Understanding How Dab Rigs Work

You’ve got some waxy concentrate and ready to go… but you’re still asking yourself, what is a dab rig? Dab rigs are water pipes designed to use cannabis concentrates like dabs and wax instead of dry flower. Because these rigs hold vapor rather than smoke, they must be smaller and have less internal surface area for vapor to attach to.

Essentially, bongs are designed to cool down the super-heated vapor produced by the rig’s nail. Dabbing marijuana extracts is like drinking straight shots of Everclear, if smoking cannabis is like sipping a beer.

However, some long-term users require greater THC dosages to feel the effects. Many medical patients find that using a dab provides immediate relief from headaches, stomach pains, menstrual cramps, and nausea.

Three unique dab rigs with quartz bangers attached.

The Anatomy of a Dab Rig

Dabbing may appear new or confusing to many cannabis users. Although a dab rig resembles a bong, there are some key distinctions. Let’s start with the basics to familiarize ourselves with the device:

Nail or Banger

Your dab rig’s business end is called the nail or banger. This portion is heated with a torch or an electric heat source to vaporize your concentrates. Nails are usually constructed from quartz or titanium and are composed of a long thin piece of metal or quartz that can withstand repeated heating.

Glass Dome

Although not all nails come with a dome, novices may wish to invest in one. When the nail warms up, this piece protects your hand from extremely high temperatures. Once the nail is heated, this component goes over the top of it. It also aids in the prevention of any vapor loss that may occur.


As you inhale, the vapor from the heated concentrate travels through the water-filled chamber and up the mouthpiece. The water then filters out the toxins and resin while also acting as a cooling surface to give your lungs a smoother rip. Some dab rigs include one or more filters built inside the chamber.

A dab rig’s chamber is intended to retain far less water than a bong’s. As a result, consider the diffusion and water chamber as two separate components that operate together to filter and cool the vaporized concentrate in your dab rig.


When you put your mouth on the rig, you establish a seal. The water in the chamber will bubble as the inhaled air is replenished through the downstem, bringing the vapor with it. If you’ve ever used a bong, you’ll be more than familiar with this.

Dab Tool

A dab tool is a piece of specialized equipment for loading and manipulating concentrates. Although it may appear to be a minor component of a dab rig, this is a crucial device that brings your concentrates to the heated banger or dab, making it an in disposable item when it’s time to dab.

Metal dab tool with some waxy concentrate on the end.


You’ll need a powerful torch to get things going. As you insert your dab into the nail, make sure it’s nice and hot! Your dab will melt to the touch as a result of this. Unlike bongs, where the buds are lit, dab rigs need you to heat the nail or banger. This prevents the dabs from becoming burned and generating a harsh flavor. Typically, these are butane or propane torches. Some smaller torch lighters can also do the job.

Electronic Nail A.K.A. eNail

We can now smoke dabs with considerably less effort, thanks to modern technology. The electric nail, for example, is a very helpful tool that automatically warms the nail without the need for a lighter.

After being connected to a power outlet, electronic nails use an electrical heating element to bring the nail up to temperature. Once you’ve plugged it in, turn it on, and wait for it to heat up enough to take a tasty dab.

It may also make dabbing a lot easier, especially for beginners who aren’t familiar with the timing of the process.

Carb Cap

A carb cap is a device that may be utilized during dabbing. When it comes to dabbing, they’re ignored way too often, but they’re an absolute must when it comes to taking low-temp dabs. They have the appearance of a cap, as the name indicates. Carb caps are available in a variety of various styles, but the fundamentals stay the same.

Rainbow colored carb cap used for controlling the airflow of dabs.

How to Use a Dab Rig

It may take some time and practice if you’re new to dab rigs. It’s a great method to consume cannabis concentrates and use them to their fullest capacity after you’ve mastered the processes required. So, until you’ve mastered the complete procedure, make sure to refer to the following steps:

Step 1

Newcomers to the world of concentrates may question if they need to add water to their dab setup? An unequivocal yes is the answer. Fill the base of your device with enough water to submerge the downstem before doing anything else. This water, like a bong, will assist in chilling and filtering the vapor that comes from your dabs.

Step 2

Warm up the nail with your flame. If you’re using a quartz nail for the first time, warm it up until it glows red. This will guarantee that any tiny particles on the nail are burnt away and that you start with the hottest surface possible.

Using a butane torch to heat up the titanium nail of a dab rig.

Step 3

Allow time for the nail to cool. You should let your nail cool down to avoid scorching your dab, which may seem paradoxical. The period of time you should wait is determined by your nail’s thickness and quality.

For the best results, you’ll want to set the temperature to somewhere between 300 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It generally takes 30 to 60 seconds, depending on how hot the nail is heated as well as how thick the nail is.

Step 4

Start by putting the dab on the nail’s surface and slowly inhaling the vapor. Dabs, unlike a conventional dry herb bong rip, need a lengthy, steady inhale since the bulk of the concentrate does not evaporate immediately. Take a long, deep inhale to get the most out of your experience.

Step 5

Place a carb cap on the nail if one is available to help better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will function as an oven, trapping all of the heat within the nail’s chamber, ensuring you get the most out of your concentrate.

Step 6

After you’ve taken your rip, exhale the vapor as soon as possible. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to hold your vapors in before inhaling. All of the active terpenes and cannabinoids are absorbed very efficiently by your lungs.

Exhaling a cloud of vapor after taking a big dab.

Types of Dab Rigs

To put it simply, dab rigs have taken over the cannabis scene in recent years. So much so that it has easily become one of the most desired way to enjoy your cannabis. If you’re a seasoned cannabis smoker and interested in getting your feet wet in the dab scene, picking the optimal rig is your number one priority.

Although they are similar to water pipes, they are much more complicated and, for good reason. Dabbing not only gets you really high, but it also tastes great and the effects hit you almost immediately. When it comes time to purchase a rig, it can be quite the daunting process with the multitude of options available.

We’ve gone over the different types of dab rigs to better help you decide which one is best for you and your personal wants and needs.

Traditional Rigs

These rigs are extremely popular, since they are both functional and fashionable. Water filtering will aid in the delivery of pleasant, smooth hits. It may fit comfortably in your hand or be more suited to sitting on a table while you use it, depending on the size.

This classic style dab rig is manufactured by a variety of glass artists, providing you a wide range of possibilities at varying pricing points. Because of the competition among glass blowers, these rigs are quite economical.

Are you someone who’s just getting their feet wet in the dab game and want a great all-around setup? Then this is the type of rig you want to go with. The size of these is their one disadvantage. Especially if you’re someone who is looking to take their rig with them out on the town. If that’s the case, then this rig isn’t for you. But don’t fret, we have many other options available for you to choose from.

Mini Rigs

If you are someone who enjoys functionality and mobility when it comes to your smoking devices, mini dab rigs might be just what you’re looking for. These bad boys deliver a big punch without compromising smoothness for portability. More curves in the design for cooling and extra percolators for filtering are common features in these smaller designs.

You might be pondering, “Why should I consider purchasing a mini rig?” There are two major benefits. The fact that it is portable is the first one. If you want a setup that you can easily take out on the town or on vacation, these are excellent.

The second benefit is in terms of flavor. Many smokers prefer a smaller rig because the terpene flavors are preserved much better.

The one downside is that they can only hold so much water when compared to their larger counterparts. In turn, the vapor gets much hotter and your throat will definitely take notice.

Recycler Rigs

Recycler dab rigs derive their name from the fact that water is circulated (recycled) between two chambers. They’re essentially a scientific experiment in which you can take dabs.

Recycler dab rig with purple glass and primary color accents.

They have percolators built right in to help filter out toxins and such more effectively. The smoke is recycled via two or more chambers. This gives the user a more consistent rip. They also have a distinct look that contributes heavily to their popularity.

The popularity of these rigs can be attributed to two factors. The recycling feature, for starters, provides excellent water filtering and gives exceptionally smooth hits. The second reason is because they look freaking awesome. Even when not in use, they resemble some amazing art piece. Especially when they’re in use with water flowing around, it’s just a treat to behold.

Silicone Rigs

If price is a contributing factor when it comes to purchasing a dab rig, then silicone rigs may be your best bet. Most are compatible with glass and quartz attachments, and some may even be disassembled for cleaning and easy travel.

Silicone rigs are ideal for smokers who are prone to mishaps. It’s virtually impossible to shatter one of these due to the flexibility of the material. They’re practically unbreakable, and they’re also extremely simple to clean. This makes them ideal for anyone who’s completely new to the dabbing scene and doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg.

Honey Straws

Honey straws, also known as dab straws or nectar collectors, are unique from the other rigs on this list. Some of these straws include a built-in water chamber, and tube usually manufactured from glass, whereas others do not.

These devices are extremely portable. Not only is the rig itself tiny, but it can also be heated with smaller torches. They’re also quite inexpensive. You definitely want to look into a honey straw if you want to get started with the least amount of money possible.

They do have their downsides, unfortunately. The first is that most straws hold very little water, so you won’t receive the same level of filtration as you would from a regular rig or recycler.

The second disadvantage is that if they are not used properly, concentrates might be lost. All too frequently, newbies will plunge straight in with the honey straw without first inhaling, resulting in a massive plume of smoke. You may mitigate this problem by just using a paltry amount of concentrates at the time on your rip.


We’ve all heard about electronic nails that can be used with a regular dab setup by now. The e-rig is the next step in the evolution of this concept, a flexible dabbing device that can do the job of both an e-nail and a rig.

All the other devices we’ve mentioned will require a heat source to get the nail heated. A torch is the most frequently used tool for this. An e-nail that attaches to your existing rig can also be used. An e-rig, is a battery-powered rig that serves as a one-stop shop for all your needs. You simply press a button and place your dab on the pre-installed nail (atomizer).

This setup is highly portable because it is all in one, however the battery restricts how much it can be utilized. Another disadvantage is that they produce smaller rips than conventional nails. But, if you don’t want to take large rips anyhow, this may be a great option for you.

Puffco Peak electronic dab rig sitting atop a mountain.

How do I Choose the Right Dab Rig for Me?

If you’re into dabbing, you know how important it is to have a rig that you love using. The visual attractiveness of a dab rig, as well as how well or efficiently you can get a dab out of it, are what makes it appealing. Overall, if you’re new to dabbing or want to try it out, picking the appropriate rig is crucial to a good and pleasant session.

Choose A Rig That Is Tailored To your Specific Requirements

Don’t waste money on a rig that doesn’t match your dabbing lifestyle. Whether you dab on the daily or maybe once in a blue moon, make sure you spend your money wisely. Many individuals buy large, costly rigs, but rarely even use them. Then you have those who dab daily, but end up getting a small rig where they have to clean it much too often.

It Isn’t Always About Size

A smaller setup will not detract from your concentrate experience. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. Smaller rigs enable the vapor to cool more quickly and condense into an oily, sticky residue within your piece. Smaller setups are also simpler to store and conceal.

The Nail Is Just As Important As The Rig Itself

Perhaps more importantly, when your nail is heated and reheated, removed and reinstalled, it will be subjected to quite a lot of abuse. As a result, most individuals avoid using glass nails in favor of titanium or quartz. Both nails work just fine, although titanium nails are thought to be more durable and heat up faster. Dabbing nails come in a variety of designs, sizes, and shapes, so you’re sure to find one that works best for you.

A Good Torch Goes A Long Way

Handheld torches are a cross between industrial blow torches and torch lighters seen at convenience stores. Purchasing a high-quality torch is preferable to purchasing a low-cost torch, as the latter will not last as long or get as hot. And when you’re looking to set up the optimal dab, a small investment in a quality torch can be a game-changer.

A handheld butane torch used for dabbing.

Make it Your Own

The amount of time and effort put into these rigs is astounding. There are a plethora of artists and styles to suit every preference. So choose a setup you’ll enjoy looking at, using, and displaying. This is an investment piece, so make sure you get your money’s worth. Choosing a rig isn’t as difficult as it appears. Simply pick one you like and will readily use, and dab away.

Everything You Need to Know about Dab Rigs

Well, that pretty much covers everything that you need to know about dab rigs, from what they are to which style is best for you and everything in between!

If you’re ready to buy your first dab rig or simply add another to your collection, shop the largest online selection of dab rigs at All in One Smoke Shop!

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