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5 Common Dabbing FAQ’s

Monday April 11, 2016

A lot of people are dabbing, more people are talking about dabbing, and if my suspicion is correct, even more people are wondering what dabbing is in the first place! So, let’s dive into it.

In layman’s terms, dabbing is a quick way to consume cannabis and get really high. Dabs in particular are concentrated forms of cannabis, packed with THC and flavor. They are incredibly potent too. One dab can keep a novice smoker medicated for over an hour or two, easily. Aside from being able to get you high incredibly fast, dabs are also easier on your lungs than smoking a bowl or joint of flower. Because you are vaporizing the concentrate by placing it on a hot nail as opposed to using an open flame, your lungs are spared the butane and other byproducts of combustion which are inhaled when smoking with other consumption methods. This is a major reason why many people prefer dabbing, and why many more are interested in giving it a shot after learning more.

If you’re interested in trying a dab or have done so and want to know more, here are a few things to keep in mind!

What size dab should I take?

The size of the dab you take all depends on how frequently you smoke or consume cannabis in other forms. A frequent smoker, like someone who consumes cannabis multiple times a day, may take slightly larger dabs due to their high tolerance level. In general, individuals will build up a slight tolerance to the THC and other components of the cannabis they’re consuming over time, which will often be compensated with a slightly larger dab. However if you’re a beginner to dabbing, even if you are a frequent smoker, you’ll want to start off with a small sized dab like the size of the head of a thumbtack or smaller. Dabs are entirely different than consuming cannabis in flower form, so it’s best to start small and work your way up as opposed to over doing it your first few times around.

What is a carb cap? Do I need to use one when I’m dabbing?

A carb cap is a small tool used to “cap” or cover an e-nail while dabbing. The idea behind capping the nail is to trap the vapor (after you touch the concentrate to the e-nail) and allow for maximum inhalation. The majority of people who dab would agree that a lot of the vapor from a dab can be lost while inhaling without a carb cap. However, it isn’t always necessary to use a carb cap while dabbing. Although most individuals prefer to dab at lower temperatures, which would require the use of a carb cap, some prefer to take dabs with nails so hot that the risk of lost vapor is low.

How do I know when my nail is the right temperature to take a dab?

As we mentioned, some people prefer their nails to be hot enough that a carb cap isn’t required, while others prefer their nails to be slightly cooler, catering to a milky hit with richer flavor. If you prefer a hot nail, simply heat your nail (no matter the material), until it is red hot and wait about 10 seconds to dab. If you prefer a lower temperature dab, then the amount of time you wait depends on the material of your nail. With titanium nails, heat your nail until it starts to glow, then wait about 15 seconds before dabbing. With quartz nails, it all depends on the thickness of the nail, so trial and error may be your best shot at finding your preferred temperature. Finally, ceramic nails retain heat for a longer amount of time, so make sure the nail cools for 20-30 seconds before you dab!

How should I store dabs?

Try to store dabs similar to how you might store medications — in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. Because of the consistency, some concentrates can melt and make a mess if left in direct sunlight, or in a very warm area in general. Similarly, getting concentrates wet is a bad idea and will result in sizzling on the nail and other issues. Having said this, there are a few options in regards to where to store your dabs. Any container that your concentrates come in from a dispensary are a generally safe option. Small glass jars and parchment paper are also great storage ideas. Finally, silicon containers are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and are a popular option because the product won’t stick to the container, plus it’s easy to clean and smell-proof.

Should I clean my e-nail?

As with any new piece of technology, especially when it comes to consuming marijuana, it is important to keep everything clean in order to extend the lifespan of the product. It’s no different when it comes to the subject of e-nails and dabbing. Be sure to clean your nail after every use (or multiple uses) by torching the excess residue — or in particular sticky situations, by using ISO or rubbing alcohol that you can buy at any convenient store.

Photo Credit: Allie Weedyland

Dabbing is one of the most popular forms of consuming potent doses of marijuana concentrate. A butane blow torch is used in the preparation of inhaling these concentrate extracts.

How to dab cannabis concentrates: oil, shatter, wax, and more

L earning how to smoke dabs may seem daunting at first, but it’ll comes easily once you read about it. To help ensure your first time goes smoothly, this resource will teach you how to take a dab.

Essentially, dabbing is the flash vaporization of cannabis concentrates, once they are applied to a hot surface and inhaled. These concentrates (you’ve maybe heard of shatter, wax, BHO, oil, etc.) are a lot more potent than flower, so a little bit goes a long way.

While bud tends to test between 15-25% THC, concentrates typically range between 50-80% THC, depending on the extract type and quality. You can even dab non-intoxicating CBD extracts for quick therapeutic effects with little to no cerebral euphoria, but in some regions these oils can be difficult to find.

Dabbing isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re new to cannabis entirely. The dosing process is more delicate, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, concentrates can offer you new heights of physical relief and unique cerebral effects. Extracts also contain a lot less plant material than flower, so you’re inhaling more cannabinoids (e.g. THC, CBD) and less combusted resin. Check out our tips for dabbing.

What dab tools are needed?

When learning how to use a dab rig, keep in mind that dabbing technology is evolving. The traditional setup includes the following items:

  • Dab rig. This water pipe is like a bong except it will have a fitting for a nail.
  • Nail. This is like the bowl for your bong and where you will put the concentrate. The standard today is a quartz banger, which has a bucket shape. Ceramic and titanium are other options, and e-nails are becoming more common. Be sure to get the correct joint size, where the nail slides into the dab rig: If your rig has a 14mm stem, you need a 14mm nail. Nails can be male and female as well—you need a male nail for a female rig, and vice versa.
  • Dabber. Use this tool to apply the concentrate to the nail. They can be metal, glass, or ceramic, and have many shapes: ballpoint, needlepoint, scoop, spoon, paddle, etc. Pick a shape depending on the texture and consistency of the concentrate you’re dabbing.
  • Carb cap. Although not necessary, we highly recommend one of these to help regulate airflow. Combination dabber/carb caps are increasingly popular.
  • Torch. Mini-torches used for crème brulee are commonly used, but you’ll have to stock up on propane for them. Again, e-nails are increasingly common (but expensive) and cut out the need for a torch.
  • Cannabis extract. These come in a variety of forms, but the most common ones used for dabbing are shatter, wax, BHO, and solventless extracts like rosin.
  • (Optional):Dab mat. To keep your dabbing surface clean and not sticky.
  • (Optional): Timer. To ensure you heat your nail up consistently dab after dab.

How to dose cannabis oils and concentrates

Measuring a dab can be daunting as well. Different extracts have different THC concentrations, so it’s helpful to know how potent your concentrate is before dabbing it. It’s generally recommended to start small and increase the dose if you feel comfortable doing so.

A small dose is no bigger than a crumb. It may not look like much, but that’s a lot of THC going straight to the dome at once. Dabbing can feel a lot more intense to those accustomed to flower, but as your tolerance adjusts, the effects become less jarring.

Portioning

Legal markets are required to add cannabinoid information on their concentrate packaging. Potency is broken down into a percentage. Most solvent-based hash oils will land in the range of 60-90% total cannabinoids, with a few special examples exceeding 90%. The potency of some solventless concentrates may fall below 50% total cannabinoids.

For example, if you have one gram of hash that contains 80% total THC, that one gram will contain 800mg of total cannabinoids. For reference, the recommended starting dosage for an edible is between 5-10mg. This should be an indicator that dabbing is generally for more experience cannabis consumers. Obtaining a 5mg dab from a piece of hash is difficult.

If you split that gram of hash into eight equal portions, each portion will have 100mg of cannabinoids. It’s easier for the naked eye to split the concentrate into eight pieces than pulling a 25mg dab off of an 800mg slab. For reference, a 25mg dab at the ratio of 80% total THC typically comes in about the size of a couple grains of couscous. This will change depending on the potency of your sample, which is why reading the label is important.

Always start small

Don’t be afraid to take the smallest dab that your tool will allow and use that as a reference point. Micro-dabbing offers many benefits, and you can always take another dab. Find a dab size that works for you.

It’s important to understand that different sizes of dabs—and different ratios of cannabinoids—will affect everyone uniquely. A 25mg dab of THC is not guaranteed to give you the same psychoactive effects as your friend; our endocannabinoid systems all operate differently. The best way to find out what dose works for you is to start small and work your way up.

How do you dab?

Once the rig is set up and your dab is prepared on the dabber, you’re ready to get started. We advise sitting down while taking a dab, since it might be intense.

  • Step 1: Turn on your torch and aim the flame directly at the nail. Most people will heat the nail until it begins turning red hot. If you’re using an electronic nail, refer to the section below for more information on heating.
  • Step 2: Once the nail is hot, turn off your torch. It’s recommended to let quartz nails cool for about 45 seconds (and about 10 seconds for titanium) so the surface temperature isn’t too hot—this is where a timer can come in handy. Check out this article for more tips on how to get the right temperature.
  • Step 3: Apply the dab directly onto the nail with your dabber and begin inhaling slowly. Rotating the dabber tip on the nail can help prevent wasting any oil stuck to the dabber.
  • Step 4: Cover the dab with a carb cap and finish inhaling—a cap will help regulate the airflow. Always cap your dabs.
  • Step 5: Exhale and enjoy!

Safety note: Nails become extremely hot when dabbing. Take caution when handling them, and always wait for all pieces to cool down before you even think of touching them.

How to clean your nail

After a dab, carbon, reclaimed oil, and particulates can build up in the nail. A lot of people will clean their nail after each hit, but you should at least do it at the end of each session. Here are some ways to clean your nail:

  • Torch. The easiest way to clean your dab nail is to heat it with your torch to burn off any residual carbon or reclaim on your nail. When applying this method to ceramic and quartz nails, be careful not to expose your red hot nail to a rapid change in temperature or you may risk a stress fracture. After your nail becomes red hot and the residue dissipates, let it cool down completely before finishing off with a final scrape.
  • Scrape. For minor buildup, use a sharp dabber tool to lightly scrape your nail. Be careful not to chip any glass.
  • Wash. Try soaking your nail in 91% isopropyl alcohol for 10 minutes.

What are e-nails?

The above explains how you take a dab using the common torch-and-nail method, but e-nails are becoming increasing popular.

E-nails, or electronic nails, are significantly more expensive than standard nails, but the investment is often worth it for serious dabbers. They cut out the need for a nail and a torch, which is easily the most dangerous element of dabbing. Furthermore, you will have full control over your nail’s temperature. This is a fantastic feature if you care about making the most out of flavors and terpenes when you dab.

Dabbing technology is constantly improving and expanding, so watch out for the latest trends and products if you’re interested in leveling up your dabbing game!

Patrick Bennett also contributed to this article.

This post was originally published on December 9, 2015. It was most recently updated on June 30, 2020.

First time dabbing? Learn how to safely smoke wax, shatter, and other cannabis concentrates with this step by step guide. ]]>