A banger nail is a critical and vital component of any dabbing rig. A nail is the part of the rig that you insert into the water pipe and heat up with a torch.
New to the world of dabbing? A dab rig is essentially a water pipe that has a specialized attachment called a dab nail in place of a pipe bowl.
Dabbing works by heating the “nail” with a torch to the point at which it will turn any concentrate added to it to vapor, making the potent fumes and smoke readily available for inhalation. Any water pipe can be either a dab rig or a bong, depending on whether you put a dab nail or a pipe bowl in it, but some pipes are better for one than the other.
The banger nail is one of several kinds of dab nails. It’s an especially popular design for beginners, being easy to use and typically falling on the lower end of the cost spectrum.
What Makes a Nail a Banger?
Banger nails have a distinctive swan-necked, flat-bottom shape, a shape that some people think vaguely resembles a hammer, which could explain the name. The flat bottom makes the nail easier to heat evenly, and the long, bent tube helps with air control, providing a nice, even pull—hence the popularity with beginners.
Banger nails can be used with or without a carb cap. High-temperature dabbers sometimes go so far as to add an adapter to protect the pipe from the heat of the nail—the versatility of the design is another reason for its appeal.
Banger Nails of Different Materials
Banger nails, like dab nails generally, can be made of titanium, quartz, glass, or ceramic. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose comes down to personal preference (though pay attention to the warning about titanium!)
If a pipe comes with a dab nail (those sold as dab rigs often do), it will likely be glass. A glass nail is easy to clean and performs well, but because glass is vulnerable to heat stress, it will crack if heated unevenly or used too often. It’s not a great option for frequent dabbers.
Ceramic nails also perform well and are easy to clean but fragile. The better ones can withstand heat without cracking, but, like glass, will shatter if dropped.
Quartz is more durable than either ceramic or glass and is not vulnerable to heat stress. The material also heats very quickly and retains its heat longer than other materials, giving the user more time to enjoy the vapor. Quartz banger nails are very popular.
Titanium nails are also popular, despite having a couple of serious drawbacks. Most seriously, unlike glass, quartz, and ceramic, low-grade titanium can contain toxic impurities. Titanium oxide, which forms on the surface of some nails, isn’t healthy, either. A high-quality, well cared-for titanium nail will be quite safe, but buyer beware. Some people claim that titanium nails give a metallic taste to the vapor, which other materials never do. And while titanium won’t break when heated, it can swell and break your pipe. Despite all this, titanium banger nails remain in use because they last longer than any other option.
Styles of Banger Nail
Aside from what they are made of, banger nails come in a couple of different types. Which type you choose is largely a matter of how you like to dab. This list is not exhaustive.
Thermal Banger Nails
Thermal banger nails are a relatively new innovation involving a double-walled concentrate chamber. They are less likely to clog, and since the chamber is smaller, they can maintain heat longer than a typical banger nail. Since these are often used at low temperatures, many people prefer to pair them with a carb cap to prevent vapor loss.
Domed vs. Domeless Nails
Banger nails come in both domed and domeless versions. In general, domed banger nails are better for beginners, since they are safer to use and cost less. They also prevent the leakage and waste of vapor. Domeless nails, on the other hand, heat faster and allow for bigger dabs. You’re also less likely to burn the oil if you go with a domeless nail. The loss of vapor can be controlled by the use of a separate carb cap.
Banger nails, like other types of dab nail, now come in an electric option. Electric nails, or e-nails, are heated by electric coils rather than with a torch. The advantage is they can stay hot for hours, so you can dab and dab and dab again, without having to stop and re-heat the nail. There’s also less of a risk of burning the oil. Temperature control is much easier, with no guesswork. The drawback is these nails are considerably more expensive than their more traditional cousins.
Cleaning Banger Nails
Banger nails are notably easy to clean. A couple of swipes with a cotton swab dipped in 90% alcohol should do it. That being said, some users prefer to leave some residue on the nail, “seasoning” it, like a cast-iron pan.
Many recommend deliberately seasoning both quartz and titanium nails before use by heating the nail and allowing it to cool. Seasoning is supposed to improve the flavor, remove any polish residue left over from manufacture, and, in the case of quartz, help the nail last longer. For titanium oxide, coat the nail with oil and repeat the seasoning process several times.
Getting the Right Fit
Not all nails fit into all pipes. Some nails are adjustable, but some aren’t, and if the sizes do not match you won’t get a secure seal and the vapor will escape. Also, dab nails usually have “male” joints, and while most pipes sold as dab rigs have female joints, there are pipes with male joints, and in this case, two males don’t fit together. The important part is to know the shape and size of your rig’s joints and to make sure that your nail—and any other attachments you might use—are compatible before you buy.
Ultimately, the kind of dab nail you buy is up to you, the main thing is to assemble a rig that works for the way you like to dab.
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