A pipe designed for vaporizing cannabis concentrates, sometimes referred to as an oil rig, vapor rig, or concentrate pipe. Similarly to a bong, a dab rig filters concentrate vapor through water at the base. In addition to the central piece, dab rigs require a glass, quartz, ceramic or titanium nail, or banger to hold or “dab” concentrate, a dabber tool, and torch lighter for proper heating.
“I prefer using a quartz nail with my dab rig.”
“Dab rigs require flash heating, so be sure to use a butane torch.”
More about Dab Rigs
A dab rig is the chamber of a glass pipe, connected to a nail or banger, used for dabbing, in the place of a traditional bowl typically found on a bong. New dabbers may be overwhelmed at the technique, upfront cost, and number of accessories required to use dab rigs. But they may also appreciate the strong, streamlined effects and heavy terpene flavors that concentrates and dab rigs provide.
And once you get the dabbing process down, using a dab rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple: heating the nail with a torch, then placing a dab of concentrate in the nail and inhaling the resulting vapor.
The modern-day dab rig typically includes the glass piece, a nail, a dabber, a torch, and a carb cap. Carb caps have become popular accessories because they allow the user to dab at lower temperatures and hold vapor in the nail for a longer period of time.
What’s the Difference Between a Bong and a Dab Rig?
Both bongs and dab rigs are considered “rigs,” or pipe chambers connected to a nail or bowl that holds cannabis products for smoking. If you’re new to dab rigs, you may have mistaken a dab rig or two for a bong, or seen a smaller dab rig and wondered, “Why is that bong so small? And why have I never seen one that small before?”
The basic difference between a bong and a dab rig is that dab rigs are optimized for concentrates. In addition to the banger or nail replacing the bowl, this optimization manifests itself in a few different ways. Dab rigs are smaller than bongs. A smaller chamber provides less drag, which means the vapor travels to the lungs more quickly. Many glass artists and production glass companies make extremely small rigs for those who enjoy a rich terpene profile from their cannabis extracts.
Until recently, dab rigs were also typified by a 90-degree male joint that would connect to a female attachment. A male joint has a narrow opening and is meant for accessories to fit over it while female joints have a wider opening for accessories to be inserted into it. Male joints have gone out of fashion — as have the types of nails that made them popular.
As of 2018, dab rigs are usually fitted with 10mm or 14mm female joints. (The size of a female joint is measured by the inner circumference of the opening).
The History of Dab Rigs
Before dab rigs entered the scene, “knife hits” were the most popular method of vaporizing concentrates. Cannabis users from the ’60s to the ’90s would heat two knives on a stove and place a piece of hash once they were glowing red. The resulting vapor was then inhaled through a tube or soda bottle that had the base removed. An early form of the dab rig was made by using a “swing skillet” instead of a bowl on a bong — basically a bong downstem on top of a titanium plate that vaporized the hash when heated with a torch.
The First Dab Rigs
The originators of the first pieces that could be called “dab rigs” were from the brother-and-sister glassblower duo Hashmasta Kut (HMK) and Lucy Carson (GGirl) around 2006. HMK’s and GGirl’s design incorporated a titanium swing tied to a titanium skillet that would lower beneath a glass arm. On the heated skillet, the dab would vaporize to be inhaled through the glass arm. Their pieces were popularized by Toke City, a highly influential online forum in the days before social media.
The Glass Dome and Nail
The second iteration of the dab rig came in the form of a glass dome and nail — the first commercially available glass attachment that could turn any bong into a dab rig. Glass artist WBM was one of the first to post about a glass nail for dabbing that fit inside the downstem of a bong, with a dome that was placed above it. Fellow glass artist and Toro Tubes founder JP Toro led the charge in making the dome and nail a commercially viable dabbing device. The nail was heated with a torch, then the dome was placed on top and a dabber, typically a paper clip in the days before proper dabbing tools were around, was used to put honey oil on the nail.
The Emergence of Dab Rigs as Functional Art
As more states have legalized recreational and medical cannabis, the appreciation for hand-blown, original pieces from increasingly popular and well-respected glass artists has blossomed. Simultaneously, the growing popularity of dabbing has caused a boom in one-of-a-kind dab rig pieces. According to Brad Melshenker, co-author of “This Is A Pipe,” a book about the evolution of glass pipe-making and the development of dab rigs, “flower pipes switched over to oil rigs in 2009-2010, and artists really stopped making flower pipes.”
“Heady” glass and “headies” have become synonymous with artistic pieces tailored to the consumption of concentrates. Artists utilize advanced glassblowing techniques to create shapes ranging from a traditional looking bong to sculptural masterpieces. There are numerous online retailers specializing in selling dab-related products, but the rise of social media has helped to spread the art pieces that glass artists are sharing with the industry at-large.
Dabbing has become so integral to the cannabis market that it has its own holiday. July 10, or 710 (“Oil” turned upside down with LCD-style numbers), has become a popular “stoner’s holiday” arguably in league with 4/20. Most dispensaries have 7/10 sales on concentrates and other dab products. Where dabbing and dab rigs once made up little more than a fringe sector of the cannabis market, they are now at the center of contemporary cannabis culture.
Dab Tools and Accessories
Similarly to the wide-ranging paraphernalia associated with cannabis flower, a dab rig can be paired with numerous accessories to suit a wide variety of individual preferences. These are some of the essentials:
- A dabber
- A carb cap
- A quartz, titanium, glass or ceramic nail
- A butane torch (propane torches have the potential to damage nails because the flame burns at much hotter temperatures than butane)
- An electronic nail
- A dab pad
- A clock, timer, or stopwatch
- Cotton swabs
How to Use a Dab Rig
It may take some time and repetition before you really feel you know how to take a dab. But once you get an intuitive sense of the simple steps involved, it’s an incredibly efficient way to consume cannabis concentrates and use them to their full potential. If you’re about to embark on your first dab, keep the following steps in mind or have them on hand until you get a hang of the whole process:
- Step 1: Heat up the nail with the torch. If it is your first time and you are using a quartz nail, heat it up until it is glowing red. This will ensure that an small particles are burned off the nail, and that you are starting with the hottest possible surface.
- Step 2: Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but you want to let your nail cool down so that you don’t scorch your dab. The amount of time you need to wait is dependent on the thickness and material of your nail. Your target temperature should be around 300-450° F, or 149-232 degrees C, to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.
- It takes usually 30-60 seconds, depending on how hot your have heated up the nail and the thickness of your nail.
- Step 3: Place the dab 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. To make the most out of your experience, take a slow and deep breath.
- Step 4: If available, place a carb cap on the nail to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will act like an oven and trap all of the heat in the nail, ensuring you get to the most out of your experience.
- Step 5: Exhale the dab vapor immediately.
- Pro tip: You don’t need to hold in your dabs before exhaling. Your lungs do an incredibly effective job soaking in all of the active terpenes and cannabinoids.
How to Clean Your Dab Rig
There are a few steps that you can take to ensure you get the most flavorful dab experience time and time again.
If your temperature was just right, there should be some residual oil globs at the bottom of the nail. If you are using a quartz nail, wipe the inside of the nail with a cotton swab to remove any residual oil.
This helps to keep the nail clean, provides a more flavorful dab, and extends the life of your nail.
To break up resistant residual oil, use rubbing alcohol to clean the components of your dab rig. Isopropyl, or rubbing, alcohol is a potent solvent that dissolves the difficult-to-remove oil that can collect in your nail or banger, or along the sides of the chamber. If wiping with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab won’t do the trick, soak your glass in alcohol to break up the oil particles before running a cotton swab or pipe cleaner along the surface. Be sure to completely rinse and dry your rig before use — alcohol is flammable.
E-Rigs for Dabbers
E-rigs are similar to vape pens that are used to vaporize distillate, but they offer a more powerful platform for vaporizing all forms of concentrates. The first versions were stationary and had to be plugged into an electrical outlet, but current iterations are often battery-powered. These devices are somewhat of a cross between a dab rig for home use and a discreet, portable vape pen. E-rigs combine discretion with power and durability, making them ideal for concentrate fans who are trying to find a travel-ready alternative to a dab rig and torch.
The main benefit of the e-rig is the ability to precisely control the temperature of your dabs. Unlike a traditional rig, where you’re at the mercy of the flame and your timer, on an e-rig you can dial in the precise temperature you prefer and rest easy, knowing the nail will remain within a narrow range of your desired temperature.