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Heating a Ceramic Nail

by Angel Ferrer 4 min read

Heating a Ceramic Nail

How Long Do You Heat a Ceramic Nail?

While dabbing is gaining popularity among cannabis smokers, to the uninitiated it can still seem like a challenging way to enjoy their favorite herb.

And it’s no wonder, with virtually hundreds of options for equipment and accessories on store shelves, and a bit of a learning curve to boot, it's easy to feel lost when first starting out. But, if taken one step at a time, dabbing can be a rewarding way to enjoy marijuana, providing enhanced flavor and stronger effects as compared to traditional smoking techniques.

Concentrates, Oils and Extracts Oh My!

Cannabis concentrates like hash and keef, or the relative newcomer cannabis oil, are made by extracting the essential oils from cannabis plants. This separates the cannabinoids and terpenes, found in the oils, from other plant matter that could be harmful to smoke. Concentrates should smell and taste like the strains they come from, when extracted correctly. 

One of the first things needed to begin dabbing is a “dabbing nail”. These “nails” are heated with torches to a temperature at which they actually vaporize your concentrate or herb. Choosing the right type of dabbing nail is essential to getting the optimal dabbing experience, as this is where the dab will be heated and get its flavor. More on that later.

Benefits of Going Ceramic

Ceramic nails are often touted as providing the best possible flavor for dabs, largely because they don’t add extra flavor to it, allowing for a cleaner-tasting experience than dabs made out of material like titanium.

Ceramic nails also tend to be cheaper than other types of nails, like titanium or quartz, but still retain and diffuse heat moderately well. They also don’t need to be “seasoned,” like quartz and titanium nails do, so they can be used as soon as they’re purchased.

While there are a number of benefits to using ceramic nails, some dabbers steer clear of them because they think more experience is needed to operate them. However, while they can seem finicky at times, any dabber who does some research can use them.

Material Matters

The different types of material used to make dab nails -- titanium, quartz, glass and ceramic -- affect how the dab needs to be prepared. There are benefits and disadvantages to using each material.

Titanium: The biggest pro to using a titanium nail is its durability. Clumsy people can drop most high-quality titanium nails and they will still be intact. They tend to have higher heat retention than glass and quartz nails, as well, so they can handle larger dabs. On the downside, titanium oxide can build up on the nail which could be harmful to the nail itself or the dabber. The metal also can transfer some of its flavor to the dab and the high heat can really warm up a glass joint.

Quartz: Quartz nails cost more than glass, but they can be heated up quickly and are more durable. They also taste better than titanium nails. The downside is quartz nails cool off much faster than others.

Glass: For those on a strict budget, glass nails are a great option. They’re inexpensive and don’t interfere with the dab’s flavor. They also are easy to clean. However, they break easily and can crack from quick changes in temperature.

Compared with these other three nail types, ceramic has some clear advantages. It provides the best flavor, is easy to clean and can retain heat better than even titanium or quartz. However, it takes more time to fully heat a ceramic nail. If it’s heated too quickly, the delicate material can crack from the stress. Higher quality ceramic nails are less likely to break.

When using a ceramic nail, as with other kinds of dabbing nails, one piece of equipment to consider is a carb cap. Carb caps are domes you put over your nail to hold in the vapor by restricting the airflow coming through the rig. When using the low-temperature method and a ceramic dabbing nail, this final piece of equipment can make for the perfect dab.

This Guide is Heating up, but what about your Nail?

Large propane torches can heat up a ceramic nail within 50 seconds, while it might take smaller butane torches up to two minutes to do the same. While propane torches are bulkier, they may be preferred to butane torches for dabbers who lack patience. Otherwise, there may be some flying, overheated ceramic.

Size Matters

It’s important to note that the thickness of the ceramic is also an important factor when heating the nail. While a thicker ceramic nail can take more heating, it also takes longer for it to reach the right temperature.

Accurately Measuring Temperature

To heat a ceramic nail, it’s best to use a laser thermometer gun, which can be pointed at the nail to take its temperature. Ceramic nails don’t change color when they’re heated up, as quartz nails do. If overheated, they also can crack from the pressure.

The Perfect Amount of Heat

The “right” dabbing temperature differs based on what the dabber is looking for. For those who usually dab at low temperatures, a range of 300-400 degrees is best for ceramic nails. For those who like to dab at high temperatures, 800 degrees is usually the maximum. Some dabbers say that the effects are stronger when using the high-temperature method. However, at that point, the concentrate can combust and turn into smoke instead of vapor.  

The Cool Down

The next step is to let the ceramic nail cool down to avoid combustion of the concentrate. It’s cool enough once you can put your hand over, but not on top of, the nail’s dish and feel warmth, but not so much heat it’s uncomfortable. The amount of time it takes to cool down a ceramic nail varies depending on who you ask, but the general range is 15 to 35 seconds.

Closing Thoughts

It may take a few tries to get the right timing when using a ceramic nail, so dabbers shouldn’t feel discouraged if they don’t get it to work perfectly the first time. If the concentrate appears to burn, let the nail cool a few seconds longer. If the concentrate puddles and doesn’t vaporize, decrease your wait time. Even for experienced dabbers, there is always room to experiment and improve your dabbing technique.