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A Proper Guide To Dabbing

Once you get the hang of it, it's even easier than the dance move.

Ah, dabs. The often misunderstood and underappreciated way to get high is finally starting to have its day in the sun. The natural evolution of the bong, dabbing is arguably the best way to enjoy all of the varied and vast concentrates that populate the current market. The very first dab rigs involved hot metal plates called “skillets,” on which a scoop of concentrate was heated and inhaled through a glass piece. This method was not unlike (insert cringe) freebasing and/or burning hash on a knife, and it fell out of style for obvious reasons. The dab rig’s second incarnation came in the form of a small length of glass tubing blown out to accommodate a titanium nail. Then came the modern domed nail and ubiquitous domeless banger. All of these methods are the same through and through: heat the container, let the container heat the product, and enjoy the resulting vapor.

Dabbing might not be for everyone, but for the discerning terpene enthusiast with a high THC tolerance, a considerable budget, and an aversion to pervasive clouds of skunky smoke, there is no better way to consume cannabis. Don't let the torch turn you off. In fact, let the opposite of that happen.


Before You Begin

To get the most out of dabbing, it’s crucial to set up your workspace before you get stoned to the bone. Have your rig, nail, dab tool, torch, and product laid out in front of you. Make sure your glass piece has clean water in its chamber. Check that your torch has adequate fuel. Have whatever concentrate you intend to dab open and ready for gathering. If your nail or dab tool have residue on them, clean them off before starting a new session. Use your torch to clean your banger and a dry towel to wipe your dabber clean. If you’re breaking in a new titanium nail, season it before the first use with three rotations of red-hot heat, a drop of essential oil, and then a rapid cooldown in a water bath.

Don't forget to get comfy. Dab highs come on quickly and aggressively and can often cause an all-out swoon. A fainting couch, a velvet chaise, or a sweet Adirondack chair isn’t necessary, but I certainly recommend having at least one of them at the ready.

Step One: Prep Your Dab

Using your dabbing tool, collect approximately one grain of rice worth of concentrate or extract. Set the dab tool aside so that when you reach peak temp on your nail, you can quickly move your loaded tool to the nail with ease. Some products will grab the tip of your tool with little to no effort. Sticky budder, honey, and resin are all examples of gluey dabs that are easily manipulated onto a dab tool.

Step Two: Heat and Cool Your Nail

There is an art to heating your dab nail. Too much heat and you’ll bypass vaporization and go straight to combustion, resulting in acrid flavors and harsh smoke. Too little heat and your hit will feel like a waste of time, cost, and effort. A common trick is to heat the nail by hovering the blow torch around the nail until it is blazing hot, then waiting half a minute or so until you can comfortably hold your wrist a couple of inches above the nail. When you feel a strong but tolerable heat, your banger is ready.

Safety reminder: Always, always, always point your torch away from your glass rig. Extreme heat effectively shatters glass, so practice caution and keep that flame aimed at your nail and no other areas of your rig.

Step Three: Place Your Dab and Inhale

Once you’re comfortable with the temperature of your nail, use your loaded dabbing tool to move that itty-bitty scoop of concentrate to the nail. Direct contact with any surface of the nail will result in an instantaneous melting and bubbling, so instead, move your tool around the inside of the nail clockwise while inhaling through the mouthpiece. As the concentrate vaporizes, it will gently melt off the tool instead of immediately combusting within the nail. A carb cap or dome can help in directing the flow of vapor between draws or to preserve concentrate after it's melted off the tool. 

Optional step four: contemplate the universe and your place within it. You’re on your own journey now. Lean into it. 

Troubleshooting Tips

If your nail is overheated, wait for it to return to its resting color before testing the heat and placing your dab. Titanium and ceramic nails take longer to become red hot, and both retain the heat more effectively than quartz.

Reduce your risk of fingertip burns by keeping your dab rig on a tabletop and following each step precisely. Overconfidence can lead to grabbing the nail with the same muscle memory you use to grab the pull stem from a water pipe.

Avoid overloading the nail. Too much concentrate can quickly reduce the nail’s temperature and you could end up with an uneven, acrid hit, or worse, a hit so big it becomes uncomfortably incapacitating. Start with rice-size dabs and move forward from there. 

Or You Could Skip All That

And get yourself a Puffco Peak. It's an all-in-one dabbing apparatus that removes the step of heating your dab rig with a torch. At $379.99 for one rig, it's a luxury buy for sure, but I figured I should mention it because it is a good tool for entry-level dabbers with cash to burn.

Photos by Anthony Tripoli. 


About the Author

In addition to being an essayist and blogger, Brianna enjoys making music, designing and constructing her own fashions, cooking fabulous dinners, and playing weed sommelier to all of her friends and family.

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