Not long ago, dab rigs were only used by people who took smoking cannabis very, very seriously. They cost hundreds of dollars, needed hard to find concentrates and waxes, and were just too darn complicated for most people. The relentless march of progress has changed this, bringing dab rigs into the mainstream of cannabis cultures and delighting thousands of users with the incredibly high-quality vapor that they produce. This beginner’s guide to dab rigs takes you through the modern dab rig and why you should buy one immediately after reading this article.
Yes, a dab rig does not, in fact, produce smoke. This is because the dab itself is vaporized too quickly to combust by coming into contact with the extremely hot dab nail. There is little current scientific evidence to support the following fact: dab rigs are better for you than smoking because the particles produced by partial combustion in smoking are not present. It is more than probably true, but nobody has investigated the basis to this claim in a scientific way, so we are left with an educated guess.
What is Dab?
Dab is a concentrated form of whatever herb or plant you want to get the benefit from. That means waxes, concentrates, oils, shatter or whatever else you can think of. It is usually quite malleable and sticky, so it is collected on the end of a dab tool and applied to the white-hot dab nail. The resulting vapor is inhaled at the user’s delectation.
What is a Dab Rig?
A dab rig is any device that uses a very hot piece of metal, ceramic, glass, or quartz to instantly vaporize concentrated herbal or plant extracts. Usually contained within a glass chamber, the nail (rail or pin) is heated to hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit, usually, until it glows a bit (that may sometimes be too hot, in fact). Then the dab is added, the vapor fills the chamber and the user takes a hit.
Why Use a Dab Rig?
This is the beginner’s guide to dab rigs, so it is assumed you do not know much about them. To begin with, dab rigs are one of the coolest ways of getting high. It looks great, it has an air of sophistication and people will be wondering “Hey, what are they doing with that amazing contraption? And why are they so happy?”.
Dab rigs are awesome and are also very affordable these days. When they were products made only by specialists, they could cost hundreds of dollars and be very difficult to repair or replace. Now there are companies making dab rigs for under 100 dollars, which puts them on par with modern vaporizers and glass pipes.
The taste from a dab rig is unlike anything else. Because the dab is vaporized instantly and at such high temperatures, the resulting vapor has a different quality than smoking or vaping in a vape pen. This is often to the user’s taste. Those that have tried dab rigs are usually very impressed at the depth of the flavor and the intensity of the hit.
Which brings us to the high. Getting the effects of using a dab rig are an immediate and highly enjoyable experience. The superheated dab nail turns every little bit of your extract into vapor, meaning you get it all immediately transferred into your bloodstream via your lungs. Users who have been used to ripping on bongs usually want to use a dab rig instead when they discover them: they are nowhere near as tickly, the hit is more flavorsome and the high is immediate.
Novelty is another reason to pick up a dab rig. It is a fun and interesting way to vary your sessions.
Using a Dab Rig
Until about 10 years ago, using a dab rig meant having to use a crème brûlée blowtorch. Needless to say, many people set themselves on fire or burned their possessions/house/car/friends. The first hit is usually fine, but when it comes to the second or third, when things are looking and feeling a bit fuzzy and you have a lit blowtorch in your hands, things get dangerous.
Thankfully, the arrival of efficient, safe, and small batteries changed the dab rig world. Like the portable vape, the potential of dab rigs was finally realized. Now, e-nails are available. They heat themselves up to specific temperatures, so you get safety and control over your dab rig.
That said, there are still loads of dab rigs that require flames, some built-in, most for the user to use a torch lighter to heat the nail.
Different Nail Types
Glass – Glass nails are cheap and easy to produce, hence their popularity. However, they break very easily and don’t retain heat as well as metal so they can have some variable results. In the long run, using a metal nail will be cheaper and easier.
Quartz – Durable (tougher than glass at least) and hard to overheat, quartz does not retain heat well (it is a good emitter) and so is not ideal as a dab rig nail.
E-Nails – Heated up by the battery in the machine, the e-nail is the modern way of using a dab rig. Capable of achieving specific temperatures quickly, they add an element of control that isn’t possible with a torch lighter
Ceramic – Delicate, but holds its heat very well. Better than glass.
Titanium – The ideal material for a dab rig. It retains its heat better than any other material used for dab rigs and is incredibly tough. It is possible to overheat titanium quite easily, but with a little practice and a water diffuser, all will be well.
Dab Rig Safety
Because you are dealing with extremely hot bits of metal and open flames, using a dab rig properly, and therefore safely, is extremely important. It is recommended that you use your dab rig while sitting. Having a fire blanket and fire extinguisher nearby is always a good bet as well. (Better to be cautious, especially the first few times!) Always ensure your dab rig is cool before you touch any part of the nail or housing. Turn off any flame before you take a hit. Keep your rig clean, it could catch fire if there is too much reburn.
Types of Dab Rig
There are brands like Dr. Dabber and Headdies dab rigs that produce incredible dab rigs of all shapes and sizes. Dab rigs can be as simple as a small glass chamber with a nail in it and a place to pull the vapor through, or as complicated as a multiple-chamber percolator with lights and tubes everywhere. It is up to you what you want, and if you have the cash, you can get someone to build you one to your own specification.
What to Look For
If you are serious about getting a dab rig, there are some things you should keep in mind before you buy.
The more you pay, the higher quality you get, in general. A cheap dab rig could break while you are using it, which could be dangerous.
Simple or expert? Do you want an e-nail or are you happy heating it up yourself? A dome is essential, the rest is preference.
Each material used gives different effects and is used slightly differently.
Dabbing is a fun and unique way to get a great high and amazing taste without the smoke. Although it does take some time to get your bearings, learning how to properly use a dab rig will keep you and your friends safe. Now that you know how to use one and what to look for, hit that dab for me!