By Smoke Cartel Crew on Dec 02, 2014

When it comes to oil, wax, shatter, or whatever kind of concentrate you have, picking the right rig and / or oil pen / wax vaporizer can make a lot of difference. There is one thing that is common among all dab tools in 2019 - flavor is the focus.

Most dab hands love terps- those tasty, crystallized essential oils of plants that deliver each strain’s unique smell and taste. That’s why Sour Diesel tastes sour. Blueberry tastes sweet. And Snozberries taste like Snozzberries.

The problem with terpenes, though, is that flavor is fleeting and ruined before tasted if not handled well. So picking the right tools for your next dab sesh starts right here, and fantastic flavors are key considerations.

So, what are you looking for? Pipe, water pipe or oil pen?

What are dab nails made of?

Let’s start with the basics of dabbing- the nail. This is the part of the pipe (whichever pipe type you choose) that slides into the joint of a water pipe or portable rig, and gets heated with a torch. It’s usually made of titanium or quartz for durability and heat transfer.

You can heat a nail with a torch lighter or, in the case of the right dab rig, an enail.

NOTE: eNails are awesome! This dab rig-only tool is a heated, coiled metal cable that goes around the base of the nail, keeping exact, perfect temperatures, anywhere from hundreds of degrees to more than a thousand.

So, once heated to the proper temperature, a nail heats oil with ambient heat, just enough to release the concentrate as a vapor. The flash vapor is then pulled through the water and inhaled as a slightly cooled and filtered tasty dab.

There are also handheld pipes and rigs. So, working with the right equipment ensures maximum flavor profiles, effectiveness of your dab and overall experience.

Ceramic nails

Ceramic nails are easy to heat, hold temperatures well, and can deliver awesome flavors. Some frequent dabbers do think ceramic can make dabs taste overcooked after being wel used, but ceramic usually is known for clean flavors.

Ceramic nails are generally more expensive than glass or quartz. But ceramic is typically more durable than the clear nails (although it can be fragile just like glass and quartz can, so care is needed when using ceramic).

Glass nails

Almost any rig you buy will come with a glass nail. Glass delivers pure flavors, is easy to mold and is cheap to produce, but it has its flaws too. It’s way easy to overheat and crack, so that must be done slowly and carefully.

Titanium nails

Titanium has long been used in smoker’s tools because of its unsurpassed durability and clean flavors. You can easily heat a titanium nail with a butane torch lighter (or an eNail in the right circumstances) in 20-30 seconds.

Titanium will never shatter if overheated like glass and quartz can. And is otherwise indestructible. Some dab purists think titanium delivers metallic flavored dabs, but a proper titanium nail will last a long time.

NOTE: It’s important to be sure of the titanium in your nail and other dab gear. Making sure it’s sourced from a reputable supplier is key to a good flavor experience. Cheaper products can build up titanium oxide which is harmful to you and your nail and takes like crap.

Quartz nails

Quartz is cheap and durable and delivers clean terpene flavors. It can be molded into multiple shapes from the needle tip of a dab straw to a large honey bucket. In the world of low-temp dabs, fat-bottomed banger nails are usually made of quartz because it holds heat well at low temperatures, is easy to clean and delivers pure flavors profiles.

Quartz can crack at extreme temperatures or if dropped, so care is needed.

Different dab nail shapes

Dab nails have come a long way in the last decade. What was once a pretty limited selection is now ever expanding with new ideas all the time. There’s color changing properties and glow in the dark options.

The best thing about nails is its technology which is still growing. As the industry expands and more uses are found for concentrates, you will continue to see new things. Et’s look at where we are right now.

Banger buckets

A huge percentage of nails sold are no longer nails, but bangers. Bangers are basically little buckets connected to a 90 degree joint. You heat the bucket up, drop in a dab and use a carb cap to fully capture that essential oil in a convective swirl of perfect heat and clean flavors.

Bangers come in various heights, angles and widths, and are usually measured by joint size and bucket width in millimeters. The majority of quality banger nails are made of quartz.

Domed and domeless nails

A domed nail uses the round hood to trap vapor, keeping it from being wasted, as a dab is pulled. Domed nails usually come in two pieces and often made of glass, which is prone to breaking.

A domeless nail has ventilation holes strategically placed and lots of airflow, so that vapor retention isn’t a problem. Domeless nails can be made of multiple materials including titanium, quartz and ceramic.

Honey bucket

This unique style tool has a bucket shape where the dab and a hinged quartz arm that swings closed into the bucket. This combination captures vapor until it is inhaled, reducing waste.It was created by the advanced alien minds at Mothership Glass.

The best dab rigs

When considering the perfect rig for dabs, it’s key to remember that vapor differs from smoke in many ways, right down to it’s finer consistency of smoke particles.

So, just like raindrops form from condensed water vapor that comes together to form clouds, so does vapor from oil. So, using the wrong temperature or the wrong size equipment to dab, means a loss in more ways than one.

Not to worry.

Best dab rig sizes

Water pipes are usually measured by height, and the size of the joint (where the nail slides into the downstem). Joints and add ons are either ground (sandblasted) or groundless (clear), and have male or female anatomy.

That’s right, your rig has sex. Well… A sex. Sex parts. Damn, I’m just making this worse.

A male joint works with female gear, and female joints take male add ons, like a light socket and plugs. In the case of a dab rig, we are adding on is a nail (domed or domeless) or bucket.

NOTE: There’s also other cool add on attachments, like reclaimers, that improve a rig’s performance, decrease its waste and reduces dirty water.

Joint Sizes

Dab rig joints and their corresponding add ons are measured in millimeters and come in three standard sizes, 10mm 14mm and 18mm. Don’t bust out a ruler, because those sizes aren’t exact and are rounded to nice even numbers.

Size of the joint is a big consideration when buying the best rig for dabs. You can pull much more air more quickly through an 18mm joint than you can through a 14mm or 10mm one. But that also means you empty your lungs much faster too. Plus, if the rig is large or has lots of percs, clearing the chamber in one breath can be next to impossible.

Micro rigs are perfect for full flavor and easy dabs. Most micro rigs have permanently fused down stems and nails, or 10mm joints. Fused or 10mm joints means fewer (or no) addons. Seeing as lower temps are the big thing, more nail and carb cap options are always being added, and may be something you want to add on later.

Dabbing is both art and science

Dabbing is still an evolving way to consume. Many advances in the science have come about because of growing interest and enthusiastic awareness. Today’s dab rig connoisseur is in it for the flavor and lasting headiness concentrates deliver.

Stretching their supply further isn’t a bad thing at all. That’s meant some changes, starting with temperatures.

People used to think you had to heat a nail white hot todab. This probably got started in the old days of hot-knifing hash where two kitchen knives were placed in a stove burner until they glowed. Drop a blob of hash on top of one, squish it with the other while someone waits with a paper cone to suck up the smoke.

Probably because most nails used to be some sort of metal, dabbers have been using high temps to get that glow. But today, people are aware that much lower temperatures deliver better concentrate flavors and making a stash last longer.

Low temp nails

Low temp dabs are a thing because of flavor profiles and better nails. The scent that plants like cannabis produce come mainly from the extremely aromatic terpenes of the plant. This is what true hashish is made of, the sticky residue off the hands of migrant farm workers.

Now, extractions have become more and more connected to their tastes, making dabs more and more popular. People buy the flavor as much as they buy the buzz.

Fat-bottomed bangers are an example of evolving dab tech; the base is opal quartz, several millimeters thicker than the walls. You heat a banger from the bottom and it holds that temperature longer.

Some people argue that perfect dab temps range from 315 to 450 degrees. That’s more in the range of a standard vaporizer (which we will talk about here in a minute).

Technology has also advanced the science of extraction itself. Brands boast a “full spectrum” of cannabinoids from THC to CBD, CBG, CBN… and the list goes on.

This means they can even separate terpenes from other plant matter. So, concentrates can even have added terpenes for flavor.

Flavor is where the phat is.

Temperamental Terpenes

But terpenes are temperamental and flavor can be fleeting. For this reason, those tiny rigs I mentioned called micros often use a 10mm joint and very little water through which to pull, are becoming more and more common. Handheld rigs and dab straws are also growing in numbers, especially with affordable materials like quartz and silicone being used.

Handheld rigs and dab straws

A dab rig is too big for many circumstances, so there’s always the more portable handheld rigs and dab straws. These pipes have a one end that’s heated by a butane torch, then that tip is “dabbed” into a patch of concentrate. Dab, dab, dab.

Some of these pipes are even water cooled, even sporting percs that swirl and condense hits. With modern glass and silicone designs, handheld rigs can go anywhere you dare.

Dab straws are typically different from handheld rigs in that they are made of all glass or quartz, and handheld rigs usually have titanium or quartz nails. Replaceable tips can always be replaced.

Hand pipes for dabs

Finally, there are a few hand pipes that have special stones for dabs. These hand pipes are usually double duty as the porous stone insert can be removed. Right now, though, these are not a preferred method to inhale dabs, so very few models exist for both dry herb and waxy concentrates.

Wax vaporizers and oil pens

There are vaporizers that work with wax and batteries that power pre-filled oil tanks. These are basically the same thing, vaporizers for concentrates. One is a thinner oil like vape juice, and the other is a chamber for waxy dabs.

For ease of use, discreet portability and exact temperatures, people are going with oil pens and wax vaporizers with increasing frequency. Vapes for oil and wax have grown increasingly popular as concentrates in general gain wider acceptance. The vaporizers themselves have also come a long way just in the last five years alone.

There are also solvents on the market that turn waxy concentrates into a liquid to be used with an oil pen. You can get these solvents flavored or not, so your dabs can taste like banana, cherry or any other eliquid flavor.

During the next 5 years will see even longer-lasting and more powerful batteries, flawless one-button operation, cheap replaceable parts and name branded oil tanks similar to the Juul for oil pens (liquid vaporizers).

Wax pens will also get even better; more fine tuned temperature settings for high and low temp dabs, battery improvements, faster heat times and more atomizer choices.

Final thoughts about dabbing

So, when talking dabs, you have choice methods of delivery; dab rigs, dab straws, hand pipes or vaporizers. Which method you consume depends on what kind of product you have. And remember- today, it’s all about the flavor. Each strain has its own specific flavor profiles affecting the concentrates that are extracted from it.

Best dab rigs

If shopping for a water pipe, remember that larger rigs with complex percs usually mean loss of flavor and unclaimed material.

Super small dab rigs, while preserving flavor, have fewer add ons from which to choose. They work well with low temp dabs, preserving flavors with an easy to clear chamber.

Finally, 14mm mid-size rigs are the most popular for being juuuust right in most ways. There’s a wide range of styles and add on attachments. Plus, the size of the chamber on most 14mm rigs means not too much water to pull through, thus preserving flavor profiles.

Best dab nails

Ceramic nails look pretty, hold heat really well and deliver clean flavors in the beginning. Many users complain that worn ceramic nails make dabs taste burned as they are not very easy to clean (but are fairly self cleaning).

Glass nails are cheap and will die a quick death the first time overheated. Glass is easy to clean.

Quartz nails are a good mid range material. Strong enough to have real durability, but cheap enough to produce where it’s not a tragedy when they do eventually break. Quartz is easy to clean.

Titanium nails are extremely durable being virtually indestructible, eat easily and hold their temperatures a long time. In addition, titanium delivers clean tastes for full flavor profiles. They are premium material, so on the expensive side.

Best dab pipes

There are hand pipes designed for use with concentrates. Most of these pipes use porous vaping stone made of inert rock. It heats easily with a torch lighter and retains temperatures long enough for a single dab sesh.

Best oil pens

Oil pens are just a simple battery, and a vaporizer tank specifically designed for liquids. Advancements in battery tech means a small wand 510-style battery can power an oil tank for hundreds of hits.

Best wax vapes

Wax vapes are also benefiting from more powerful batteries and replaceable parts. Old vaporizers had heating elements took a long time to heat before a dab would melt quick enough to vaporize. The older an atomizer was, the longer it took to heat and less effective it became over time.

Today, wax vapes have cheaper, replaceable parts that last longer than their predecessors. Wax vapes usually have steel, ceramic, quartz or titanium heating chambers and various types of heating elements.

Heating elements and heating chambers of vaporizers have the same properties as a nail for a dab rig when it comes to the material that they are made of. Titanium is pricey but durable. Ceramic is clean but fragile. Quartz is durable and clean.

So, maybe you dab at home and want a rig. Maybe you want portability and get a dab straw. Maybe you’re new and want to stick with a hand pipe that an do herb and dabs for a while. Or maybe you want discretion and opt for a oil pen.

No matter which, keep the flavor of future dab seshes in mind!

What is the best dab rig?

Quartz Dab Rig for Concentrates - Quartz Shortie

Many smokers are moving away from traditional water pipes and bowls, to more elaborate smoking set-ups featuring nails and rigs. Understanding the art of dabbing takes education and investment in new products. With a huge selection of dab rigs on the market, take some time to discover what features are going to suit your unique smoking needs. Some things to consider when shopping for a dab rig:

  • Material Matters. High quality glass is crucial to long term heating and cooling. Choosing the cheapest dab rig is not always the best idea.
  • Portability. You may want to transport your dab rig or travel with it. Choosing a model that is compact enough to be packed in a bag or a suitcase is often a great idea. Larger more complex dab rig models are designed for home and special occasion use.
  • Shape and Style Matter. Be sure to keep an eye on the dimensions of your dab rig, shape of the dome, and type of joint.


Which recycler rig is best for me?

Recycler for Dabbing Concentrates - 710

If you are interested in dabbing you may not be completely familiar with all of the devices, but we all have to start from somewhere, right? Often, we find that people don't understand what the recycling function really means when dabbing. Let's take a look..

Recycler rigs can look complex but serve a simple purpose: provide dab hits that are cooler in temperature allowing for longer inhalation. This is achieved through a system of tubes designed to allow heat separation. There is also a splash back feature that allows bubbles to burst without water getting in your mouth. 

Most experienced dabbers swear by the experience of using a glass recycler, because while they may look complex, recycler rigs take the dabbing experience to the next level.

We believe a recycler rig is an investment and should be treated as such. Ranging from $130 to $1500, recyclers can be upgraded as your tastes and habits change. That said, each of Smoke Cartel’s recycler rigs are measured to exact specifications and most are sourced from local United States glass artisans.

Still confused about where to start? We recommend our very own, beginner friendly, "Twincycler" Double Chambered Dual Recycler. Whether you are new to dabbing or have been doing it for years, Smoke Cartel offer the highest quality recycler options for your investment.


What is the best vape pen for beginners?

Portable pen vaporizers are trending heavily in today’s tobacco industry. The ease and convenience of pulling out a vape pen appeals to both sexes equally through sleek aesthetics and discrete inhalation. The choices are endless, so which vape pen is right for you?

If you are used to traditional filtered cigarettes, you should realize that vape pens are not the same concept. The biggest difference is that instead of burning any harmful chemicals such as tar, vaporizers heat herbs, plants, oils, and wax. Because nothing is being burned, vaping does not create any harmful second hand smoke thereby making it far more preferable in public.

When looking to buy your first vape pen you may want to consider something flexible that allows you to vaporize different types of substances without changing the tank. Within most of the United States, herbs and plants are going to be the most available for your vape pen, unless you live in select states, then you can gain access to medicinal oils and waxes.

How to buy titanium nails

Universal Titanium Nail for Dabbing

Stop dealing with the taste of butane through a bowl! Add a titanium nail to your smoking system and increase taste levels dramatically. The introduction of a propane torch into your toking habit requires switching to materials that can handle 2000 degree temperatures. The dabbing industry offers a lot of different devices, but as a consumer, safety should always be a priority.

Choosing high quality titanium nails is a must for anyone interested in turning up the heat. Some things to consider are material strength, titanium grade, and purity. Many titanium nail distributers claim to offer medical Grade 2 titanium but that doesn’t necessarily mean it's safe.

Before making a titanium nail purchase, you should understand a few things about how they are made. Let’s put it this way, not all Grade 2 titanium is created equally and much of what comes from overseas is poor quality.

At Smoke Cartel, we source our Grade 2 titanium nail products through a certified American third-party testing service. A specific example of high Grade 2 titanium is found in our DabWorthy Super Universal Domeless 10mm or 14mm or 19mm Titanium Nail for Male or Female Joints. In doing so we guarantee our customers will enjoy high levels of purity and low levels of iron filler ingredients. The less fillers, the longer your titanium nail will stand up to high levels of heat and produce desired dabbing effects.


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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