How Does A Bong Work?

So you've been wondering why bongs pack such a punch . . .

Posted by Smoke Cartel on

What is a bong?

A bong is usually defined as a smoking device, generally that uses water as a quality filtration system. Some people say that the word “bong” is said to have derived from a Thai word, “Baung” which means a cylindrical, wooden water pipe.

Many others state that the word might have originated from an early water pipe discovery in South Africa with the Bong’om tribe. Generally, it is accepted that the bong was first brought to the United States of America by US soldiers stationed overseas in the 1960s. Later then, artisan glass blowers have made bongs into their very own art form.

A bong consists of five main elements:

  1. Tube/Beaker – the long tube that sits on a beaker or flared base. This is where the water goes.
  2. Downstem – a slim tube that slides into the side of the bong and the water. These might also be slotted at the base to make more bubbles. If there is no downstem, it's a "stemless" bong -- usually best for dab rigs.
  3. Joint – a hole in the side of the base where the slide/bowl sits to make clean air flow and clear the tube. Clear the chamber of smoke by lifting the bowl off the joint.
  4. Bowl – placed at the opposite end of the down stem, this is where the herb is filled. 
  5. Percolator – a filter that makes bubbles in the water when smoke is drawn through the tube.

Simple Bong - Flat Beaker by UPC

How does a bong work?

The best bongs cool the smoke being inhaled by passing it through one or several chambers filled with water (and sometimes ice). The more connection the smoke has with the water, the more relaxed and smoother the smoke. Even though these devices are come up in different sizes, shapes, and complexities, the one quality they all have in every bong is delivering a satisfyingly refreshing experience.

Several bongs today come with an ice pinch in the tube. These “pinches” in the glass, are located at a mid-point or near the top of the tube, avoid the ice cubes from falling into the water (at least until they melt small enough to fall through). This extra filter of ice delivers another cooling level before reaching the smoker’s mouth.

There is no denying that particular sound from a bubbling silicone bong, but there is science behind that beloved gurgle. 

Using a water pipe, as the smoker inhales, the smoke goes through the water catching particulate toxins as it drastically expand the smoke. As more air bubbles are generated, the more the smoke expands, and the smoother and cooler the hit. The more contact smoke has with the surface area of the water, the more filtration you're getting.

With keeping this in mind, there are numerous different types of percolation filters found in bongs today which are engineered to deliver better airflow and produce a better smoking experience. You don't need a perc bong to get the power of water filtration, but these extra elements enhance the lightness of each inhale.

Beaker Bong with Cube Perc - Cute Water Pipe

The Science Behind A Bong

    Bongs work on numerous basic principles of physics, all of which are very easy and simple to understand. First one is the vacuum.

    Once you light up the bowl and herbs get lit, it releases heavy smoke. Once lit, and you gradually start inhaling you create a quasi-vacuum which sucks in the smoke from the bowl and stores it in the chamber.

    The bubbles that you see appearing when you start inhaling are actually the “lungs of the bong” as they generate micro-vacuums that suck heavy smoke into the chamber.

    When you take your lips off the mouthpiece you will see that the smoke actually will not leave the chamber in massive amounts. As it has cooled down going through the water, it tends to stay inside the bong. When you pull the slide, it makes it so that you can easily inhale the chamber filled with smoke, as the pressure outside is larger than the pressure in the bong.


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