Everything About Dabbing

November 19, 2020

Nearly a decade ago, when “dabbing” started to become popular, there weren’t a lot of options for consuming cannabis concentrates. Much like Hashish, users tended to get the most substantial effects when applying it directly to a very hot surface and inhaling the vapour. While still effective when rolled into joints, or sprinkled on top of ground-up flower in bong bowls, Hashish and Concentrates like Shatter, Wax and Rosin, are most effective when consumed against a very hot surface and inhaled directly.

Hot Knives

“Hot Knives” is the process of letting the tips of two stainless steel cutlery knives heat-up against a stovetop element. It has been a popular method for consuming hashish for more than three decades. By squishing the two hot knives against a piece of hashish, users would stand directly above the knives and inhale the cannabis vapour. This was much more beneficial than a lighter because of the immediacy of the concentrate turning to vapour. The hot, metallic surface instantly turns the hardened concentrate into a liquid and then a vapour before it has a chance to slide off of the knife. By using small amounts of hashish, or “dabs”, this lessened the chance of waste. When smoked in a joint, there is a greater chance of losing the concentrate as it either falls from the joint when knocking off your ash, or simply vaporizing into the air in between hits.

Hashish, Shatter, Wax & Rosin

As concentrates like Shatter, Wax and Rosin started to become popular ten years ago, Hashish began to drift out of the collective stoners consciousness. This mainly had to do with the fact that the new forms of concentrate, like Shatter and Rosin, tended to have a THC concentration of 80-90%, while Hashish averaged around 40%. For reference, a high quality strain of marijuana can be expected to have anywhere from 20-25% THC.  Lower quality strains can have less than 5% THC.

Another reason for the surging popularity of concentrates like Shatter, Wax and Rosin, was their rich flavour, pungent smells, and golden appearances. While Hashish offered a less smoky and more flavourful experience when compared to dried marijuana buds, it was negligible when compared to the newer breed of concentrates. For the first time, users reported tasting exactly what the dried flower smelled like. No longer was the flavour masked by the smoke of combusting hydrocarbons or infiltrated by the impurities inherent in Hashish. The concentrate actually tasted exactly what the strain smelled like and users were introduced to an entirely new experience.

Torches, Nails and Domes


Domes & Nails


The hot knives approach worked well for decades, but it was still innately rudimentary. The knives that were used tended to permanently stain black from the heat, and it was difficult inhaling the vapour from the knives without some sort of secondary contraption, like the top-half of a 2-litre pop bottle, placed inside the user’s mouth in order to contain the vapour as it steamed off the knives. The science of hot-knifing wasn’t entirely perfect: stainless steel didn’t seem like the healthiest metal to be inhaling off of and the plastic bottle jammed in the user’s mouth didn’t necessarily promote ease-of-use or professionalism.

As Shatter, Wax and Rosin took over the mainstream of cannabis concentrates; newer, more versatile methods of consuming the extracts became prevalent. These newer styles incorporated a water bong into the process, which helped cool the concentrated vapour as well as enabling larger hits. In the beginning, there were a few different versions that required a butane or propane torch and a pivoting metal tray, known as a ‘Swing-Skillet”, but the first benchmark of the evolution of dabbing was the “Nail”.

Referred to as a “Nail” because of its similarities in appearance to an actual carpenter’s nail, this method of inhaling the cannabis concentrates quickly replaced the “Swing-Skillet” style. Used in conjunction with a “Dome” to encapsulate the vapour and direct it downwards into the water bong, the nail style quickly became popular. The user would heat up the tip of the nail with a butane or propane torch until it was red-hot. After waiting for it to cool down a little, the user would place a “dab” of concentrate to the top of the hot nail, vaporizing it instantly downwards into the bong and along the airflow created by the user’s lungs. The dome, placed around the nail immediately after torching and before inhalation, helped contain the vapour to the bong and lessened the chance of it vaporizing into the air.

While an improvement on the “Swing-Skillet” style, the dome-and-nail approach still left a lot to be desired. One major flaw with this approach was that the concentrate had a tendency to drip down the nail and solidify, resulting in wastage and a dirty bong. Larger dabs had trouble vaporizing all at once, and as a result, left hardened, tar-like resin, know as “Reclaim”, all along the nail and glass joint. Something needed to be done to address the wastage.


Domeless Nails


Domeless Nails


The “Domeless Nail” was the logical successor to the dome-and-nail style. This method combined the dome and nail by incorporating a dish around a hole, which led down into the water bong. Now, the user would heat up the domeless nail with a butane or propane torch and when ready, easily drop the concentrate into the dish without worrying too much about wastage. The hot dish would vaporize the concentrate and the hole in the centre of the dish would draw the vapour into the bong along the airflow created by the user inhaling. The nail itself also experienced a profound change in design, evolving into something that looked much more like a bolt than a nail. However, the term “nail” was firmly engrained into the cannabis lexicon and the name stuck, and hence the “domeless nail” came into existence.

Another trend that began with the dome-and-nail style and continued into the domeless nail method was using different materials for nails. While Quartz nails had become the norm with the domed style, nails made out of titanium and ceramic were also popular. Users seemed to prefer one to the other in terms of taste and flavour, but it was entirely subjective. Just as important, was the durability and changeability of the nail. The quartz was obviously the most fragile of the three, while titanium was certainly the strongest.

Another benefit of the titanium and ceramic domeless nails was their ability to be manufactured to transform from male to female and to be able to be used with six different sizes of glass joint. The glass joints refer to the point where the bowl or nail connects with the bong. They tend to come in six sizes: 10mm; 14mm; & 19mm, either male or female. While not all domeless nails had the ability to change, the importance of transforming quickly became clear. The ability to transform allowed the domeless nail to be nearly universal in its usability and the idea of one nail fitting only one size quickly became a thing of the past. If you spent $50 or $60 on a 6-in-1 Titanium or Ceramic Domeless Nail, you would never need another one again.



Carb Caps


A “carb-cap” is the opposite of fanning the flames of a fire. It acts as a carburetor by restricting the outside airflow and enables the user to maximise the efficiency of the concentrate. When applied to the top of your domeless nail, the carb-cap changes the pressure of the bong/rig and as a result, lowers the boiling temperature of the concentrate. While the old school “choke” or “shotgun” on pipes and bongs allowed more airflow when uncovered by your thumb, the carb cab restricts the airflow when covering the domeless nail. This in turn heats up the concentrate and maximizes vaporization.

Carb Caps are usually not much larger than a bottle cap, as most domeless nails have a width, or diameter of 16mm – 20mm. The Carb Cap itself can be made out of titanium, glass, quartz or ceramic, but quartz and titanium are the most common. Most dabber tools come with some type of carb cab on the reverse end, but standalone carb caps are also quite popular. The most efficient carb caps have small allowances for air to pass through. Tiny holes drilled in to the carb cap allow a small amount of air to continue into the domeless nail.

Quartz Bangers/Buckets


Quartz Bangers


One of the more recent evolutions of the nail has been the introduction of the quartz banger; a bucket style nail, which provides an even larger dish than typical domeless nails. Just like its previous incarnations, the quartz banger is used in conjunction with a butane or propane torch, as well as a carb-cap. The banger design veers drastically from the bulky, bolt-like style of the domeless nails and more resembles a basketball net than a carpenter’s nail. Users have tended to adopt this style more and more because of the large dish and it’s ability to contain the concentrate until it has been fully vaporized.

While titanium and ceramic bangers exist, they are rarely used when compared to the quartz version. Many people enjoy the neutral flavour of quartz over the somewhat metallic taste of titanium, while ceramic has the rare tendency to crack under high temperatures. The quartz also allows for transparency, allowing the consumer to visibly see how much is left of his or her dab.