The 6 Essential Dab Tools

dabber tool and concentrate

One of the things that sets humans apart from other animals is their incredible use and evolution of tools. Whether it's been fire, the wheel, the printing press, or the computer, mankind has always found ways to not only survive, but also enjoy life as we do.

In the cannabis space, tools are essential for certain types of consumption. Dabbing, for example, is a type of consumption method that strengthens the overall experience by inhaling concentrated cannabis material — using several dab tools to get a potent product. And there are quite a few — each bring you a step closer to a stronger and concentrated end result, though they can feel a little overwhelming to keep track of at first.

Like many other marijuana products, there are dab tools that are both necessary and optional, especially as factors like preference and style are developed.

Traditional Must-Have Dab Tools

dab nail with shatter

While it might seem a little daunting at first, with several working parts, dabbing and the tools involved get easier after the procedure is learned. Each dab tool — there are about six necessary items — plays a logical role in the process, which gets to be more and more intuitive with each round of practice.

  1. Dab Rig

Before anything can be dabbed, a base device is necessary. A dab rig is an essential piece to have — it's a water pipe that has been altered to fit the type of consumption (maybe you've seen an "oil rig," which is also just a water pipe that is used for a different type of concentrate), which, in this case, is a dab.

Dab rigs come in all different shapes and sizes and with different purposes. There are customizable rigs for the type of product that is preferred; for example, there are rigs meant to be used explicitly for shatter, others for wax, and many that are multiuse — perfect for any kind of dabbing. These items come in many varieties and can be personalized based on style and quality — often reflected through price.

While buying a dab rig is often preferred, there are ways to convert regular water pipes for dabbing use, by removing the glass bowl pieces and replacing them with dabbing attachments, for a multi-use glass accessory. Keep in mind, though, that many experienced users prefer to have separate pipes for their concentrates and flower, to avoid any flower and flavor mixing.

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  1. Nail or Banger

Another key dab tool is the nail — an industrial piece of material (such as titanium, quartz, or glass) that is used to apply the concentrate to. A banger, on the other hand, is similar to a nail but comes in the shape of a bucket. After the concentrate is on the nail or banger, it is heated to an extremely high temperature to emit the vapor. So, the nail or banger has to be able to withstand heat on a regular basis.

When picking out a dab nail, there are a few things to remember. First, there's a chance that the material the nail is made from could have an influence over the taste of the concentrate.

Next, while aesthetically pleasing and certainly an option, glass nails might not be the best choice for a regular dabber; because they are heated over and over to dab, there's a high chance of glass shattering, which is inconvenient and can get to be an unnecessary expense. Sturdier materials may be a better choice for this type of heavy-wear consumption. However, for the occasional dabber, glass is a fine option.

E-nails are another option, recommended for more advanced dabbers. Their functionality involves plugging into a power source and heating up that way, which eliminates a step but also has some potential dangers involved, including an extremely hot temperature at all times. Extra safety and discretion are advised with this nail variation.

Regardless of the material used, just be sure to find a nail that fits the dab rig or water pipe's gauge.

  1. Carb Cap

Simply put, the carb cap is the glass hood that is placed around the nail, which trap the vapor and allows it to be inhaled without escaping. There are nails that don’t require carb caps available, but most traditional nails require one as an essential piece.

  1. Torch

Speaking of super-hot materials, torches are the dab tool that make the heat happen. These are pretty much exactly what they sound like: a portable torch that is fueled by butane, which is used to heat up the nail, which then heats up the weed. This tool is what ultimately transforms the concentrate from its original form into an inhalable vapor.

Type-wise, there's some diversity for picking out a torch. Mini-sized ones that are used in the kitchen (think, crème brulee) work just fine, but there are options available that pack a larger punch, are made specifically for dabbing, or are even flameless. Again, you get what you pay for, but low-cost, traditional options still get the job done.

Note: vapor is what should be inhaled, not butane fumes, which are toxic and won't get the desired result of dabbing. It's also a good idea to mix up where on the nail that the torch is applying heat, just to make sure that it lasts for as long as possible.

With the aforementioned e-nails, the torch is eliminated from the list of tools.

  1. Dabber

The dabber is the tool that transfers the concentrate to the nail. Sometimes referred to as a wand, the dabber comes in heat-friendly materials (again, typically titanium). It's an important piece to have, so that fingers or other nearby items don't get burned or hurt.

The most common types of dabber include: the ballpoint dabber, best for breaking up shatter into smaller pieces; needlepoints, great for precision when dealing with solid concentrates; and scoops or spoon-shaped dabbers, which are best used for messier options — live resins, CO2 distillates, and crumbly waxes work well.

  1. Mess Cleanup

There are two dab tools that might be seen as optional but are so vital in keeping the area clean and functional that they should be seen as essential dab tools.

First, a dab rag or mat is key. Either a mat or rag can be placed under the operative area, which will in turn protect whatever space — be it the kitchen or coffee table, counter, couch, you name it — is being used to set the dab rag on top of. The dabbing process can get sticky and oily, and can easily ruin materials of all kinds, if not properly covered.

Second, a silicone jar is also important to have. As you'll find when trying to transfer the concentrate to and from the nail, dabs are sticky. Silicon jars make it easy to remove the dab from the nail with limited struggle, whereas a glass jar is known to be more difficult to scrape everything off, and often leaves pieces behind.

Last but Not Least: Cannabis Extract

jar of cannabis budder

The cannabis extract is without a doubt the most important piece of the dab tool puzzle: it's the product! They come in various forms, but some of the most popular cannabis extracts for dabbing include the likes of shatter, wax, and rosin.

Dabbing does not mix with alcohol-based extracts, so be sure to avoid those products for this particular type of consumption. If you are ever unsure of ingredients or safe extracts to use, be sure to consult a budtender at your local dispensary before attempting your dab at home.

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