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What is A Dab Rig - All About Dabbing

by Albert Jurado 7 min read

Understanding Dab Rigs 

With all the chatter and hype around the global move towards legalization, it's hard to go a single day without coming across something cannabis related. From new ways to enjoy your favorite strains, to breakthroughs in medical research touting the potential benefits of this recreational and medicinal plant.

And when it comes to cannabis, concentrates are at the forefront of this discussion, driven by popular demand, this form of cannabis is both potent and exhilarating. And if you’re looking to try out concentrates, dabbing is one of the best ways to do so.

Concentrates, as the name so clearly suggests, are concentrated versions of your favorite herb, making them a powerful way to enjoy your ganja, with only a small dose being needed to experience potent psychoactive effects.

But, unlike your dry herbs (which can be either smoked or vaporized) concentrates require a special approach called dabbing.

You’ll need special accessories, as well as some basic knowledge of what each type of accessory can do. Below we’ve compiled a run-down of all things dabbing, including how to choose the right dabbing rig for your needs.

But First, What are Dabs?

Simply put, dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis. These doses are created by utilizing a solvent (often butane or carbon dioxide) to extract the actives of the plant into a concentrated form. 

Once the CBD, TCH and other cannabinoids have been effectively extracted, the result is a sticky oily mixture commonly referred to as any of the following depending on the exact method of extraction, and the consistency:

  • Budder
  • Shatter
  • Wax
  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
  • And others…

What is Dabbing?

Now that you know what a “dab” is, its time to cover what to do with them. In order to use a dab, they must be heated on a very hot surface. This surface is called a “nail” and is often made of ceramic, glass or quartz.

When heated, the smoke and vapor from the dab is inhaled.g” This entire process is called “dabbing”, and while it has been around for a while, has recently been picking up traction as a popular way to enjoy the flood of cannabis concentrates hitting the market.

How Dabbing Works 

Dabbing involves a way to smoke concentrates using convective heating rather than conductive heating. Convective heating is healthier, smoother, and more effective because it doesn’t “burn off” and waste the essential and active ingredients in the concentrate. By burning the materials at a lower temperature, and via indirect heat rather than direct flame, the user experiences a higher concentrate of psychoactive compounds, and a cleaner, purer, better tasting hit.  

Dab rigs rely on a process involving two key steps. First, a torch heats up the main surface (also known as a “nail”), next, a concentrated “dab” is placed on the surface of the heated nail. Finally, you inhale the resulting vapour through the mouthpiece, just like you would with a regular pipe.  

Speaking of “dab rigs”, what are they?

If you’re new to dabs, then a dab rig probably isn’t on your radar just yet….but it will be soon. 

A dab rig is a specialized type of bong or water pipe, also known as a concentrate rig. These bongs are specifically designed to smoke dense concentrates via water vapor. They are typically made of glass, and the nail is normally made of quartz or titanium.

In short, a dab rig is simply a specialized water pipe with a couple of extra parts sticking out of it, making them simple to use and enjoy.

How do dab rigs work?

Three are a few different types of dab rigs commonly available on the market, each working in a slightly different way.

That said, the basic setup of each is generally as follows:

A “nail” sits at the top part of the main “bowl” where you place the concentrates for smoking. Nails are the most important part and they can be made out of various materials, including titanium, glass and quartz. You can buy nails separately from the rig itself, but just make sure that you are purchasing the correct size to fit your setup. 

Often, dab rigs come with a “dome,” which is a specialized cover to place over the nail. These domes help to keep the vapor (and THC) in the same place so that you don’t lose any when you heat your concentrate or dab. You’ll also find a glass vapor slide which connects to the nail.

A 90-degree joint is part of the arm which brings the vapour into the bowl. Regular pipes have 45-degree joints, but dab rigs have smaller 90-degree joints in order to keep the vapor more concentrated. 

A recycler will be located in the bowl as well, which will help to create a closed “loop” for the water and vapor to flow through. Recyclers are meant to cycle water back through the pipe so that the smoke and water are going through in a loop where water turns to vapor (and vice versa) in a cycle. 

You will also want to purchase a glass, metal, or ceramic dabber to apply the dab to the hot surface of the nail. You will also need a torch, which can be found at most supermarkets or big box general merchandise stores. You can find flame-less dab rigs as well, but they tend to be quite expensive, so we recommend just using a small kitchen torch. 

Types of Dabs

If you haven’t already, your exploration of cannabis products and dabs will lead you to come across terms such as “shatter,” wax, oil and “budder”.

Shatter is amber and brittle, but offers a long, strong high. However, this form of concentrate is more difficult to work with because it is both dense and hard. Breaking it apart is akin to shattering glass, hence the name: shatter.

Wax and budder, on the other hand, are butter-like in composition and easy to work with and smoke.

Oils can be a bit messy, but they are quite versatile and can be consumed in a number of ways. “Crumble” is more like sugar, or the crumbles of a piece of cake or cookie in texture. Finally, resin is what you find on the freshly harvested marijuana “buds” and is both dense and incredibly sticky.

It is important to note that no matter which type of concentrate you try, they are all incredibly strong and should be used in moderation, especially when first starting out.

If in doubt, start with a small dose and leave a lot of time in-between taking hits to assess potency and effect. Many concentrates also come with labels documenting the concentration of THC and presumed aftereffects.

How to Dab

Once you get set up with a rig and your preferred concentrate, place a tiny amount of the concentrate in/on the dabber. Make sure that you are seated and comfortable so as not to get jarred or risk dropping or spilling.

Next, turn on your torch and direct it towards the center of the nail. The nail should be heated with the torch to the point where it’s red-hot. The time it will take to reach that temperature will depend on the size of the nail, the material its made from and the room temperature.

Once the nail has reached the optimal temperature, leave the torch alone and put the dome over the nail. The nail should cool for at least 10 seconds, or longer if it’s quartz. Once it’s cooled a bit, use the dabber to place the dab on the nail, let the magic happen, then inhale slowly and with consistent suction/force.

After you take a hit, don’t forget that both the nail and dome will still be quite hot, so wait a while for them to cool down before handling, or have a fire resistant surface such as a metal pan or countertop to place them on while they cool off. 

The ideal temperature for dabbing is about 315 to 450 degrees F. This temperature generates maximum flavor and potency of the hit. That said, its ok to experiment.

Be sure to inhale only small amounts and go slowly at the start, since concentrates are – well, concentrated! All of the cannabis products discussed in this guide are potent, and tend to result in a stronger, more impactful high as compared to smoking the plant itself.

Finding and Choosing the right Rig

If you’re looking for a dab rig, but you’re not sure which to buy, or where to start, consider the following…

Budget / Cost

Unless your last cannabis session led you to a magical money tree, budget is something you’ll need to keep in mind.

When looking for a dab rig the pricing can range quite a bit, from $20 all the way up into the hundreds of dollars depending on the setup and customization.

While this additional expense might seem a little costly at first glance, it's important to consider that a solid dabbing rig will last you for years, providing potent, high-quality smoking sessions that you just can’t get via other methods of smoking.

The Right Rig

Next up, make sure you are looking at the right type of product. You can quickly identify a dab rig by checking out the “gender” of the joint – if it’s male and comes with a dome, it’s for dabbing. If it’s “female,” it’s probably just a regular water pipe. However, it’s worth noting that you can purchase nails (and other attachments) to convert your conventional water pipe into a dab rig.

Components vs. Complete Kits

Dab rigs can be sold as a complete kit with everything you need to get started right out of the box, or they may be sold as individual parts. If you’re just starting out, or want something quick and simple, we suggest going with a complete kit.

If, however, you’d like to opt for customization, buying parts individually isn’t a bad way to go. Basic components usually consist of the glass rig and nail. You’ll also need a torch lighter in order to heat the nail to the proper temperature necessary to “dab”.

The nail is THE most important part of your rig, and if you’re going to splurge on expenses, this is where you want to put your hard earned money.

Ready to get started?

Enough talk, let’s get down to brass tacks. Check out our selection of top quality, affordable and effective range of dabbing rigs and accessories to help you have the best smoking sessions possible.


Our team of experts are always ready and willing to help. Have a question? Just reach out.