If you’ve tried dabbing and enjoyed it at home or in the outdoors, perhaps you’re ready to invest in a dab rig of your own. Like many newbies, though, you’re probably a little intimidated by the sheer variety of dab rigs that are available. With terms like “nails,” “domes” and “reburn” being bandied about, you may feel like a fish out of water. To get your dabbing experience off to the best possible start, it pays to investigate a wide array of dab rigs. First, though, you should familiarize yourself with how dab rigs are designed, how they work and the various options that are available. Like anything else, there are simple, low-end dab rigs, mid-level dab rigs and high-end dab rigs with tons of extra features and the finest materials. By educating yourself with this handy guide, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision while looking for dab rigs. Before going into more detail about dab rigs and how they work, it helps to have a clearer understanding of what dabbing is in the first place. As mentioned before, the term “dabbing” is used because you actually dab a small amount of concentrated medication, either in a wax or oil form, onto your rig in order to produce vapor. Typically, oil concentrates are fairly thick and won’t run off the nail.
Dabbing is easy once you’ve done it a few times. The exact way in which you do it may vary depending on the style of rig you are using. In its most basic form, however, it involves applying a small amount of concentrate — oil or wax — onto a nail, or heating element. Don’t be misled, though. Most nails don’t heat themselves up. With the exception of e-nails, which can do so, nails must be heated using torches. Dab rigs and torches are usually sold separately, but you can sometimes buy them as a set.
When dabbing, you must heat up the nail with the torch first. Once it’s hot enough, you apply the wax or oil. Place your mouth on the mouthpiece as apply the wax because the vapor should materialize immediately. Once the vapor materializes, you can inhale the vapor. If your dab rig doesn’t have a dome, which will be explained in detail later, you must wait for it to cool down before packing it away.
Your standard dab rig these days will consist of three parts: a glass piece, a heating element (called a nail), and a torch lighter with which to heat your nail. When done properly, dabbing is more akin to vaping than smoking because very little of your concentrate actually combusts. As a result, many of the characteristics that make a piece good for smoking make it a poor choice for dabbing. As opposed to cooling smoke, cooling vapor causes it to condense back into liquid form which leaves you with an abundance of “reclaim oil” along the sides of your piece– while still potent to a significant degree, reclaim is unpleasant to dab and many people dispose of it. To avoid this, the ideal rig is small and has minimal diffusion to allow most of the vapor to enter your lungs.
Bonus: small simple dab rigs also tend to be cheaper… economic and efficient. But before you go choosing your piece, you need to think about the most important part of your rig– the heating element aka the nail.
At the heart of your dab rig is the nail; it sits on your piece and after heating it with your torch, it heats your concentrate above the point of vaporization. Depending on your preferences, you have four choices of material: quartz (fused silica), glass (borosilicate), ceramic, and titanium. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence floating around the internet, the science behind these materials is well understood. The truth is, your choice of material will have minimal, if any, effect on flavor. Rather, the material will affect how hot your nail gets and how long it stays hot.
It’s hard for me to recommend a glass (borosilicate) nail since it doesn’t retain heat well and is guaranteed to break at some point– sometimes by shooting a hot chunk directly in your direction. The coefficient of thermal expansion on ceramic nails also means they too will break eventually, though they’re more likely to do so in a less dramatic fashion. The leaves two real options: quartz and titanium.
Titanium vs. Quartz
You can’t go wrong with either and it all comes down to preference. When picking your first rig, I recommend getting a Ti nail because they’re impossible to break and they stay hot for longer. The problem with Ti nails is that they can be overheated to the point that they start to burn some of your concentrate. Even when this does happen, the combustion is still minimal compared to smoking but this is why its a good idea to pick a rig with just a little water diffusion. Some people have suggested that you can overheat your nail to the point of generating toxic levels of Titanium oxide but rest assured– the nail would need to be a white hot 2,100°F… 500 degrees above the point at which your borosilicate glass piece will begin to melt into a flaming pool on your coffee table– don’t worry about it.
While it’s nearly impossible to overheat a quartz nail, they do cool down quickly which can lead to taking cool hits where you essentially melt the concentrate without vaporizing much of it. It’s as frustrating and disappointing a way to waste your expensive concentrate and as a result, I tend to recommend sticking to a Ti nail until you’ve become more comfortable with setting up and operating your rig.
Dome vs. Domeless
As you shop around for dab rigs, you’ll notice that some nails have domes and some don’t. As with nail materials, there’s a lot of debate about whether domed or domeless nails are best. Domed nails are infinitely safer, and they help to hold in the vapor so you can inhale as much of it as possible. Also, the glass dome looks really neat and covers up the nail nicely. However, some people don’t like them because they must be slid into place, so domeless versions are also available.
You’re going to need torch to heat your nail and that torch should use no fuel other than butane. Propane gets too hot too fast and is just generally a bad thing to keep around the house. You can go to home depot and grab something in the pluming section but I recommend getting a smaller torch with a more manageable flame so you don’t end up heating up the glass on your piece too… which leads to another good point: choose a piece that gives you room to heat your nail (you want the nail to extend out an inch or two). If you find yourself too intimidated by the torch, you’re not out of options! You might consider getting a pen vape or an e-nail.
Pros And Cons Of Dab Rigs
If you’re into dabbing, a decent rig is an absolute must. A few of the top advantages of using a dab rig include:
- Convenience – You’ll have everything you need to enjoy your favorite concentrate.
- Safety – Unlike homemade rigs, a well-designed rig will keep you safe while you are dabbing. After all, you are dealing with heat and fire.
- Style – Like bongs, pipes, and other smoking devices, rigs often double as works of art. There are lots of styles to choose from, and you can mix and match components to achieve your own distinct design.
There aren’t really any downsides to using a dab rig. The only exception would be if you bought a low-quality rig with a poorly designed nail. In that case, you could end up wasting a lot of concentrates because the nail either gets too hot or doesn’t get hot enough. As any dabber can tell you, nothing is more frustrating than dabbing on some concentrate and getting so little vapor that you can’t even really inhale it.
You can avoid running into those kinds of problems by investing in a decent rig. Choose a nail that will retain the heat long enough to produce plenty of vapor, but make sure it doesn’t hold onto the heat so long that it actually causes the concentrate to combust. If that happens, you will inhale more smoke than vapor, and the beneficial components you crave may largely go up in smoke too.
The main safety tip to keep in mind when using a dab rig is to be careful when lighting the nail with the torch. Use the smallest torch possible, and take care not to overheat the nail.
A few other safety tips include:
Clean your rig regularly. The reburn that accumulates can clog it up, and it can also overheat and catch on fire.
Some people are concerned about residual solvents in concentrates and extracts. Avoid this issue by strictly using high-quality concentrates.
Use a nail with a dome to reduce the risk of burning yourself.
Should you go dabbing? Most certainly, but what you’ll need to take into the equation is that dabbing is extra potent and you’ll just have to be aware of the pitfalls. But when you dab responsibly you really can have the time of your life. Of course, it may take a while for you to get to know how to dab effectively but when you do you won’t be disappointed.
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