How to Smoke Concentrates: A Dabbing Beginner's Guide - Smoke Cartel

How to Smoke Concentrates: A Dabbing Beginner's Guide

By Smoke Cartel Crew on Jun 28, 2015

Dabbling in dabs? Start here!

If you’ve never tried smoking legal concentrates or other waxes and oils, you may be asking yourself what the fuss is all about. Rightly so! Even as smoking concentrates goes mainstream, the process of concentrate use can seem mysterious and perhaps a tad hardcore.

For starters, concentrates are vaporized, not combusted like your typical flower herbs. This means that oil rigs do not need as much filtration or space for the smoke to cool down. This also means that, in the long run, high-quality concentrates smoked using high-quality materials will cause much less damage and discomfort than inhaling combusted smoke from legal herbs.

So, how do you get them into your body? If you’ve never gone through the whole process of using concentrates, it can appear to be complicated. In reality, though, it’s actually pretty simple.

Get a rig

Technically, any regular ol' water pipe used for dry herbs can work for concentrates, as long as you have the appropriate accessories. Dab and oil rigs work similarly to bongs and water pipes in that they use water to cool down inhaled smoke, but they come fully equipped to turn your waxes and oils into vapor. Instead of a bowl, dab rigs use a nail or banger to contain your product as it vaporizes. 

This is where things a little complex: There are many different types of dab accessories, and it can be confusing to choose what type of nail you want for your new rig.

Let's break it down:  

Glass nails 

These are the cheapest and most common facilitators for smoking concentrates. Most dab rigs come with a glass nail included, so consider it your starter kit. Glass nails have the benefit of being a natural material and provide one of the cleanest ways to heat up and consume concentrates.

Unfortunately, after being exposed to extreme heat time and time again, glass wears out and will eventually crack or splinter. Glass nails will do the job for a minute, but if you’re looking for something that will last, consider something sturdier.

Which brings us to...

Titanium nails

When it comes to titanium nails, you want to make sure that whatever alloy you’re using is high quality so that it does not release any dangerous chemicals from being super heated over and over. We recommend (and sell) only type 2 and above. 

That being said, even a high-grade titanium nail will oxidize, creating a white, powdery substance (TiO2, or titanium dioxide) and turn the nail red, blue, or even gold.

This is normal and nothing to worry about, but cleaning off the titanium dioxide every once in a while may be a good idea.

Many concentrate connoisseurs reject titanium nails because it is believed that many of the subtle flavors of concentrates are lost due to the high heat and less than chemically inert material, but it is mostly a matter of personal taste.

One good thing about titanium is that it lasts forever! Nothing that any human could do with their bare hands could really damage a high-quality nail.

The options don't stop there...

Ceramic nails

A newer material on the dab market is nails made of high-quality ceramic. Many concentrate users will swear by their superior taste, a positive side effect of using a completely chemically-inert surface. That's right, no matter how much heat is applied, the nail will not release any off-gases.

Ceramic nails retain their heat for a much longer time than any other nail material on the market, which can be great when using concentrates in a group setting.

As with glass, even the best quality ceramic nails can be broken or cracked, by being dropped or overheated multiple times. Although a high-quality ceramic nail can handle very high temperatures, low-quality ceramic nails can be dangerous when heated due to cracking or shattering. Ceramic quality is usually determined by touch or appearanceif it is very smooth and free of bumps or surface indents, it is most likely a high-quality nail.

Quartz nails

Clear and easy to clean, quartz nails are the stronger, more accomplished cousins of glass nails. Unlike glass nails, quartz nails last longer and are even more flavorful.

High-quality quartz is actually a type of non-crystalline, amorphous silica, meaning that quartz nails aren’t made out of the typical quartz crystals associated with New Age healing and stone medicine. Like glass and ceramic, this type of molded quartz, does not emit off-gases when heated, delivering a more flavorful concentrate hit without potentially harmful byproducts.

Quartz can withstand very high temperatures and also heats up much more quickly than glass without the potential of breaking. However, be advised that quartz nails can break from overheating or from a certain degree of force, so be careful! 


E-nails are heated via electricity and typically have a digital or analog display that tells you what temperature the nail is set at. As soon as you turn the nail on, it will continue to heat up until it reaches the temperature that you have set. It also doesn’t take long to heat up, and stays heated for as long as it remains on. This makes it perfect for passing around in a group without having to worry about the pomp and circumstance of heating your nail with a torch.

One of the downsides of using an e-nail is that it can be dangerous if you’re using one with an open coil. However, some e-nails do have a safety feature that will turn the machine off if it is on for too long or if the temperature is too high.

Carb caps
Carb caps are an integral part of using concentratesso integral, in fact, that we’ve made an entirely different article demonstrating how and what they are used for!

For those that are looking for the short and sweet version, though, here you are: carb caps are used to evenly vaporize your concentrates when taking low-temperature dabs as well as to save any vapors off the top of your nail if you take too large of a hit. Though this is the simple explanation of a carb cap’s function, check out our article linked above for more information on the cap’s significance!

Dome vs. Domeless

Nails come either domes or domeless versions. Domed nails are generally cheaper and safer than their domeless counterparts, as they automatically keep the vapor from being lost off the top of the nail. However, they take more time to heat, making a longer wait for your inhale.

Domeless nails, on the other hand, are fast to heat and offer a larger dab, making it the choice of more seasoned dabbers. Experienced dabbers often use a separate dome to use with glass, quartz, and titanium nails to for an even and efficient inhale. Domeless nails are more expensive and present a higher risk for burns, so you'd better know what you're doing!  

Dabber tools 

Dabber tools are essential to using concentrates. Typically made of titanium, this long, narrow rods are used to take concentrates and apply them to the nail, allowing for vaporization on the super-heated surface. Dabber tools can also be used by the enterprising smoker to gather reclaimed product from the walls of a rig.


You can have the best dab rig in town with all the bells and whistles, but none of it will do a lick of good unless you have heat source. Torches heat up your nail to the desired temperature so your concentrate will vaporize, and there are excellent options created expressly for dabbing. 

Now that you've got the essential tools for a dab sesh, it's up to you to put them to work. Enjoy! 


About the Author

Smoke Cartel - Online Headshop

Smoke Cartel Crew

Written by the staff here at Smoke Cartel. Our passionate team of headshop professionals are dedicated to educating people on products in the online headshop industry, from glass, to vaporizes, and all the consumption devices and accessories in between.

We believe that knowing how your products are made, what they were originally designed for, and how to properly use them - is essential to keeping our customers happy. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to reach out to us!


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