Dabbing is a big business in the cannabis industry, and it’s easy to see why – most State laws limit both recreational and medical marijuana users by weight. So, purchasing shatter, wax, errrl, honeycomb, bubble hash, or other forms of THC concentrates allows you more medicine for the limits.
Concentrates typically contain 70-80% THC. Strength can be determined by color (the lighter, the more potent), and anyone telling you they have anything but sand above 85% is lying. THC concentrates rarely contain trace amounts of CBD, so you’ll have to supplement your dabbing with CBD tinctures or even some flower to ensure you receive the full benefits of cannabis.
From an economic standpoint, I still don’t understand why the cartels are still dropping 20 lb bales of dirt weed over the border, when they could be dropping 20 lb bricks of concentrate.
Either way, it just makes sense to dab, but as discussed in Main Street’s Ultimate Cannabis Buyer’s Guide, it takes a little bit of an investment up front. There are two ways to dab – with a dab rig or eCig. You can also freebase THC concentrates, and I’ll cover that at the end for the aspiring crackheads in the audience.
The Dab Rig
A dab rig consists of four pieces – bong, nail, dabber, and torch.
- Bong – Known as water pipes or bongs, depending on where you buy them, bongs come in a variety of sizes and can cost as little as $20 for a small one to $1000’s for elaborate and artistic designs.
What’s important to know when purchasing your bong is the size of the opening in the downstem (the part you typically place a bowl). Downstems are typically sized at 10mm, 14mm, 18mm, and 29mm. The size of your downstem determines what size nail you can purchase.
- Nail – Instead of a typical herbal bowl, dabbing is done on platforms called nails. Nails can be found in titanium, ceramic, quartz, or glass. They also come domed or domeless. Match the nail size to your bong.
I highly recommend ceramic and quartz domeless and avoid glass or domes at all costs. Glass breaks very easily when heated, and domed nails won’t work without both fragile pieces intact. Dabbing on any metal tastes harsh, and titanium can rust or corrode over time, leaving the possibility of metal poisoning.
I’m currently using a 10mm ceramic nail, which I prefer over quartz because of the flavor once seasoned with a gram of heavy sativa. Quartz provides the cleanest vape, so I do need to get another one soon.
- Dabber – Dabbers, like nails, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Look for a titanium or quartz dabber, and don’t use dumb things like paper clips, coat hangers, etc. as you’ll likely die from metal poisoning.
- Torch – A normal lighter won’t do, so, unless you buy an electric nail, you’ll need either a propane or butane torch. Smoke shops typically sell butane, which has a smaller flame (and the lighters don’t last as long). You can find propane torches on Amazon, however, and these are pretty powerful, so be careful your first few times using it. In small spaces, I prefer butane, but propane is necessary for larger rigs.
With these four pieces in place, you’ll be ready to dab and vape any concentrates that come your way. The rig can also be used to vape DMT, though I’d recommend a secondary rig to preserve flavor.
Dabbing in an eCig
Dabbing with an eCig requires a concentrate attachment, as shatter, wax, and other forms of THC concentrate are too viscous to pull through an eCigarette tank’s wick (although you can dissolve shatter in vegetable glycerin for use in these tanks). The attachment is just a heated metal (not titanium) coil though, so I don’t recommend them.
Freebasing and Crack Pipes
If you want to be ghetto about it, you can freebase THC concentrates by placing a thin layer on a piece of aluminum foil, lighting it with a Bic lighter, and inhaling the fumes. This wastes a LOT of expensive concentrates though.
Glass crack pipes can be used to vape, but you run the risk of looking like all the crack and meth addicts on the streets. In this case, smoke and headshops have an option for you in dry dabbers (which are a bit more expensive than crack pipes).
Those looking for a portable vaping option without using a water bong or e-cig are best served with a dry dabber. The dry dabber above is from Road Runner glass in Phoenix, AZ and came with a mid-high-grade, glow-in-the-dark concentrate holder.
Dabbing with a dry dabber can be accomplished with any portable butane torch (even keychain torches). You heat the tip and suck as you hold it above your supply. It’s not necessary to touch the concentrate and takes a minute to get used to, but once you do, it’s an amazing way to take a quick cannabis dab.
Dabbing is one of the easiest ways to take heavy hits of cannabis straight to the dome. By rinsing the THC crystals off the plant matter, carcinogens are reduced, and the flavor changes, though CBD’s are also reduced. If you haven’t tried dabbing yet, you’re dealing with the wrong hookups.
Dr. Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has been featured on Main Street, Huffington Post, Lifehack, Hardcore Droid, Fast Company, Cannabis Now, Intuit’s Small Business Resource, and more.