While glass bongs are great, beautiful to look at and smooth to hit, there's an undeniable drawback to the material itself: glass shatters. A mere slip of the hand when cleaning or slip up after a night of drinking, and poof, your bong-vestment is gone, as are the memories attached to it.
Breakable gear is clearly not ideal for getting stoned, but finding better options has proven difficult. Acrylic bongs taste like plastic. Silicone bongs are hard to clean and get gross with resin after a while. Ceramic bongs look cool but are also highly breakable. And if metal bongs exist, they shouldn't. That sounds terrible.
So what is the next best kind of bong? Bamboo bongs, of course. Unbreakable, durable and relatively simple to build yourself, bamboo bongs take the cake when it comes to glass alternatives, offering a fix to every downside of glass.
Here's everything you need to know about bamboo bongs — including how to make your own.
What are bamboo bongs?
Bamboo bongs are bongs that are made out of bamboo. The word “bong” actually comes from the Thai and Vietnamese word “baung,” which describes a hollow wooden tube filled with water to smoke herbs. Clearly, they've been making bamboo bongs for way longer than we've been making glass ones, and with good reason.
Bamboo is a mind-blowingly durable material that is stronger under tension than steel. It's composed of up to 70 percent silica, which is the same element found in borosilicate glass, the kind of glass high quality bongs are made from. Many bamboo bong brands will temper the bamboo the same way glass blowers temper glass in order to bond the bamboo at a molecular level, making it even stronger.
Whether you're looking to make your own, or purchase one from the reputable brands listed below, bamboo bongs are generally constructed from a hollow piece of bamboo that is sealed with beeswax. Holes are drilled in to house a downstem, add water, and voila!
Using and cleaning a bamboo bong
You use a bamboo bong just like you would any other bong: simply fill it with water, load flower into the bowl and light up. Cleaning it, however, is another story.
While a normal bong would require hot water, alcohol, and thick grain salt to get back to sparkling, bamboo bongs require a different, altogether softer cleaning ritual. Due to the beeswax lining the inside of most bamboo bongs, it's important to NEVER use hot water when cleaning. Pipe cleaners, harsh brushes, or anything that will disrupt the wax lining are also on the no-no list.
How to properly clean your bamboo bong:
- Remove downstem, (or leave in if you want)
- Fill bong halfway with isopropyl alcohol
- Add a cup of uncooked rice
- Shake vigorously as you would in cleaning a normal bong
- Repeat until clean
If you need to reattach the downstem, melt a little beeswax in your hand and reseal along the opening.
Some of our favorite bamboo bongs
TokyoTokes BabyBoo Water Pipe
TokyoTokes make high-quality bamboo water pipes at totally doable prices. They're solid, they hit great and each bong includes free custom laser engraving. Standing 10” tall, the BabyBoo is a compact little friend who is perfect for summer, ready to be thrown in a backpack to get you high on the go.
Price: $99.99 (On sale now for $79.99)
The Maui Wowie Kahuna Peace Pipe
Maui Wowie takes the organic approach with their Kahuna Peace Pipe. Meaning sorcerer or wizard in Hawaiian, this big boy features all organic materials, with the bamboo cured in limonene to prevent cracking and wear. Each bong includes an all-purpose conditioning salve to keep him looking suave, and a lifetime warranty against cracking or breaking.
How to make a bamboo bong
One of the best parts about a bamboo bong is that it's relatively simple to make your own. For the DIYer in all of us, here's a step by step guide on how to construct a totally natural bong out of wood, wax and a little bit of weed.
- Piece of cured bamboo (1.5”-2” diameter)
- Small drill bit (for pilot holes)
- Large drill bit (for downstem holes)
- Downstem and bowl
- Wood saw
- Painter's tape
- Vice grip
- Rough Grit Sandpaper
Step 1: Cut the bamboo
When cutting the bamboo, it's all about the nodes.
Nodes have internal plates that can hold the water, so start by figuring out which node you want to make the bottom of the bong. About half an inch below, wrap painter's tape to ensure an even cut. After cutting, make sure the bong stands straight before moving forward.
Next, pick a height for your bong. Keep in mind that if your bong is tall enough to contain multiple nodes, then you'll have to drill them out so that the bong remains at least somewhat hollow. Cut the bamboo to form the top of your bong, then drill away any internal node walls if necessary, and sand.
Step 2: Drill the downstem hole
Place your downstem on the bong and position it where you want — roughly a few fingers above the bottom node. Put painters tape over the area, secure bamboo inside the vice grip and drill a hole slightly larger than the size of the downstem. Angle the hole diagonally down towards the bottom when drilling. Be very gentle, as bamboo is prone to cracking during this step.
Step 3: Sand and clean
When it comes to bamboo bongs, quality is everything. To ensure your bong comes out right, sand every cut, drilled hole, as well as the drilled out node walls internally, until all surfaces of the bong have a smooth, luxurious texture.
When you're done, clean out all the sanding residue. If you use water, leave the bong out to dry. If you have access to compressed air, that works much better.
Step 4: Coat the bong with wax
Go outside — this part is messy. Heat up beeswax on the stove and pour it into the bong slowly and carefully. Roll the bong so the wax coats the inside edges without filling the cavity completely. After waxing, leave it to cool and settle for a couple hours.
Step 5: Seal and insert downstem
Insert the downstem into its hole and seal around the edge with melted beeswax. Let cool and settle.
Step 6: Enjoy!
Fill with water, pack a bowl and enjoy. You've successfully made your very own bamboo bong.
All photos provided by Tokyo Tokes