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by Anna L 16 Mar 2021

What is a Dab? What is Dabbing? How Do I Dab Without Burning My House Down?

house fire

Just want to learn how to dab? You’ve come to the right place. These are all, except maybe the last one, valid questions for first time smokers and even long time smokers that have never taken a dab before. If burning your house down is something you think you may actually do, we highly recommend skipping down to the portion about dab pens. However, for everyone else that is comfortable using a handheld torch, let’s continue.  To clarify, taking dabs is extremely easy and safe however it does require a torch, and approaching fire with caution is always good practice.  


How Are Wax Dabs Made?

Now, what is a dab? Dabs is the concentrated form of marijuana, and is made from left over parts of bud such as shake, stems, and sometimes even out of full buds.  There are several ways to break down the cannabis concentrates and separate them from the rest of the plant, the two most common however are butane and ethanol heating.  The overwhelming majority of concentrates are made using butane, and all the cannabis concentrates mentioned in this article will be BHOs (butane heated oils). The heat is used to separate the Terpenes   and Cannabinoids (more on these in the next section), and leaves very little of anything else behind providing an exceptional high.   


What Kinds of Dabs Are There?

Well we are glad you asked, let's get into it.  There are four types of dabs we want to talk about:


Shatter - Shatter is what most people think of when imagining a dab.  Shatter has a semi-translucent, almost oil-like, appearance.  Shatter gets its name from it’s brittleness, which makes it significantly easier to manipulate into smaller pieces for dabbing. For you old dogs, a little tip: high THCA shatter will be more elastic like putty, while higher THC shatter will be well.  Shattered.

Budder - Budder has, as you may have guessed, a creamier and thicker appearance.  Budder, like all the other concentrates in this list, is a BHO.  The best way, and really only way to hit budder is off a glass dab rig.  But we aren’t quite there yet so stick with us and we’ll get there.  One important distinction: Cannabutter is a stick of butter you get at the grocery store mixed with buds of cannabis to make a base for edibles, budder is what you load into your piece when you want to have a very productive conversation with your ceiling. 

Wax dabbing

Wax - Wax dabs are perhaps the most well known types of dabs.  Similarly to shatter, wax is produced using butane to extract the concentrates.  However, wax is taken a step further to make a more opaque and jumbled substance.  Just look at the pictures.  Wax dabs are much easier to manage however they won't last as long as the other BHOs we have mentioned.  While wax and shatter are very similar concentrates, shatter highs will last longer and be much more intense while wax is a bit less intense.

Live resin -  Ah, and now we have arrived at the end of our list and the lady of the night: live resin.  What makes live resin different from the rest of the concentrates listed?  Live resin is extracted before the weed is allowed to cure.  This means that as soon as the buds are picked they are flash frozen using either dry ice or liquid nitrogen to prevent any of the terpenes from being lost as the weed would naturally dry out.  The frozen buds are extracted using butane still, however this flash freezing process saves about a third of the THC in your cannabis.  That's 33% more good good going down the hatch every time you're smoking live resin. 


How Do I Smoke Dabs and What Do I Need?

Alrighty, school is out and we hope you took notes on the different types of dabs, because now we are going right into how to take a dab.  What you’ll need:


Glass Water Pipe / Dab Rig

best dab rigs

This can be anything from your normal bong to a small dab piece all the way to intricate pieces made specifically for dabbing. Dab rigs will be a bit more expensive, but they are built to maximize dabbing, and you can find a few pieces we recommend here!

 (Check out our Glass Water Pipes by Clicking Here!)


Yes, a torch.  Any handheld butane torch will do, we would recommend against propane torches as they are a bit more than needed and more unwieldy than smaller handheld butane ones.  But do you, I know some of you just want an excuse to play with fire.


Dab Tool

What is a dab tool?  A dab tool in general is any thin, preferably flat, piece of metal that you can use to manipulate your concentrates into smaller pieces.  Personally I have used a small pocket knife for years and it has never failed me.  

(Check out our Dab Tools by Clicking Here!)


Banger/nail/e nail

A banger is just a regular bowl, but for concentrates.  It looks like a coffee cup, except the hand just runs right into the downstream of your piece.  These are usually quartz as you’ll be heating them up to a few hundred degrees when dabbing. A nail is similar to a banger, except they are usually made from metal and shaped specifically for dabbing. They will retain heated longer, and electric e nails will heat themselves and stay at a perfect temperature.

 (Check out our Bangers & Nails by Clicking Here!)

Carb Caps

Carb Cap

This is a small glass piece that will usually come with your banger, and any respectable head shop will always offer you one when you buy a banger.  The purpose of this carb cap, which is usually made from glass or quartz as well, is to cover the top of the banger except for small slivers on the side.  This forces the air to take as much of the wax on the sides of your banger through your piece as possible.  


Good vibes

Essential? No, but highly recommended.


How to Dab, for Real.

I don’t know about you, but after all that I feel like I need a dab just to keep going.  Alright, quick smoke break and then we will keep going.

Alright, everyone all set? Great, let’s start.  So, I recommend getting everything you need out and set up before starting anything.  Unlike regular flower buds, wax is way more expensive and you’ll need to get your wax in the banger while it’s hot to get the full effect.  No wasting concentrates here.  

Dabbing Steps

  1. Set up your banger in your piece.  Make sure that you have the right size, please do not use a banger that either does not fit properly, or is broken.  If you need some motivation not to, I once saw someone use tinfoil to extend their broken banger into their pipe to get it to stay put.  He melted the tinfoil in the downstem ruining his piece, and then the banger fell out and set the couch on fire.  Please.  Just spend the $20 and get a new banger.
  2. Okay, now take your concentrate out and use your dab tool to get a piece about the size of one or two grains of rice.  I know, that sounds small.  But when you deal with wax a little bit goes a long way. Start small, your tolerance will get much higher I promise.
  3. Now the fun part for my pyromaniacs out there, torch time.  *Carefully* turn your torch on and heat the banger.  Pro tip: heat a side and corner of the banger or heat the nail for maximum efficiency.  An easy way to know how much to heat your banger or nail is to let it get red hot where you will be placing your dab, and then let it sit for about 8 to 10 seconds.  Alternatively, if you’re an OG of the game and this is your first time, use the hand method rather than choosing to heat the nail or banger.  Hold your hand near the banger until you only feel the heat from about 2-3 inches away. Remember, when you heat your nail or banger, they are HOT. No touching.
  4. Anyone else feel like this list should be a countdown instead of a count-up?  Well either way, remember that wax you prepped on your tool earlier? Yeah as soon as that banger is ready for party time, take your tool and angle your concentrate towards the side you heated.  Now slowly lower it in there and slide it across the wall of your banger.  It should come right off.  
  5. Finally, put your carb cap on like a little hat for your banger and move it around in circular motions.  Like we said above, you want to open up slivers of air to flow down the walls of your banger to maximize how much of your concentrate vaporizes.  
  6. Wash? No. Rinse? Nah.  Repeat? Hell yeah.  Have fun and be safe, and like we say, have a Dope ass day.  
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