Dab Rig … What Is It Exactly? See Here

Dab Rig

Dab Rig

dæb rɪg | Noun

Also referred to as vapor rig, oil rig, or concentrate pipe, a dab rig is a pipe made for vaporizing cannabis concentrates, including hemp CBD concentrates. This smoking device works similarly to a bong, filtering concentrate vapor through the water at the base. A dab rig requires a nail (or banger), typically made from glass, quartz, ceramic, or titanium, to assist in holding or dabbing the concentrate. You’ll also need a dabber tool and a torch lighter to heat the nail properly.  

“I’ve tried both glass and titanium nails with my dab rig, but nothing compares to a quartz one.”

“Be sure to use a butane torch to flash-heat the nail of your dab rig before vaping.”

What Is It? 

It’s a device used for dabbing made up of a glass pipe chamber connected to a nail or banger. The dab rig replaced the traditional bowl typically found on a bong. People who are new to dabbing may be overwhelmed with the technique, upfront cost, and a number of accessories needed to use this smoking device. But, the benefits of strong, streamlined effects and heavy terpene flavors brought by concentrates vaped with a dab rig are the reasons they stick with it. 

Once you get familiar with the dabbing process, using a dab rig can be easy and efficient. The entire process can be summed up in three steps:

  • Heat the nail with a torch.
  • Place a dab of concentrate in the nail.
  • Inhale the resulting vapor. 

Modern dab pipes come with a glass piece, a nail, and other accessories like a dabber, a torch, and a carb cap. The rise of carb caps is due to their practical use that allows the user to dab at lower temperatures without losing all of the terps present in the concentrate. With a carb cap, the vapor can also stay on the nail for a longer time. To get the most out of your dabbing experience, consider different options of dab rig accessories before making a purchase. 

Dab Rigs vs. Bongs

One of the similarities between bongs and dab rigs is that both vaporizers fall under the “rigs” category. This means both are pipe chambers connected to a nail or bowl that holds hemp CBD products for smoking. 

If you’re new to this smoking equipment, you might’ve mistaken a dab rig for a bong at some point because both come in various shapes and sizes. However, the dimensions may indicate which type of device you are looking at, as dab rigs are typically smaller than bongs. 

Aside from the size, another essential difference between a bong and a dab rig is that dab rigs are made for smoking cannabis concentrates. You may also come across mini rigs made by glass artists and production glass companies for people who want to enjoy the rich terpene profile from their cannabis extracts. A smaller chamber makes less drag, meaning the vapor travels to the lungs more quickly. 

Another difference between a bong and a dab rig is that dab rigs are fitted with 10-millimeter or 14-millimeter female joints. The size of the female joint is measured by the inner circumference of the opening. 

This standardization started in 2018, while before that, dab rigs were typified by a 90-degree male joint that would couple to a female attachment. Male joints have a narrow opening that serves for accessories to fit over them. Female joints have a wider opening that allows accessories to be inserted into. Today, male joints and the types of nails that made them popular are out of fashion.

Origin of Dab Rigs

In the early days of consuming cannabis concentrates from the ‘60s to the ‘90s a method known as “knife hits” was the most popular for vaporizing concentrates. Users would heat two knives on a stove, and once they’d turn red, the user would place a piece of hash on them. The user would inhale the resulting vapor through a tube or soda bottle that had the base removed.

Early Forms of Dab Pipes

Early forms of dab pipes were made using a “swing skillet,” which is basically a bong downstem on top of a titanium plate. When heated with a torch, it vaporized the hash. 

The evolution of the dab rig started with the first pieces that were called “dab rigs” or “dab pipes.” They came from the brother-and-sister duo Hashmasta Kut (HMK) and Lucy Carson (GGirl) in 2006. Their designs incorporated a titanium swing bind to a titanium skillet that would lower beneath a glass arm. They placed the dab on the heated skillet and vaporized it through the glass arm. Toke City, a highly influential online forum back in the days when social media wasn’t a thing yet, popularized their pieces.

Development of the Glass Dome and Nail

The second “new” version of the dab rig came in the form of a glass dome and nail. This was the first commercially available glass attachment that could turn any bong into a dab pipe. Glass artists were the first to spread the word about a glass nail for dabbing that fits inside the downstem of a bong, with a dome placed above it. 

JP Toro, a glass artist, led the change of making the dome and nail a commercially viable dabbing device. They heated the nail with a torch and placed the dome on top. A paperclip dabber was used to put the hash oil on the nail.  

Dab Rigs as Functional Art

With the legalization of recreational and medical cannabis, users started to appreciate hand-blown, original tools and accessories. Therefore, the demand for pieces made by increasingly popular and well-respected glass artists blossomed. Simultaneously, the popularity of dabbing increased, causing a boom in the production of unique dab rig pieces. 

In his book “This Is A Pipe,” Brad Melshenker describes the evolution of glass pipe-making and the development of dab rigs. He noted that “flower pipes switched over to oil rigs in 2009-2010, and artists really stopped making flower pipes.” 

“Headies” and heady glass have become synonymous with artistic pieces tailored to the consumption of concentrates. Artists use advanced glassblowing techniques to create different shapes, from a traditional-looking bong to sculptural masterpieces. Today, numerous online retailers specialize in selling dab pipes and dab-related products. The rise of social media helped with the distribution of these art pieces with the customers at-large. 

Dabbing is the favorite activity of many cannabis users, which is why it has its own holiday. July 10 or 710 (7/10) is considered a “stoner” holiday when people celebrate cannabis oil products, dabs, or concentrates. The term 710 rotated upside down spells OIL a term the cannabis community uses to describe highly potent products like hash oil, shatter wax, and so on. 

Since it’s a holiday in league with 4/20, dispensaries organize sales for concentrates and other dab products. Compared to the past, when cannabis flower (and now CBD flower) were the main products consumed, dabbing and dab rigs are now a prominent part of the modern cannabis culture.

Dab Tools and Accessories

Like other cannabis paraphernalia, a dab rig can be paired with an array of accessories to suit a wide variety of individual preferences. Here are the essentials: 

  • Quartz, titanium, glass, or ceramic nail
  • A dabber
  • A carb cap
  • A butane torch 
  • An electronic nail
  • A dab pad
  • A stopwatch or timer
  • Cotton swabs

Cost of Dab Rigs

Regular dab rigs tend to be more expensive than regular bongs because they require a number of additional tools and accessories.

When it comes to artisan pieces, you can spend hundreds of thousands on both high-end, handmade bongs and dab rigs. If you are looking for a dab rig purely for functional purposes, keep in mind that you are likely to spend more on the dab rig kit than on a regular dab rig. 

What’s the Best Nail for Dabbing? 

The one that matches your rig and other accessories, as well as your personal preferences. Take a look at this rundown of types of nails and general guidelines to help you choose the best for your needs:

Titanium Nails

Titanium nails are very durable, tend to heat quickly, and retain the heat very well. But, after extended use, you may notice a buildup of titanium oxide on them. This buildup could compromise the performance of the dab nail and could leach harmful contaminants at high temperatures. 

If you prefer a titanium nail, experts recommend purchasing a nail that’s rated medical-grade 2. Some signs of poor quality titanium are green coloring, pitting, flaking, white caked residue, and popping when torched for an extended period.  

Ceramic Nails

These nails take the longest to heat up, but once they do, they retain heat the best. These nails are immaculate, and, unlike titanium nails, they don’t pose the risk of leaching harmful substances into your dabs. However, the fact that these nails are ceramic means that they’re more vulnerable to breakage. 

Glass Nails

These nails heat quickly and hold heat well. They are typically made of borosilicate glass and are the cheapest to buy. The downside of glass nails is that they are the most prone to breaking. As it happens often, they shatter at very high temperatures. 

Quartz Nails

Last but not least, quartz nails (quartz bangers) are one of the most commonly used for dabbing. They heat up rapidly but lose heat relatively fast. Similar to ceramic nails, they are very clean and don’t leach contaminants into your dab. 

How to Use It

You’ll likely need some practice before you feel confident in using your oil rig. Once you get into your own routine, you’ll find that this is an incredibly efficient way to consume hemp CBD concentrates to their full potential. If this is your first time using it, follow these steps until you get the hang of the process:

Step 1: Fill it with water

The first step to using this device is to put water into the dab rig. Pour enough water in the base of your rig to submerge the downstem. The water helps cool and filter the vapor coming off your dabs.

Step 2: Heat the nail

Next, heat the nail with the torch. If you’re using a quartz nail, heat it until it’s glowing red. The color indicates that small particles are burned off the nail, and you’re starting with the hottest surface. 

Step 3: Let the nail cool down

You might want to instantly put the dab onto the nail, but in reality, you should let it cool down so that you don’t scorch your dab. How long should you wait for it to cool down? This depends on the thickness and material of your nail. 

To get the most flavor out of the concentrate, the target temperature should be around 300 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (149 to 232 degrees Celsius). It typically takes 30 to 60 seconds to cool down, but it depends on how hot you’ve heated the nail as well as its thickness. 

Step 4: Inhale

Put down the dab on the surface of the nail and slowly inhale the vapor. Dabs require a slow inhale because the concentrate doesn’t instantly vaporize in its entirety, while bong hits of dry herbs require a quick inhale. To make the most of the experience, make sure to take a slow, deep breath. 

Step 5: Place a carb cap 

To improve the vaping experience, place a carb cap on the nail while inhaling. A carb cap acts like an oven that traps all the heat within the nail’s chamber, making sure you get the most out of the concentrate. 

Step 6: Exhale and enjoy  

Exhale the vapor immediately after inhalation. But, before you exhale, hold it in your lungs for a few seconds to let soak the active terpenes and cannabinoids. 

How to Clean It? 

Cleaning your dab rig can ensure you get the most flavorful dab experience time and time again. After dabbing at the proper temperature, some residual oil should remain at the bottom of the nail. Wipe the inside of the quartz nail with a cotton swab to remove any residual oil. Keeping this nail clean requires a simple move but provides a more flavorful dab, in addition to extending the life of the nail. 

If you’re dealing with resistant residual oil, use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to clean all components of the dab rig. This liquid is a potent solvent that dissolves difficult-to-remove oil that collects in the nail, banger, or along the sides of the chamber. 

Despite its potency, an alcohol-soaked cotton swab might not do the trick. If you still notice residual oil, soak the glass in alcohol to break the oil particles before running a cotton swab along the surface. Please keep in mind to rinse and dry your rig thoroughly after using alcohol because this substance is flammable. 

Using E-Rigs for Dabbing

E-rigs are a new way to dab CBD concentrates. An e-rig is an all-in-one portable dab machine. They are similar to vape pens used to vaporize distillate but with a more powerful vaporizing platform for all forms of concentrates. The first versions of e-rigs were stationary and had to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Current ones are often battery-powered. 

In general, an e-rig is somewhat of a cross between a dab rig for home use and a portable vape pen. They combine discretion with power and durability. Such characteristics make them ideal for users who love concentrates and are after alternatives to a dab rig and a torch that’s portable and suitable for traveling. 

The biggest advantage of this device is that you can precisely control the temperature of the dabs. Unlike a traditional rig, where you have to go through trial and error to control the temperature of your dabs, with an e-rig, you just dial in the precise temperature. We all know that getting the right temperature is key for exquisite dabs, so an e-rig gives you peace of mind that the temperature will remain within the desired range. 

Turning a Bong Into a Dab Rig

Can you turn a bong into a dab rig? While not the most ideal scenario, yes, it’s possible to transform a regular bong into a workable dab rig. But only bongs that have a removable bowl. If your bong doesn’t have a removable bowl, you can’t successfully turn it into a dab rig. 

So before making this transformation, check if the bong has a removable bowl. If it does, move on to the next step, which is finding a nail that fits into the downstem of your bong. To do that, remove the bowl, measure the diameter of the downstem’s female joint (typically in millimeters). Then, based on the measurements, find a male nail that will fit the downstem. 

The downstem of most bones or water pipes is placed at a 45-degree angle, which is very different from the typical 90-degree angle dab rig. Because of this, your nail will also be sitting at an angle. While taking the dab, make sure your melted concentrates don’t spill out of the nail.

Once you fit the nail into the downstem of the bong, you’re ready to go. As usual, heat the nail, drop the dab, cover it with a carb cap, and inhale through the mouthpiece. If you’re working with a small bong, you’ll notice that it’s easy to pull in the vapor and maintain the pristine flavor profile of the concentrates. That’s because small bongs are best for using as a dab rig.

Final Thoughts

A dab rig is a pipe designed for vaporizing cannabis concentrates, and as of lately, hemp CBD concentrates. It’s similar to a bong in the sense that it filters the concentrate vapor through the water at the base. 

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