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What you need to know about dab tools

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Contents

  1. Nails
  2. Percolators
  3. Heat source
  4. Dabbers
  5. Cleaning tools
  6. Storage gear
  7. Dab accessories
  8. Other ways to consume concentrates

Dabbing has taken the cannabis world by storm in recent years. The explosive popularity of concentrates has introduced not only a new method for consuming cannabis, but also an entirely new culture, vocabulary, and a range of specialized tools and components. This article will give you an extensive breakdown of the tools needed to dab like a pro and make the most of your encounter with cannabis concentrates.

Concentrates have introduced not only a new method for consuming cannabis, but also an entirely new culture, vocabulary, and a range of specialized tools and components. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Nails

Aside from the rig itself, nails are the most vital part of the dabbing experience. A nail is essentially a shallow dish that slides into the downstem of your dab rig, and is the component to which you apply heat and onto which you will drop and vaporize your concentrates.

There are two main types of dab nails you can use with a dab rig:

Nails with dome

These nails require the use of an additional piece called a dome, which slides over the top of a heated nail to help evenly distribute heat and retain vapor.

When you use a nail and dome, you heat the nail to the desired temperature, slide the dome over the top of the nail, drop your concentrate onto the hot nail, and pull in the vapor.

These nails require the use of an additional piece called a dome, which slides over the top of a heated nail to help evenly distribute heat and retain vapor. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Domeless nails

Just as the name indicates, domeless nails do not require the use of a dome. Instead, they feature a larger dish and an opening in the center through which the vapor travels into the rig.

Today, many dabbers prefer using domeless nails, since the larger dishes allow them to hit larger dabs. Using a domeless nail also tends to be a bit simpler than the process of heating a nail and then sliding a dome down over it.

In the absence of a dome, it is now very common to use a carb cap with a domeless nail. A carb cap rests on top of the nail while the concentrate is bubbling and vaporizing, and is lifted off the nail when you’re ready to clear the vapor. This creates a small chamber of heat that lets you dab effectively at lower temperatures for a cleaner taste.

The material of the dab nail is another critical factor to consider. Here are the primary options currently available to concentrate consumers:

Titanium nails

Titanium nails are metal, which means they heat quickly and retain heat well. They are also very durable and hard to break. However, after extended use, you may see titanium oxide buildups, which can impair the performance of your nail. Additionally, titanium nails are sometimes not medical- or food-grade products, which means there is always the possibility that the nail could leach harmful contaminants at high temperatures. This is why, if you decide to take the titanium route, many seasoned stoners consumers stress the importance of using a dab nail made of medical-grade 2 titanium.

Ceramic nails

Ceramic nails take the longest to heat up, but once they’re at the desired temperature, they tend to retain heat better than other types of nails. Unfortunately, cracks or breakage are more common with a ceramic nail due to the material’s inherent fragility. Because they are medical- and food-grade products, ceramic nails eliminate any concerns about harmful contaminants leaching into your weed vapor.

Quartz nails

Quartz nails, typically called quartz bangers, heat up quickly but tend to lose heat quickly, too. For that reason, it’s best to use a carb cap with your quartz nail. Like ceramic, quartz nails do not leach harmful contaminants and are very safe to use.

Quartz nails heat up quickly but also lose heat quickly, so it’s best to use a carb cap with your quartz nail. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Glass nails

Glass nails tend to be the least durable, as they can crack or even shatter at the high temperatures needed for dabbing. However, glass nails are usually the most affordable option, they retain heat relatively well, and are easy to use. But if you dab frequently, be prepared to replace a glass nail at some point when it breaks.

Percolators

Many dab rigs include a percolator, often referred to as a “perc.” Also found in most bongs, these components elevate the performance of your water pipe by creating tons of bubbling action that leads to water filtration. There are so many styles of percolators on the market today, including:

  • Disk percs refer to any sort of disk-shaped percolator with a network of openings designed to create bubbles. Given their relatively compact shape and size, it’s easy to stack multiple disk percs into a single rig, allowing you to customize your piece.
  • Tree percs feature a number of separate arms, each with an array of small holes or slits. The numerous arms and holes create tons of bubbles, which translates into tons of filtration.
  • Shower head percs sit at the bottom of the downstem, submerged in the water chamber. Designed in the shape of a ring, this type of perc includes a series of small openings, just like a shower head. When vapor passes through these holes, they instantly create thousands of tiny bubbles for increased filtration.
  • Frit disk percs are made by bonding together a bunch of small glass particles into a disk-like shape. This process leaves behind numerous tiny openings throughout the disk, and these little openings create massive bubbling action — arguably more bubbling than any other type of perc. The only downside is that pulling through all those little holes requires some serious lung effort and they can easily become plugged by leftover reclaim.
  • Honeycomb percs feature holes cut in the same structure as a honeycomb and tend to produce more bubbles than standard disk percolators.
  • Inline/stemline percs work a lot like standard downstem percs, but instead of sitting at a downward slanted angle, an inline or stemline perc sits horizontally across the water chamber. This means that all holes in the perc are at the same level in the water, rather than some being higher up than others, thereby ensuring a more even filtration process.
  • Helix designs are percs arranged into multiple arms that tend to twist or wrap around each other inside the water chamber.

Percolators elevate the performance of your water pipe by creating tons of bubbling action that leads to water filtration. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Heat source

There are two primary ways to heat your nail: manually using a blowtorch or electrically using an e-nail.

When it comes to using a blowtorch, many recommend steering clear of propane torches and opting for a butane torch instead. The quality of the gas is one of the most common reasons people give for choosing butane. And while propane is a less refined gas, experts actually report that dabbing with propane is not significantly more dangerous than dabbing with butane, since you’re heating the nail before inhaling anything instead of inhaling directly off the flame.

When it comes to using a blowtorch, many recommend steering clear of propane torches and opting for a butane torch instead. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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With that said, propane can sometimes heat nails too intensely, potentially damaging the nail.

Aside from deciding between butane and propane, you can also select from full-sized blowtorches or mini-torches. In general, full-sized torches are a bit more cumbersome and difficult to use — especially when you’re feeling the effects of a deep dab session.

Finally, if you want to avoid the hassle of manually heating your nail, you can go with an e-nail vaporizer. These devices typically have a digital interface that lets you input precise temperatures , while also displaying the current temperature of your nail.

Dabbers

Dabbers are simple tools used to scoop out a dab of concentrate and then drop it onto the heated nail. You can get dabbers made out of metal or glass. Both are equally effective, but remember that if you leave a metal dabber on a hot nail for too long, it will also get hot, so be careful when handling.

Dabbers are simple tools used to scoop out a dab of concentrate and then drop it onto the heated nail. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Today, the most popular dabbers come as a combination tool with a carb cap on one end, and an extended handle with a scooper on the other end.

Cleaning tools

To keep your dab rig performing at peak levels, and to ensure the best possible dabbing experience, it’s important to constantly keep your gear clean. At the minimum, you’ll probably need the following cleaning tools for a traditional dab rig:

  • Cotton swabs to wipe out your nail. Give it a quick swipe after each dab.
  • Cleaning wipes for all glass components.
  • Pipe cleaners to clean the downstem and other glass cylindrical components.
  • Cleaning solution for your water pipe and percolator — you can use either a solution formulated specifically for water pipes or go with more makeshift options such as isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or tea tree oil mixed with salt.

Beyond these basic cleaning tools, you can also purchase more specialized dab rig cleaning kits that contain specific cleaning tools designed for each component.

Storage gear

With so many separate components, dab rigs require some special storage equipment. And while there is a seemingly endless array of storage options and new products hitting the market all the time, there are a few essentials that every concentrate consumer should have.

When it comes to storing your glass pieces, it’s generally best to look for a sturdy case with plenty of padding and individualized space for each fragile component. These types of cases also make it very easy to transport your rig. Along with a lid that snaps shut tightly and securely, you can also opt for the added security of a lockable storage case.

For storing your concentrates, go with either silicone or glass storage jars specifically designed for dabs. Concentrates won’t stick to containers made out of these materials, making it clean, convenient, and easy to scoop out dabs when it comes time to consume them.

Additionally, many concentrate jars can be stored inside odor-proof storage boxes. These are an excellent addition to a dab storage kit, as they give you a neat, discreet, and organized place to store your concentrates in a single location. As a bonus, many storage boxes also include holders for storing dabbers and dabber/carb cap combination tools.

Dab accessories

The popularity of dabbing has given way to a new niche industry of dab accessories. And while there are numerous highly specialized accessories on the market, some of the most helpful and important include:

Oil reclaimers

A reclaimer is a glass attachment that fits between the nail and the water chamber, where it collects any runoff concentrate, as well as any concentrate that condenses out of the vapor. After enough reclaim oil builds up, you can either scrape it out or apply some gentle heat, melt it, and let it drip out.

Either way, lab tests have found that reclaim oil is very potent, typically containing between 40% to 50%, THC as well as high levels of at least four other cannabinoids. Additionally, because reclaim has already been heated, it’s fully decarboxylated, making it an excellent ingredient for cooking or baking applications.

Dabbing multi-tools

There are a number of multi-tools on the market, all relatively similar to one another. Typically, they include a number of dabbers and scrapers, possibly a small carb cap, cleaning tools, and other handy gadgets like tiny flashlights, scissors, and tamping tools. Having a good multi-tool on hand can make the process of dabbing a bit more convenient and streamlined.

Dab mats

Dab mats might not seem like a necessary addition to the tool kit, but they actually make a notable difference. Most dab mats are made out of silicone, giving you a slip-proof place to set up your rig and making it very easy to clean if any concentrates or other substances drip onto the mat.

As you become a more experienced dabber, and as you figure out your preferred dabbing setup, you can start hunting around for more specialized accessories to personalize your experience further.

Other ways to consume concentrates

Using a full-sized dab rig isn’t the only way to enjoy cannabis concentrates.

You can also hit dabs using a nectar collector, dab straw, or honey collector. These are relatively simple devices consisting of a quartz or titanium tip; a body made out of glass or silicone, which may include a small water chamber, percolator, or reclaimer; and a cylindrical mouthpiece made out of glass or silicone. After heating the tip, you slowly drag it across a dab, inhaling the vapor as you set the device in motion.

Similarly, vape pens are another incredibly popular concentrate consumption alternative to full-size dab rigs. Most models include a small glass cartridge filled with cannabis oil and a heating element made out of either metal or ceramic. The cartridge then screws onto a battery, which provides power to the heating element and allows you to vaporize and inhale the oil.

Vape pens have rapidly become a mainstay in cannabis culture, as they are incredibly discreet, clean, and easy to carry and use. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Both nectar collectors and vape pens are noted for their ease of use and portability. Vape pens in particular have rapidly become a mainstay in cannabis culture, as they are incredibly discreet, clean, and easy to carry and use — all while delivering a potent product.

What you need to know about dab tools Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Nails Percolators Heat source Dabbers Cleaning tools

How to use a dab rig

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Contents

  1. A quick intro to dabbing
  2. How do dabs work?
  3. What is the bowl of a dab rig called?
  4. What is a dab rig?
  5. Are dab rigs legal?
  6. How to use a dab rig
  7. How to dab CBD

A quick intro to dabbing

The words dab and dabbing have a few different, but closely related, meanings. Dab can be used to describe any type of cannabis concentrate. These include products like wax, shatter, budder, crumble, sauce, or any other concentrate. Dab can also be used to refer to an actual dose of concentrate. While dabbing refers to the process of consuming a dab by vaporizing it and inhaling the vapor.

Dabbing refers to the process of consuming a dab by vaporizing it and inhaling the vapor. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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How do dabs work?

Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods among cannabis users, largely because it offers powerful highs and a flavor-packed experience.

Dabs are made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes out of plant matter. The final product is, therefore, incredibly concentrated and potent, consisting almost entirely of cannabinoids and terpenes, which is why dabs deliver very fast-acting and hard-hitting effects.

The key to tapping into the unique qualities of dabs is consuming them the right way. To do this, you need to vaporize your dabs using a set of specialized tools collectively known as a dab rig.

You need to vaporize your dabs using a set of specialized tools collectively known as a dab rig. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The most obvious reason people like dabbing is because of the powerful effects. Specifically, dabbing offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. It will also typically produce a strong flavor and terpene-rich aroma, which are both attractive to many dabbers.

The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved. Achieving the perfect vaporization temperature at the moment you take the dab will affect the flavor, your ability to clean your nail, and it could alter the desired effects of the concentrate.

The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit (170-370 degrees Celsius) — will scorch your concentrates, giving off an astringent and harsh flavor. Those temperatures also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. Additionally, a study from Portland State University published in September 2017 found that vaporizing terpenes at high temperatures may produce the toxins methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab weed concentrates at high temperatures, it may turn terpenes toxic.

On the other hand, dabbing below 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius) tends to produce cooler, smoother, more flavorful vapor. Low-temp dabs, as this technique is commonly called, also means that the concentrate is not fully vaporized, leaving behind a small amount of oil that can be easily removed with a cotton swab.

What is the bowl of a dab rig called?

The bowl used in a dab rig is actually a specialized piece of equipment called a “nail” or a “banger.” As opposed to a regular bowl, in which you ignite dry herb, when you dab you apply heat directly to the nail, not the concentrate. A nail must therefore be able to withstand very high temperatures. Nails also have a hole through which the vapor travels down into the base of the rig.

What is a dab rig?

A dab rig is the combination of tools and accessories needed to vaporize cannabis concentrates. A dab rig typically includes the following components:

The foundation of any dab rig is a glass water pipe. Both dab rigs and bongs are considered rigs. In addition to containing a water chamber, a rig must also connect to a nail or bowl.

The foundation of any dab rig is a glass water pipe that also connects to a nail or bowl. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Banger or nail

The attachment where dabs are vaporized when heated. There are many different styles that change the rate of vaporization and the amount that can be dabbed at one time. Bangers are made out of glass, quartz, titanium, and ceramic, and each material has its own unique set of slightly different qualities. Some bangers have a vacuum-sealed jacket that allows them to retain heat for extended time periods.

A banger or nail is the attachment where dabs are vaporized when heated. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Carb cap

A glass, ceramic, quartz, or titanium cap with a small hole that covers the top of the nail. A carb cap will lower the pressure in the nail or banger, acting like an oven to trap the heat and reduce the vaporization temperature.

A carb cap is a glass, ceramic, quartz, or titanium cap with a small hole that covers the top of the nail that will lower the pressure in the nail or banger. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Dabber

A tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing it inside the nail or banger for vaporization.

A dabber is a tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing it inside the nail or banger for vaporization. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Torch

A butane hand torch for heating the nail. Propane torches burn a hotter flame that can damage the nail.

A butane hand torch is used for heating the nail. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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E-nail

Instead of heating your nail or banger manually with a blow torch and waiting for it to settle to the correct temperature, you can use an e-nail. This device lets you dial in a precise temperature and then electronically heats the nail to the exact temperature you chose.

Quartz insert

A newer addition to the basic banger or nail, quartz inserts add additional surface area inside your nail or banger, essentially increasing your ability to get the most out of low-temperature dabs. When inserted into a hot nail, quartz inserts act as internal carb caps.

Are dab rigs legal?

Yes, dab rigs are legal. There is nothing criminal about owning the equipment in and of itself. However, the dabs themselves may or may not be legal depending on where you live. If you live in a weed-legal place where cannabis concentrates are allowed, then it’s fine to possess dabs. But if you live in a place where marijuana is not legal, or where cannabis concentrates are not allowed, then it is illegal to own dabs. With all that said, there is always the chance that a dab rig with residue in it could be considered illegal drug paraphernalia. Your best bet is to check the specifics of your local laws.

How to use a dab rig

The technique, upfront cost, and number of accessories involved in dabbing may be overwhelming to newcomers. But once you get the process down, using a rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple:

Step 1

Heat the nail with the torch. If it is your first time and you are using a quartz nail or banger, heat it up until it is glowing red. This will ensure that any small particles are burned off and you are starting with the hottest possible surface.

Heat the nail with the torch until it is glowing red. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Alternatively, if you are using an e-nail, use the interface to input your desired temperature and wait until the device heats up the nail.

Step 2

Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you dab weed concentrates, you want to let your nail cool down so you don’t scorch your dab. The amount of time you need to wait is dependent on the thickness and material of your nail or banger. Your target temperature should be around 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit (149-232 degrees Celsius) to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.

  • As a general rule, it usually takes 30-60 seconds for a nail to cool, depending on the material and thickness and how much you heated it.
  • To dial it in even further, you need to figure out exactly how long it takes for your nail to cool to your desired temperature. To do this, you’ll need an infrared thermometer and some sort of dab timer. You can use either a stopwatch or download a specialized app for your smartphone.
  • If you’re using an e-nail, you don’t need to wait for it to cool down. The e-nail will heat the nail to the precise temperature you tell it to.

Step 3

Place the concentrate on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. Unlike a typical bong hit of flower, dabs require a long, slow inhale as the majority of the concentrate does not vaporize instantly.

Place the concentrate on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Step 4

If available, place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will act as an oven and trap all of the heat in the nail to ensure you get the most out of your experience. When you’re ready to clear all the vapor out of the rig, lift the carb cap.

Place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Step 5

Exhale the vapor immediately.

Step 6

Clean your nail. To prevent residue from possibly changing the flavor of your weed, always keep your nail clean. Allow the nail to cool down a bit and then swipe the inside of the warm nail with a cotton swab. For a deeper clean, dip a cotton swab in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and rub it along the interior of your warm nail.

How to dab CBD

As CBD continues to become more and more popular, many people are getting into dabbing CBD concentrates. The processes for making THC and CBD concentrates aren’t all that different, and many of the textures available for THC concentrates are also available for CBD concentrates. Here are a few examples of CBD concentrates that you might see on a dispensary menu:

  • CBD isolate: CBD isolate comes in the form of a crystalline solid or powder, and typically contains 99% pure CBD. Following the use of an extraction process to remove all the active compounds from the cannabis plant, the remaining extract undergoes a refinement process that eliminates THC and all other phytocannabinoids, resulting in the purest available form of CBD.
  • CBD extract: Unlike CBD isolate, this oily CBD extract contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes present in the cannabis plant. CBD extract should first be winterized to remove fats and other plant matter from the concentrate before it can be dabbed.
  • Terpsolate: Terpsolate is commonly used to describe CBD isolate that is combined with liquid terpenes after the extraction process.
  • Shatter: CBD concentrates can also come in shatter form, extracted as a slab and infused with terpenes.
  • Crumble: CBD crumble is a malleable concentrate that tends to break apart when handled. To make it, the oils are purged after the extraction process, leaving a substance that has a crumbly consistency.
  • Wax: This term is used to describe concentrates that have a sticky, waxy form. For both CBD and THC, wax concentrates can be produced from full-spectrum and isolate extraction methods.

Consuming CBD concentrates is the same as consuming regular THC concentrates. You’ll need your dab rig and all accessories. From there, you’ll dab your CBD concentrates in the same way, bringing the nail to the right temperature, dropping the dab onto the hot nail, inhaling the vapor, and cleaning the nail after you use it.

Keep in mind that the optimal temperature for dabbing CBD lies somewhere around 320-356 degrees Fahrenheit (160-180 degrees Celsius) as higher temperatures will destroy whatever terpenes are in the concentrate.

How to use a dab rig Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents A quick intro to dabbing How do dabs work? What is the bowl of a dab rig called?