How To Make Wax Dabs

Marijuana Dab Shatter Wax Concentrate
Photo by: Mitch M/Shutterstock

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I first encountered wax in 2012, and I remember it because I had never seen someone use a blowtorch to light a bong. It wasn’t a bong; rather, it was a modified waterpipe. It was at this point I realized two things:

  1. This is either a developing segment of the marijuana industry or an existing one I am just being introduced to.
  2. I love concentrates.

As a result, I decided I wanted to learn how to make wax dabs. Not only that, but as I dug around I discovered there exists an array of types, textures, and consistencies of hash products. Therefore, there are a variety of ways to learn how to make wax dabs, including how to make wax dabs without butane or any sort of solvent for that matter.

How to make Wax Dabs

To give you an idea both how old and how new concentrates are, High Times Cannabis Cup began to recognize concentrates as a category in 2012 while hashish has been found in Egyptian mummies dating to 950 b.c.! That being said, to learn how to make wax dabs you should first identify two things:

  1. Are you going to use a solvent?
  2. Where are you going to make it?

Type of Wax

As the category of concentrates continues to leap and bound around the marijuana industry with no signs of slowing, different names, textures, proprietary methods, and the like are being created and refined–just like the concentrates themselves–to better address potency, taste, and safety. It seems like when most people set out to learn how to make wax dabs, let alone hot to make wax dabs without butane or a solvent, they’re doing it for one of these three reasons:

  1. They prefer doing less smoking, making concentrates ideal for a quick high
  2. They require stronger product, which concentrates are known for
  3. They need less volume used with less frequency, so they don’t need to dose as often (possibly saving money)

No matter the reason you have for wanting to learn how to make wax dabs, the pursuit of information to reach that goal would be incomplete if you don’t know the different varieties of wax available in consumer markets currently.

Solvent Free:

  • Bubble hash, or ‘ice wax’: A solvent-free method of concentrating cannabis. If you want to know how to make wax dabs without butane, ice wax boasts similar potency to butane extractions and, when done properly, will maintain a majority of the terpenes (the source of flavors!) profile of the plant matter.
  • Rosin: Rosin is a type of wax that is made by means of heat and pressure. Imagine putting your buds between a hair straightener on high heat and pressing them till an oil, golden amber in color, oozes from the heated (but unburned) nugs. . .now you know how to make rosin. Yes, learning how to make wax dabs of this variety really is as easy as owning both a hair straightener and weed.

Solvent-based Extractions

  • Co2: While under extreme pressure, Co2 acts as both a liquid and a gas allowing the molecule to strip essential oils from plant matter and leave no residual chemical solvents. In this form, Co2 is known as a “supercritical fluid“, and the pressure requirements to put it in this form is one of the reasons Co2 extraction systems are usually so costly. People choose to learn how to make wax dabs without butane of this type usually because Co2 maintains higher levels of terpenes as compared to other extraction methods.
  • Hydrocarbons: Hydrocarbons are chemical combinations that have been used traditionally to strip essential oils from plants and are found in natural gas and crude oil. If you are learning how to make wax dabs, hydrocarbons make up a majority of all extractions available currently.
    • Butane is among the most common solvent used for concentrate extraction. Also known as BHO, for butane hash oil (alternatively, Butane Honey Oil), wax extracted with butane can come in a multitude of textures dependent upon the level of refinement you chose to do.
    • Propane extractions are growing in popularity, as they are said to leave less residual PPM after purge (good for taste and your lungs) and, similar to butane, can be made into a variety of different waxes. Knowing how to make wax dabs without butane sometimes just means using a different hydrocarbon.

It’s important to note that many states either have banned home manufacturing of concentrated cannabis waxes. Many of the solvents used to extract cannabinoids are themselves highly flammable and once you start putting them under pressure, the risk of fire grows exponentially, making explosions possible. Consumers trying DIY concentrates at home are, naturally, not professionals, so the chance of accidents is way higher. Colorado, for instance, has made it a class two felony–placing it in the same category as running a drug lab–to make extractions with hazardous substances such as hydrocarbons without a license.

Where to make your wax

When you decide to learn how to make wax dabs without butane, propane, or Co2, the environment that your extract your cannabinoids in is of less concern, as you aren’t likely to blow anything up with water. Figuring out the best place to practice your concentrate extraction skills is difficult, but at least with solvent-less extractions, learning how to make wax dabs can be safely done at home.

Bubble hash/ Ice wax: This method of making wax involves sifting plant material through several screens, collecting the trichromes that have been separated from the plant matter in ice water and collected in “bubble bags”. Once you collect the ice wax from the bags and sift it, it must dry and be cured. Once finished, this product bubbles when lit or melts fully. I recommend checking out Bubbleman’s World for a vast expanse of information on bubble hash techniques.

Rosin: Rosin is a somewhat new method of extraction. If you want to know how to make wax dabs without butane, this is method allows you to do it just about anywhere you can plug in a hair straightener. Rosin can be somewhat translucent, similar to shatter or snap and pull waxes. You’ll need parchment paper to press between the buds and the hair straightener, as a means of collecting any cannabinoid goodness that oozes out. Many methods such as rosin, while showing how to make wax dabs without butane, may lead to smaller yields from the plant material.

Co2: Unless you have several hundred thousand dollars laying around, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be able to do this at home.

Note: As I have already mentioned, the process of using hydrocarbons to extract the essential oils from the cannabis plant is dangerous and possibly illegal. Check out this archive on hash oil extraction explosions if you want a better look at the possible dangers. With this in mind, hydrocarbon solvent methods are easy to perform but require an attentiveness to detail that feels superfluous, often making it easy to forget just how dangerous the procedure can be.

Butane/ Propane/ Hexane: While hexane is far less common, it can be used similar to both propane and butane. If you’d like to learn how to make wax dabs without butane, I recommend propane or rosin. Today, hydrocarbons are king of concentrate production, and so there is plenty of methods out there to get you to the best yield as safely as possible.

Things You’ll Need

Uncut Marijuana Extraction Tube(s) Butane/ Propane Canister(s)
A medium glass dish A large glass dish Electric Heating Pad
A concentrate container Vacuum Purge Equipment (optional) Parchment Paper


Step 1: Fill the extraction tube with fresh, highly frosty trim or buds but don’t over pack it as this will prevent the butane from being able to drip through the plant matter (flammables under pressure? Un-uh). Place the full extraction tube over the medium glass dish while attaching the butane or propane nozzle to the hole at the top of the tube.

Step 2: Release the hydrocarbon canister in full into the tube and allow it to drip through the tube, over the plant matter and into the glass container. If you are learning how to make wax dabs without butane, you may require an additional apparatus to connect the propane tanks to the extraction tube. Allow around 10 minutes for the solvent to drip through the plant matter.

Step 3: Take the larger glass container and fill it with hot water (not boiling hot). To evaporate the residual butane from the concentrate, there is two steps. First, you take the medium glass container and place it carefully in the larger container filled with hot water. As butane has a boiling point of freezing in Fahrenheit (32 F or 0 C), the warm water under the dish should be enough to cause the butane to evaporate.

Step 4: Turn on the heating pad to no warmer than 120 Fahrenheit. Further purge the residuals by placing the concentrate onto a piece of parchment and warming it. The more translucent, the more free of residuals. Higher temperatures at this stage will affect terpene concentration and flavor.

Earwax, honeycomb, budder, shatter, snap and pull, and live resin are all made using one of these processes and are named after the consistency they maintain afterwards.

by Joey Wells