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The Complete Guide to Dab Rigs
Dabbing is a method of vaping extracts or oils. It involves heating the extract to a high temperature, usually with a special water pipe called a dab rig. People who use these pipes are called “dabbers.” The best dab rig products are generally made from glass and come in various designs to suit personal preferences.
Dabbing helps promote proper airflow for maximal vaporization, giving users increased control of their hit. You can use it as an alternative to smoking plant matter, which some users find harsh and unpleasant.
In this complete guide to dab rigs, you’ll learn exactly what you need to enjoy concentrates, how innovative dab rig technology works, and the essential tools you’ll need to get started with this portable, smoother, cooler, and more flavorful method of consuming plant matter.
History of Dabbing
The process of extracting an herb is nothing new, and infusions themselves have been used for thousands of years. Traditional recipes that once lined the shelves in U.S. pharmacies during the 1800s became potent oral medicinals as time progressed.
Although these practices laid a foundation for solvent-based extraction methods, manufacturing products intended for consumption through vaporization first appeared during the Great Depression era.
Through the 1970s, oils became more popular in the U.S., thanks to The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, an organization that introduced oils from Afghanistan.
Today, these concentrates don’t look much different than they did at their inception. That said, they have changed over time.The production of extracts in the U.S. evolved from crude practices like open-blasting to safe, highly-controlled lab methods like the advanced closed-loop extraction system.
Benefits of Dabbing
Smoking flower has been a cultural exercise for thousands of years. For some, the act of rolling up and smoking plant material is enjoyable. However, others find smoking plant material harsh, unpleasant, and overwhelming.
Dabbing is a smoother and more potent alternative to smoking flower — especially for those who don't enjoy the harshness of inhaling smoke. Dab rigs provide smokers with more precise control over what they consume and offer increased potency compared to other consumption methods.
Dabbing is smoother, more flavorful, and easier on the throat than smoking flower. It gives you a very robust terpene profile. On the other hand, flower has its own unique flavors. You'll never get closer to the plant's original flavor profile than you will with the plant matter itself.
However, modern labs today have innovative extraction methods that enable them to preserve terpenes in their oils. This gives high-grade extracts a more potent flavor than they've ever had before.
Dab at Home vs. on the Go
As the dabbing craze continues to grow in popularity, there are more ways than ever to enjoy modern concentrates.
Some people prefer dabbing outdoors because it’s convenient and discreet. Others enjoy dabbing at home because they have more freedom over their environment and choice of device.
Dab pens are the ultimate on-the-go solution. These battery-powered devices provide smokers with the convenience of dabbing in any setting without having to worry about carrying around a torch or heating an expensive rig.
Dab pens are small and lightweight, making them easy to store in pockets. These pens are compact, discreet, and convenient — perfect for a quick vape after work or before a day at the golf course.
However, dab pens have their drawbacks. They are not very powerful, and they don't offer a lot of control. Additionally, the batteries burn through a lot of power. Even the best vape batteries on the market lose their charge after a few sessions. This is problematic because a weak battery vapes your oils inefficiently, causing lots of sticky, wasteful residue.
What Is a Dab Rig/Oil Rig, and What Does That Mean?
Dab rigs are water pipes that allow you to consume your favorite concentrate or oil without using combustion. They're specially made for vaping concentrates like wax, shatter, or rosin since these substances are too oily to smoke like traditional plant matter.
Technically speaking, a dab rig simply refers to a mechanism that enables you to load and vaporize oils through your pipe. The pipe itself is a normal water pipe in its own right. As long as you have a slide piece for dabbing that fits your water pipe, you can use that pipe as a dab rig.
There are a few drawbacks to using standard water pipes as your primary dab rig, though. Namely, the quality of your vapor will not be as pure and flavorful as it could be. You'll also end up wasting more product because you can't control your temperature as accurately, which is far more critical when vaping concentrates than it is when smoking plant matter.
This is why there are water pipes designed explicitly for dabbing, and these are the pipes you're hearing about when you hear your friends talk about their cool new dab rigs.
They differ from traditional water pipes primarily by having smaller chambers and more narrow channels. This promotes a higher-pressure vapor with increased flavor, which is perfect for vaping concentrates. Glass dab rigs are the most popular, especially compared to silicon dab rigs.
How Dab Rigs Work
Dabbing doesn't use combustion, but it still uses fire. You heat an element like titanium or quartz with a blowtorch and add your concentrate to use a dab rig.
This intense heat causes the concentrate to vaporize and release its flavors immediately. It's also what decarboxylates your concentrates so that they achieve their full potency.
Inhaling through the rig draws the vapor through the water to filter and cools off any particulates that might cause lung irritation.
Types of Dab Rigs
Every dab rig is unique, each with its own characteristics and features. They range from just a few inches to a couple of feet in height (although the latter sizes are a bit ridiculous). Dab rigs can feature different designs and internal mechanisms to enhance your vaping sessions.
These are just a few of the different styles of dab rigs you can find.
One thing that separates dab rigs from one another is their airflow style. Airflow refers to how air moves through your pipe and what kinds of draw resistance you experience while vaping.
Here are a few types of dab rigs you might see out there:
Recycler dab rigs come with a chamber that holds water and a separate connected chamber. As you hit your dab rig, water cycles in a loop through both chambers before returning into the reservoir when you exhale. This means the water filtering your vapor is constantly moving through separate areas to keep it as cool and clear as possible.
Recycler rigs typically have a single or double uptake, meaning they can have one or two pathways carrying vapor from the water chamber to the mouthpiece. Single uptake dab rigs are often more compact and affordable, but double uptake dab rigs offer smoother airflow.
An incycler is a recycler rig with the second chamber built inside of the first. They serve the same purpose, but an incycler design enables a more compact shape. However, incyclers are more challenging to clean since it's difficult to access the innermost chambers of the rig. They also require some of the most advanced levels of craftsmanship to produce such a function correctly.
Klein Incycler dab rigs were designed with a "Klein weld" that makes them like hybrids of external and internal recyclers. The cycle doesn't simply loop from top to bottom but also travels through another duct before looping back inside through another side opening. This added pathway reduces splashback, particularly in compact dab rigs.
Fab Egg dab rigs are eye-catching incyclers designed to offer an even smoother and milder sensation. They're great for dabbers who are more sensitive to inhalation.
The Fab Egg rig is perfect for dabbing because the restrictive chambers control water flow and enhance internal pressure. The smooth body shape helps the vapor taste more mild, only releasing pure flavor without any impurities.
Simple vs. Complex Designs
Dab rigs can have a simple or complex design. A simpler model might be made of just two pieces, while more complicated models could require up to five different parts to function properly.
Dab rigs with fewer parts are typically more affordable and user-friendly. However, the more advanced features you read about when shopping for dab rigs make a significant difference in your experience.
For example, a fab egg rig or a double uptake incycler offers you a smoother draw, but they cost more and tend to be more fragile. Note that you won't find any of these unique inner chambers in a silicone dab rig.
There are also dab rigs you can opt for that feature unique, innovative, high quality designs. These rigs are often hand-blown and may be more expensive than other options you might find in a headshop or online marketplace. However, they’re also one of the unique ways to show off your personality through vaping.
MJArsenal is a company that continues to introduce new innovative, high-quality dab rigs, including the Apollo and the Gemini. These dab rig designs are inspired by man's missions to space, demonstrated through its characteristic planetary shapes. The function remains smooth and consistent as expected, thanks to MJArsenal's superior glass dab rig construction.
Why Size Matters When it Comes to Dab Rigs
Terpenes degrade rapidly from overexposure to oxygen. Smaller dab rigs are the way to go for those who want a smoother, more flavorful experience. The smaller water chambers restrict airflow and allow dabbers to taste their concentrates in all of their natural glory.
What You'll Need to Get Started
If you're new to dabs, there are a few essentials that will help make your first time easier and more enjoyable. Dab rig kits provide everything needed for an efficient session: a dabber tool, a quartz or titanium nail, a dome or carb cap, and a convenient carrying case for your rig and accessories.
If you prefer, you can buy each of these pieces individually. Just make sure that the nail, banger, or bucket you select fits the receiver on your dab rig.
What's Included With a Dab Rig?
Glass dab rigs typically come with at least one part — the rig itself — but they usually include at least one slide piece. Usually, dab rigs tend to have a quartz or titanium nail inserted into the female connection of your rig and heat up during use. You might also get a banger or a bucket with your oil rig.
Some specialty or limited edition sets will also include catchers for concentrates or flower. Maybe even nails that match the style and color of the glass dab rig. Don't expect most silicone rigs to come with a carb cap or a dab tool, either. On the other hand, specific dab rigs, like the MJArsenal Mini Jig, have unique features like built-in storage chambers for your concentrates. This feature is more commonly found on a silicone rig, making the Mini Jig mini-rig a rarity among miniature glass dab rigs.
Besides the wax rig, there are a handful of crucial tools you won't be able to dab without. Let’s look at some of the essential and optional components for your ideal dabbing session.
The slide piece that goes into the receiver on your dab rig isn't quite like the bowl found in a traditional water pipe. Instead, a dab rig uses an element that retains super-hot temperatures to vaporize your concentrates on contact instantly—this element is called a banger.
A banger is a deep bucket fused to a stem that connects to your dab rig. This design helps contain messy oils and makes it easier to take large puffs.
The best bangers are made of quartz instead of glass to ensure better heat retention and shock tolerance.
Even in a pinch, there's no effective way to consume concentrates with a traditional bowl piece. You'll need a banger for your dab rig to efficiently and adequately consume oils. Quartz bangers from MJA enhance flavor for a superior experience, especially when compared to titanium or glass nails.
MJ Arsenal developed its own line of quartz bangers for dab rigs featuring a range of weld styles to meet different preferences. For beginners, a fully-fused banger is a durable choice that's easy to use. Learn more about what makes quartz the obvious choice for your dab rig.
It seems counterintuitive, but vaporizing concentrates requires a hotter and more intense flame than smoking plant matter. If the flame is too cool, you'll decarboxylate your product, but you won't release vapors from the oily concentrates. If you apply too hot a flame directly to the concentrates, you'll fry them into oblivion.
This is why it's best to flash-vaporize concentrates on a superheated surface. However, disposable butane lighters and petroleum distillate (lighter fluid) don't generate enough heat from their low-powered flames for this.
You need a pressurized butane torch to heat your nail or banger to the best temperatures for dabbing. Inexpensive, reliable torches built just for dabbing are inexpensive, and butane refills cost just a few dollars while lasting for several fill-ups.
Dab tools are metal rods with flattened ends. You use it to touch your concentrates to the hot surface of your nail or banger, vaporizing them instantly.
These tools are inexpensive, and you can find one in any vape shop. However, it's easy to lose and even easier to get it covered in dirt and lint. That's why it's a great idea to keep your dabber tools in a dab station.
Additional Dab Accessories
Accessories such as carb caps or terp pearls can enhance your dabbing experience, making it more personal and enjoyable. A barebones dab rig will cool your vapor, but these dab rig staples will help you achieve better flavor, dab on the go, keep your dabbing experience safe, customize your temperature settings, and more.
Let’s take a look at the most popular must-have dab accessories from MJArsenal.
A carb cap goes on top of your nail or banger. It helps you to conserve vapor and produce more flavor by restricting airflow during your hits.
Terp pearls are tiny, heat-sensitive beads that can be added to your banger, as seen here.
Terp pearls are an affordable way to enhance your dabbing sessions by amplifying the flavor of your concentrates. These functional accessories can also make your banger look more colorful if you opt for the synthetic ruby designs.
You can also use a carb cap to control the size of your dab hits by either using it as a splash guard or leaving space for extra air when you inhale.
A dab station is a place to store all of your dabbing accessories. It's the best way to ensure that you always have what you need in one easy place.
They're made with flat silicone surfaces that are easy to clean and include dishes for concentrates, racks or cups for dabber tools, and dedicated trays for hot bangers and nails.
Dropdowns are simple devices that extend the heating element further away from your body, making your dabs a little bit safer.
A carrying case is a convenient way to store and transport your rig. It also protects it from knocks, scratches, or spills while you're on the go.
Silicone or Glass Jars
Glass jars are the best material for storing concentrates because they're inert and won't react with your oils. However, glass is fragile and can break if dropped. If you need to travel, silicone containers help protect against bumps or spills while being easy to clean out when necessary.
E-nails and e-rigs are the most advanced tool for dabbing available. They're more expensive and a little trickier to use, but they offer benefits that make them worth it in many cases.
E-nails are electronic dab rigs with a coil around their tip that heats to the temperature you set. That means no more guessing when your nail is ready for dabs or waiting on it to heat up enough — you can even customize your temperature to different settings depending on the concentrates you're dabbing.
You can set your desired temperature with an e-nail, so you don't have to worry about accidentally heating too much or not enough. They're also much safer because you don't have an open flame to worry about, and it's easier to control your dabbing experience with one.
An iso station is a small container where you'll need to soak your terp pearls or other tools after each use. It's built to keep soaked cotton swabs on hand so you can clean the dirty surfaces of your dabbing gear that are too large to submerge.
It's an essential part of proper dabbing that helps keep your equipment clean and ensures it stays in good condition for longer without losing quality.
How to Setup Dab Rigs
Dab rigs can be a bit difficult to work with, but the learning curve is worth it. You'll need to know how to set up your rig correctly to not only have an enjoyable experience but also for safety purposes too.
How Much Water to Use
Use enough water so that the bottom of your downstem is submerged. MJ Arsenal prints recommended water levels on the box of each of our mini dab rigs. You can use this as a guide to make sure you’re getting exactly the right amount of water in your rig.
Depending on your rig, you may need to adjust the amount of water used. If your rig has a percolator, you'll need to use enough water for bubbles to form and help to break down your concentrates.
If you don’t have an MJ Arsenal dab rig, check with the manufacturer to make sure you use the right water level. Or better yet, give one of our mini dab rigs a try!
How to Choose the Right Nail
A huge question for new dabbers can be which nail to use. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but some general advice may help first-time users decide what they want out of their personal experience with nails.
Different connection types and sizes are male or female (depending on connection), with an 8 millimeter, 10 millimeters, or 14-millimeter fitting. Some require additional securing using silicon bands. At MJ Arsenal, we use 10mm connections.
The nail type you choose depends on which dab oil you like best and how much heat your torch can produce, and what kind of accessories (carb caps) one may want to add to their nail.
How to Vape With Your Dab Rig
To make sure that your dab rig does not tip over, find a stable work area. Remember that you will be dealing with hot flames and sticky residues, so put protection on the work surface and get ready for any messes.
Here’s how the process works:
- Prepare your dose by placing some concentrate on the end of your dabber tool. With a few exceptions (like live sand or crumble), most concentrates cling to your tool easily. Set the loaded dab tool aside for later. You can store the rest of your concentrates in a glass or silicone jar.
- To use your dab rig, apply a butane torch and heat the nail or banger until it turns red. Wait 45 seconds (or more depending on the thickness of quartz) after you've removed the torch before touching the bucket again. The heat may not be as intense, but it will still be hot to the touch. Watch your fingers.
- When your timer reaches zero, go ahead and use the end of the dabber to bring your concentrates into contact with the nail or banger on your dab rig. If these concentrates are sticky like budder or wax clumps, just give it a light tap against the side of your bucket to shake them off of the tool.
Your concentrates will flash vaporize upon contact with the nail. Begin inhaling immediately to avoid letting any vapor go to waste. Many individuals prefer to inhale with the carb cap on top of their banger to control airflow. However, this is up to your individual preferences.
Dabbing is a great way to experience the plant and accumulate its active compounds efficiently. Once you’ve finished, set the carb cap aside and let your rig cool down. As the nail is engineered for active use at high temperatures, it retains heat well but only for a short period and cools down somewhat quickly.
Caution: Do not run hot glass dab rigs or quartz bangers under cool water to try and cool them down more quickly. While this is enticing, the sudden temperature shift may permanently harm your equipment or even cause it to shatter.
Reclaimed oil is the leftover wax from previous dabbing sessions that get stuck to oil rigs. This might result from not using enough water or inhaling too hard, or pulling some oil into your dab rig.
The first method is to drain your rig's water and then pick out the little goldish chunks. The bulk of reclaim will be attached to the inside of your dab rig, so there won't be many of these pieces.
The second method of collecting reclaim is to melt it down and recycle it. All you need is a heat source (hair dryers work great) and some wax paper to do this:
- Remove all of the water from your dab rig.
- Make sure it's completely dry (you don't want water in your dabs/reclaim).
- Remove the nail and place the connector/dropdown over the wax paper to protect it from damage.
- With enough heat to liquefy the reclaim, the substance will drop onto the wax paper.
Pros and Cons of Reclaiming Dabs
The idea of recycling your concentrates without waste is appealing, but there are a few advantages and disadvantages to each.
- It’s a free way to dab additional concentrate material
- It’s private and discreet because you can complete the reclaiming process at home.
- You don’t need additional tools to access the leftover pieces
- Dabbing with reclaimed oil may not be as potent as using a fresh concentrate.
- Some people worry that reclaimed oil has impurities or foreign contaminants because of the butane in some extraction methods.
- Some reclaim might be too thick to work with and could cause your concentrate to clog up the dab rig.
- It requires more cleaning afterward because reclaimed oil tends to get thicker and thicker with each use.
Based on this, you can decide if it’s worth it for you to reclaim dab. Keep in mind that most dabbers don’t bother with it, but it’s undoubtedly a great way to get your fix in a pinch if you can’t get to the store to grab fresh dabs.
Cleaning Your Dab Rig
Your dab rig will inevitably get dirty, but this doesn’t mean it should go neglected. Cleaning out any leftover wax and then properly cleaning the glass is essential to enjoying fresh dabs.
If you leave your dab rig sitting out dirty for too long, moist residues trapped inside can begin to mold.
The best way to clean oil rigs after dabbing is by filling the dab rig with hot water, which loosens up residue from oils on the surface of the glass. Every time you take a dab, the residue will build upon your glass, and it can be hard to clean fully if you’re not maintaining it in an ongoing manner.
Cleaning With Alcohol vs. Without Alcohol
While hot water should do the trick for light cleaning, it won't work as well if your dab rig is all caked up with thick chunks of dried oil accumulated over time. In these cases, you can use 90% isopropyl alcohol to help break down these chunks. Leave the alcohol in the dab rig for at least an hour, and then wash it with water before using it again.
You can also use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab to remove residue from the inside of your dab rig by dragging it around. To remove stubborn clogs, consider dipping one in alcohol.
If you don't have any rubbing alcohol handy, you can also add lots of salt to some hot water. This helps to break down the oils, and gently shaking your dab rig around will help the abrasive salt knock chunks free from the inside of the glass.
If you follow MJArsenal’s comprehensive guide to dabbing, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this smoking alternative, including what you’ll need and how to do it safely.Those who want to get started right away can opt for our special bundle packs. Perfect for for beginners and aficionados alike, MJArsenal bundle packs allow users to get all they need in one place — including tools like torches, nails, and silicone containers for storage. Learn more about dabbing accessories, tips, and tricks at MJArsenal today.