how to use dab

How to use a dab rig

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  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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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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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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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?

How to Use a Dab Rig

Imagine being able to consume an entire joint in one puff. That’s about what a dab of cannabis concentrate is like.

Concentrates, or “dabs,” are a product that is created by extracting THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids from raw plant material and creating a variety of consistencies that can be vaporized using a dab rig, a water pipe designed specifically for concentrate consumption.

This article will inform you on:

  • What a dab rig is
  • Essential dab vocabulary
  • Required materials
  • Step-by-step guide to using dabs
  • The benefits of cannabis concentrates compared to other forms of consumption
  • Precautions for consuming concentrates

If you still need more information, one of our Hosts can walk you through the steps for using a dab rig.

What is a Dab Rig?

A dab rig is a device, typically glass, designed for cannabis concentrates, as opposed to cannabis flower. There are a variety of styles of dab rigs, ranging from simple “dab straws” (a tube of glass or quartz, heated at one end to smoke concentrates with) to electronic dab rigs. Most dab rigs have a main “rig” and an attachment known as a “nail.”

Essential dab vocabulary

To use a dab, you’ll need the following materials. Here are the required materials for using a dab rig, with definitions:

Dab rig: A pipe or device used for consuming cannabis concentrates. Dab rigs are readily available at local head shops, smoke shops, and dispensaries, including all Happy Valley locations. Prices generally range from $30 on the low end to $740 on the high end, but can be as high as $100k. High end dab rigs are referred to as “heady glass.”

Nail: A heating element attached to a dab rig that consists of glass, quartz, titanium, or ceramic. Nails can be heated to extreme temperatures as high as 800 ℉. Some nails, also referred to as “bangers,” are included or attached when you buy a dab rig. Arguably, quartz nails provide the best dab experience when used properly because they don’t crack under heat (or thermal pressure) the way glass does, and they provide better flavor for most concentrates. Titanium nails are recommended for optimal use for hash or solventless products.

Electronic Nail: A heating element powered by electric current that serves as an alternative to traditional torched nails. Electronic nails consist of a controller box that drives the flow of electricity to a coil, which heats the nail. These nails offer butane-free heating with precise temperature control, but generally cost more than traditional nails.

Dabber: The tool you’ll use to “serve” your dab. These often look like small shovels or are reminiscent of woodcarving or dentistry tools. The idea is that the tool will take your dab from its container to the heated nail without you having to burn your fingers. Dabbers are generally made of stainless steel or glass.

Dab: A dose of cannabis concentrate about the size of half a grain of rice. These are usually marked as live resin, cured sugar, shatter, rosin, or similar names. A dab can be waxy, sticky, or brittle in consistency. Talk with your budtender about what options may be best for your needs and preferences.

Carb Cap: A carb cap is used to cover your dab while it vaporizes. This is like the lid of a skillet on the stove; the lid heats the overall temperature, allowing more of your material to vaporize without losing those vapors to the surrounding air.

Q-Tips: These common medicine chest tools are excellent for removing any leftover concentrates from your nail when you finish dabbing, keeping it clean with isopropyl alcohol for future use.

Torch: If you are using a traditional nail, a blowtorch or heat gun of some kind will be needed to heat your nail to the desired temperature. Lighters are insufficient for this purpose because they don’t get hot enough to properly heat the nail, and you need to keep the flame on the nail continuously for 30 seconds to a minute to bring it to the right temperature.

If you are using an electronic nail, this will need to be properly connected to the rig and turned on for use.

How a Dab Rig Works

Dab rigs are used to vaporize your cannabis concentrates without the need for combustion, or directly applying flame to your product. By heating up your nail for a specified amount of time, you create a hot surface that turns your concentrate into a vapor full of cannabinoids when placed upon it. As you inhale, that vapor is drawn through your dab rig of choice, usually through a water chamber, and inhaled into your lungs as you would a typical hit of cannabis flower from a water pipe.

Step-By-Step Procedure for Dabbing

Though technique varies with equipment, the fundamentals of dabbing remain constant. Here is the step-by-step procedure for dabbing cannabis concentrates:

1. Make sure your nail is secured to your dab rig

An essential part of using a dab rig is preparation, and securing the nail to your rig is absolutely crucial. If your dab rig is not properly secured, you may be subjecting yourself to a world of pain. Before the nail is heated, ensure the nail is fastened to your rig without a hint of wobble.

2. Turn on the torch and heat the nail

Using your torch or heating element, uniformly heat your nail. Apply the flame of the torch directly to the nail Generally, you can heat your nail for 20-30 seconds, depending on the thickness of the nail and the power of your torch. You may notice a reddish glow to the hot nail when it is fully heated.

3. Let the nail cool

Allow the nail to cool, letting the heat disperse throughout the nail. A good rule of thumb is to let your nail cool for at least twice as long as you heated it. The nail will retain much of the heat of the torch even minutes after heating, so keep the nail away from your bare skin to avoid burns.

Low temperature dabs are higher in flavor and less harsh on the lungs.

4. Use the dabber to apply the dab to the nail

Place your dab on the nail using your dabber, inside the dome. If the nail was heated properly, the dab will evaporate very quickly. Pivot the tip of the dabber until all of the oil has evaporated.

5. Cover with the carb cab and inhale

Slowly and calmly inhale the dab. Be careful not to inhale (or exhale) too quickly, or you might irritate your throat and lungs. If you cough in response, this may be a sign that the nail temperature was too high before you applied the dab. When the dab is at the right temperature, there should be no coughing.

You may start to experience the effects of the dab within seconds of exhalation.

6. Clean the nail

Once finished inhaling, Q-tip the nail to remove any excess residual concentrate from the nail.

Dab Rigs vs. Traditional Joints or Pipes

First and foremost, dabs are much more potent than traditional cannabis flower. While cannabis flower may offer 10-30% THC content, concentrates often offer 50%+. This means that you only need a small amount to feel the same effects as you would after multiple puffs off of a joint or pipe. Additionally, the convenience of not having to worry about smoke, ashes, and a stinky pipe or roach after smoking makes dab rigs an appealing option, especially if you are using an electronic dab rig.

Precautions of Dabbing

Dabbing is among the most potent forms of cannabis consumption and should be treated with respect and caution. Start with small, pin-sized dabs and gradually adjust your dab size to your needs. You can always take a second dab.

When you consume too much cannabis concentrate

You cannot overdose on cannabis. In the event of taking too much, stop consuming dabs and allow your body to process the cannabinoids in your system. Lying down, staying hydrated, resting, or taking a shower can help calm you if your dab experience is too intense. Additionally, peppercorns and lemon peels are known to help offset the effects of cannabis use. Depending on your dosage, you can expect to feel the acute effects of the dab for one to two hours.

Be careful with your torch and nail

Torches and nails get extremely hot. A nail’s temperature can climb to 900° Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to give you a third-degree burn. Dab torches are designed to produce intense heat, and should be used far away from flammable substances and surfaces. When dealing with torches and high-temperature nails, always err on the side of caution.

If used correctly, a dab rig can be a unique cannabis experience that allows you to conveniently, discreetly consume cannabis in a vaporized form that avoids inhaling ash. Just remember to go slow, and keep your temperatures low, and be very careful with extreme heat.

Connect with Happy Valley for More Information

For more information on cannabis concentrates in Massachusetts, how to consume various cannabis products, connect with Happy Valley today. For more information on the various types of cannabis products, read our Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Science.

Are you curious about dabs? This article will teach you how to use a dab rig, including required materials and the procedure for the best dab experience.