feel comfortable doing so.

A small dose is no bigger than a crumb. It may not look like much, but that’s a lot of THC going straight to the dome at once. Dabbing can feel a lot more intense to those accustomed to flower, but as your tolerance adjusts, the effects become less jarring.

Portioning

Legal markets are required to add cannabinoid information on their concentrate packaging. Potency is broken down into a percentage. Most solvent-based hash oils will land in the range of 60-90% total cannabinoids, with a few special examples exceeding 90%. The potency of some solventless concentrates may fall below 50% total cannabinoids.

For example, if you have one gram of hash that contains 80% total THC, that one gram will contain 800mg of total cannabinoids. For reference, the recommended starting dosage for an edible is between 5-10mg. This should be an indicator that dabbing is generally for more experience cannabis consumers. Obtaining a 5mg dab from a piece of hash is difficult.

If you split that gram of hash into eight equal portions, each portion will have 100mg of cannabinoids. It’s easier for the naked eye to split the concentrate into eight pieces than pulling a 25mg dab off of an 800mg slab. For reference, a 25mg dab at the ratio of 80% total THC typically comes in about the size of a couple grains of couscous. This will change depending on the potency of your sample, which is why reading the label is important.

Always start small

Don’t be afraid to take the smallest dab that your tool will allow and use that as a reference point. Micro-dabbing offers many benefits, and you can always take another dab. Find a dab size that works for you.

It’s important to understand that different sizes of dabs—and different ratios of cannabinoids—will affect everyone uniquely. A 25mg dab of THC is not guaranteed to give you the same psychoactive effects as your friend; our endocannabinoid systems all operate differently. The best way to find out what dose works for you is to start small and work your way up.

How do you dab?

Once the rig is set up and your dab is prepared on the dabber, you’re ready to get started. We advise sitting down while taking a dab, since it might be intense.

  • Step 1: Turn on your torch and aim the flame directly at the nail. Most people will heat the nail until it begins turning red hot. If you’re using an electronic nail, refer to the section below for more information on heating.
  • Step 2: Once the nail is hot, turn off your torch. It’s recommended to let quartz nails cool for about 45 seconds (and about 10 seconds for titanium) so the surface temperature isn’t too hot—this is where a timer can come in handy. Check out this article for more tips on how to get the right temperature.
  • Step 3: Apply the dab directly onto the nail with your dabber and begin inhaling slowly. Rotating the dabber tip on the nail can help prevent wasting any oil stuck to the dabber.
  • Step 4: Cover the dab with a carb cap and finish inhaling—a cap will help regulate the airflow. Always cap your dabs.
  • Step 5: Exhale and enjoy!

Safety note: Nails become extremely hot when dabbing. Take caution when handling them, and always wait for all pieces to cool down before you even think of touching them.

How to clean your nail

After a dab, carbon, reclaimed oil, and particulates can build up in the nail. A lot of people will clean their nail after each hit, but you should at least do it at the end of each session. Here are some ways to clean your nail:

  • Torch. The easiest way to clean your dab nail is to heat it with your torch to burn off any residual carbon or reclaim on your nail. When applying this method to ceramic and quartz nails, be careful not to expose your red hot nail to a rapid change in temperature or you may risk a stress fracture. After your nail becomes red hot and the residue dissipates, let it cool down completely before finishing off with a final scrape.
  • Scrape. For minor buildup, use a sharp dabber tool to lightly scrape your nail. Be careful not to chip any glass.
  • Wash. Try soaking your nail in 91% isopropyl alcohol for 10 minutes.

What are e-nails?

The above explains how you take a dab using the common torch-and-nail method, but e-nails are becoming increasing popular.

E-nails, or electronic nails, are significantly more expensive than standard nails, but the investment is often worth it for serious dabbers. They cut out the need for a nail and a torch, which is easily the most dangerous element of dabbing. Furthermore, you will have full control over your nail’s temperature. This is a fantastic feature if you care about making the most out of flavors and terpenes when you dab.

Dabbing technology is constantly improving and expanding, so watch out for the latest trends and products if you’re interested in leveling up your dabbing game!

Patrick Bennett also contributed to this article.

This post was originally published on December 9, 2015. It was most recently updated on June 30, 2020.

First time dabbing? Learn how to safely smoke wax, shatter, and other cannabis concentrates with this step by step guide.

How to Dab Weed and Why You Shouldn’t Do It Too Often

Dabbing weed has grown in popularity over the last fifteen years, partly due to cannabis extracts becoming widely available and partly because of the Internet.

I’ll explain why and how the Internet had a part in the expansion of dabbing weed a bit later in the article.

But for now, it is no secret that dabbing is the way to go if you want the strongest cannabis high.

Dabbing gives you a much stronger high than any other way of consumption due to the nature of cannabis extracts — the smoke coming from these extracts is much more potent when compared to dried flower.

So, in that spirit, let’s talk a bit about tolerance and the nature of increasing your own weed tolerance through dabbing.

Dabbing rapidly increases weed tolerance

It is a well known fact that your tolerance to substances that inebriate you have a tendency to grow and drop depending on how often you consume the substance.

Seeing how dabbing is one of the ways to consume cannabis extracts that contain high amounts of cannabinoid contents, it is natural that smoking these will vastly increase your tolerance.

But, is that a good thing?

In my personal opinion, no — never, unless your goal is to impress people with how much weed you can smoke.

Smoking Too Much Cannabis? Here’s How to Overcome It

Sure, dabbing once in a while when you are in the occasion might not increase your tolerance much.

However, many stoners have a tendency to get higher and higher for some reason. Those often have their own rigs and smoke on the daily.

Daily dabbing is perhaps one of the worst things that can come out of this, as daily dabbing is known to rapidly increase tolerance.

Firstly, the increased tolerance will lead to further attempts at getting even higher and it becomes a never-ending loop of spending ridiculous amounts of cash on cannabis extracts.

Secondly, your tolerance will be so high at moments that getting high by simply smoking blunts and joints might become hardly achievable.

I had the unfortunate opportunity to have this experience.

After several weeks of non-stop dabbing and vaping on cannabis extracts, my friend from Cali and I couldn’t get high after smoking 3 blunts back-to-back on a regular day.

Sure, we got a bit buzzed…

But that was nowhere near how high we used to get before dabbing for a few weeks.

And there were no different factors that might influence our calls, we were still smoking the same weed as we used to smoke weeks ago…

After that experience, we decided to take it down a notch and ease up on the dabs.

Dabbing vs vaping: what’s the difference?

So, I mentioned that we both dabbed and vaped cannabis extracts.

These are two completely different ways of consuming cannabis, but they have rather similar effects.

Now, while both types of consumption rely on inhaling vaporized cannabis, the way users get there is a bit different.

Dabbing is done by heating up a nail with a blowtorch and placing a bit of cannabis extracts on the heated nail which evaporates the extracts.

The hot vapor is then inhaled through the rig and is usually extremely hot, which causes irritation in the lungs and throat.

The result of all this is an instant high, a terrible cough, chest pain and then numbness for the next 30 minutes or so.

Vaping, on the other hand, relies on technology a bit more, as it utilizes electricity in order to heat up the extracts or dried bud, which is then turned into low-temp vapor.

Vaporizers are usually much smaller in size as they usually come in pocket-size while dabbing rigs are basically modified bongs.

Vaporizers also utilize a lower temperature in order to vaporize the contents, while higher temperatures are needed for dabbing.

Vaporizers heat up cannabis material on a hot plate to release the vapor or smoke so that it can be inhaled.

Dab rigs utilize a hot nail that you manually heat up and it lets of heat over time, while vaporizers keep a constant temperature when activated.

Knowing these differences, let us get into how temperatures affect your high and see which temperature is best for which effect.

Best dabbing temperature (chart)

So, seeing how cannabis has over 100 active cannabinoids that affect your body and your high, maybe even in the slightest ways that you may not even feel, it makes sense that there are different temperatures at which these compounds ‘dissolve’ best.

By dabbing at a higher temperature we may achieve a bit different effects than dabbing at a lower temperature.

Even the high after smoking a hash joint will have a different feel to it than when you consume hash through a vaporizer.

Now that we know what are the best temperatures for dabbing, lets us also take a look at what are the best materials for your nail.

Titanium nails (Ti Nail)

Most people who dab are used to using Tit-Nails, or titanium nails because they last very long.

Their durability is what the titanium nails are most known for, as these will almost never break or bend, or anything like that.

They can withstand incredible amounts of heat without losing it too fast, as titanium is rather good at retaining heat.

This means that you won’t have to torch the nail too long, and you won’t have to rush with dabbing.

Quartz nails

Quartz nails are made from Quartz crystal, and these are never recommended for first time users as they break very easily.

Similarly to Titanium nails, these can also be quickly heated up to high degrees and be ready to dab in no time.

However, given that these are easily breakable and don’t retain head for a long time, Quartz nails are never recommended for starters.

Once you’ve gotten a hang of dabbing, maybe try using a Quartz nail once or twice in your lifetime.

Quartz nails are also often called “Quartz Banger”.

Ceramic nails

Lastly, ceramic nails are in my opinion the perfect balance of both, the beauty and the beast.

Ceramic nails are best in my opinion because I’ve had most pleasant experiences with them, and also least accidents.

When I say accidents, I mean stupid things happening when high people don’t think too much such as breaking rigs and grabbing nails while they’re hot as hell.

Ceramic nails will give you a better taste than the Ti-Nails, but worse taste than Quartz nails.

They are also more durable than Quartz nails, but less than the Ti-Nails.

Heat retention is a big factor when dabbing as you want as much time possible to take your dab without the nail cooling.

Ceramic nails will do just that, and if you are one of those that do things faster than they think, if you grab a ceramic nail by accident just after taking a rip — you won’t be as badly burned as if you grabbed a Ti-Nail.

Unfortunately, ceramic nails do take the longest to heat up of all three types, however if you aren’t dabbing in secret that shouldn’t really be a problem.

Next level weed dabbing

Electric nails, also known as e-nails are the ultimate dabbing experience you can have.

This device is powered by electricity and it is used to set the temperature of your nail, and keep it there until you decide different.

E-nails are more expensive than other nails, but give you absolute control over the environment while you are smoking.

This means that you won’t have to worry much about the potential hazardous issues with the rig or the burner.

However, using an e-nail will limit your consumption to places with electricity — so no dabbing in the forest with this bad boy.

How to dab weed (3-step weed dabbing guide)

Lastly, we’ve come to the guide itself.

If you’ve never dabbed before in your life you will need the following:

  • A bong, also known as a water pipe. Feel free to remove the slider for smoking weed from your bong as you won’t need it for dabs.
  • A nail, preferably made from titanium or ceramic.
  • Cannabis extracts such as rosin, hash or shatter.
  • A domed dabber to place the extract and trap the smoke/vapor.
  • One small torch for crème brulee.

Step 1: Put the extract firmly on the nail.

By doing so you will make sure that the extract doesn’t fall off while moving the dabber around, thus leading to losing the extract in the carpet or somewhere else on the ground.

It will also help you get all of the extract on the right places on the nail. Make sure you don’t put too much as you don’t want to waste good extracts into the air.

Step 2: Heat up the nail with the torch.

If you have your torch at hand, place the bong (or now it’s actually a dabbing rig) and heat up the nail.

Depending on the type of the nail you’ll need about half a minute to heat up the nail. If it turns red, wait for about 20-40 seconds for the nail to cool down, as the best flavors are release at lower temperatures.

Step 3: Place the extract in the nail and move around while inhaling

Once you’ve reached your desired temperature, put the dabber with the extract in the nail and move it around.

You will see smoke and vapor appear, and once the whole extract is gone cover the nail with your dome on the dabber.

This will trap the smoke and vapor and give you the best possible hit.

If you have friends that dabbed before I strongly suggest you do it with them as they will know how to help you with everything you need.

Expect a very strong high and a powerful hit to the lungs like you’ve never felt before.

Most importantly, enjoy dabbing, but not too much as it will raise your tolerance faster than anything else!

Find out how to dab weed, using one of the most popular dabbing methods in 2018 and explore the best dabbing temperatures for the biggest health benefits.