An Introduction to Dabbing

How to Use a Dab Rig

  1. Add water to the chamber of your dab rig. Do a test pull to make sure you haven’t added too much—if water splashes your mouth pour some out.
  2. Season your quartz or titanium nail. Seasoning your nail prevents minerals and other substances in the nail from leeching out when you take a dab. Heat the nail with your torch until it turns red, coat with concentrate, then place in a bowl of water. Repeat several times before taking your first dab.
  3. Prepare your dab on your dab tool (also known as a dabber or wand). If it’s your first time, start with something the size of a pepper flake. Like the name suggests, a dab will do ya!
  4. Take your blowtorch and apply heat to your nail. You will see a smaller brighter flame, and a more transparent flame surrounding it. The sweet spot for your torch flame is the tip of that smaller flame. Heat the nail until it’s glowing.
  5. Let the nail cool down for about 15-30 seconds. Times will vary depending on your dab rig and personal preferences.
  6. Apply your dab to the nail. Make sure you rub your wand around the interior edges of the nail as you’re applying the concentrate.
  7. Inhale until it has completely melted away and it is no longer producing vapor.
  8. Exhale and repeat the process. Some people may be inclined to hold in their hit, but the only thing that will do is make you cough like heck and cut off oxygen to your brain. Once you’ve exhaled you have finished your dab, and you can enjoy your high! Also, because of the high concentration of terpenes, we recommend you inhale and exhale through the mouth and avoid the nose.
  9. Clean your wand and nail. Melt away any residue on your wand and nail with your hand torch.


The world of cannabis has exploded in the last decade. If you’re anything like me, you probably started your smoking career the same way I did: with some good old flower, and a pipe. There’s a certain nostalgic quality to loading up your grinder, smelling your cannabis as you break it up, and feeling the sticky trichomes as you pack or roll up. Even today, I still take a moment to appreciate the feeling of some sticky buds between my fingers and think about how far we’ve come.


Despite all of this, times change, and so do the needs we have when it comes to what we’re smoking. I remember the first time I saw a dab. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating at first. The product bears no resemblance to the kind green buds we all know and love, and the blowtorch wasn’t doing much to ease my thoughts. But after the first hit, and the initial coughing fit, I knew I was a lifelong fan of this new method of cannabis consumption.


For the uninitiated, a ‘dab’ is slang term for any small amount of cannabis concentrate that is smoked. Cannabis concentrate is exactly what it sounds like: a concentrated form of the cannabis plant. The active compounds in cannabis, otherwise known as cannabinoids, are stripped from the plants using a solvent. Some of the solvents used in this process are butane, propane, or supercritical Co2. At this point, the product is purged of any solvents. Don’t worry! The solvents that are used in concentrate production have to be food or medical grade and are processed using incredibly sophisticated equipment. Once the concentrate passes state approved testing for safety, it is packaged and sent to our store!


The primary appeal of dabbing is its potency compared to cannabis flower. THC levels in flower may only reach the mid-twenties in terms of cannabinoid percentage. Concentrate levels can reach up to 99.9% in total cannabinoids. This leads to a high that is much more intense than the high that flower can produce. Another main benefit is terpene preservation. Terpenes are the oils generated by the cannabis plant that give each strain its unique smell, effect, and flavor profile. Concentrates contain a much higher level of these terpenes, and therefore the taste associated with concentrates is much more flavorful, offering a clear definition between strains. The final benefit to dabbing is that it takes much less to get high with, and sessions are much shorter. This is great for people that lead busy lifestyles who are often on the go!


To take a dab you’re going to need a few things. The most important is your oil rig, which is slang terminology for any small bong used for concentrates. With oil rigs some would say the smaller, the better. A small oil rig allows for greater expansion of the vapor in your lungs, instead of in your piece, which will result in better, smoother hits. The next piece of essential gear is a nail, which is used to vaporize your concentrates. Nails are generally made from one of three materials: glass, quartz, or titanium (occasionally ceramic, as well). Flavor enthusiasts will go for quartz, or glass. I, myself, am too clumsy and prefer titanium. If you’re just getting into it, I wouldn’t stress too hard over it. The next item you’re going to need is a blowtorch, unless you want to invest in a fancy electric nail also known as an e-nail. The torch, for many people, is one of the more difficult tools to acquire. Most headshops will sell a variety of different torches, but as a piece of advice from the author, I purchased my torch at a certain home goods store that specializes in beds, baths, and more (for a price that was much more reasonable), which had the same look and function as more expensive torches. Finally, you will need a dab tool, or a long metal or glass implement that will allow you to place the dab on your nail.

As with anything, there are more advanced techniques to dabbing which we will delve into next time! Until then, you should be all ready to take a fat dab and go enjoy yourself! If you think some of your favorite activities are great after a bong rip, or a joint, you’re going to really enjoy them after a big glob!


By, Educator – Michael Rhode