How to Use a Dab Rig: A Beginner's Guide

Dabbing concentrates is one of the fastest growing cannabis-related trends in recent years. This method of cannabis consumption has become extremely popular because dab rigs are easy to use and produce potent results. 

If you're looking to try dabbing for the first time, here's a beginner's guide that will teach you how the dabbing process works, provide some pointers on finding the best dab rig set up, and how to properly use accessories for your dab rig. Canada has been taken by storm by the concentrate craze. If you want to see what all the fuss is about and start dabbing like a pro, read this guide before your first dab from your new dab rig!

What are Dab Rigs?

Puffco Peak vaporizer

A dab rig is a special pipe used to smoke cannabis concentrates. These days, it's almost becoming more common than smoking the dried herb itself! Dab rigs come in all shapes and sizes, but the most popular ones look like mini versions of water bongs. They range from small handheld pipes to elaborate desktop gadgets.

Once you're ready to try dabbing for yourself, it's important to master how your dab rig (sometimes called an “oil rig”) works first! Starting with the concentrates...

Popular Cannabis Concentrates

person holding cannabis leaf in front of setting sun

Dabs are potent because they're made with pure, unaltered THC instead of plant material which has less concentrated chemicals. Some growers even produce dabs with over 90% THC content! 

A wax concentrate refers to a type of cannabis concentrate, which is made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using various solvents. The solvents used will depend on the extraction method that is being used. There are two common extraction methods for making wax concentrates: 

  • BHO (butane hash oil) 
  • Rosin  

When making BHO for example, a solvent like butane is used to extract the THC from the cannabis plant material. This process can take place at different temperatures, but it's typically done around room temperature, resulting in honey oil or wax. In contrast, rosin refers to a solventless extract that uses heat and pressure instead of butane. 

What is a Dab Nail?

Replacement ceramic dab rig nail for the Dr. Dabber Boost Black

A heated dab nail is the part of the dab rig that turns your cannabis concentrate into tasty vapour. You can distinguish between a dab nail and a banger by looking at the shape. 

Bangers are usually round whereas nails are typically flat on the top. Dab nails are usually made of titanium, quartz or ceramic, however, some dab rigs can be equipped with a domeless nail or an electronic nail.

Titanium nails are a popular choice, as they heat up quickly with the use of a decent torch. A quartz banger nail can also be used, but they take and retain heat more effectively than titanium, so they reach higher temperatures. If using quartz nails, allow more time for cooling and reduce heating time, so it doesn’t get too hot! 

Ceramic nails are ideal for low temperature dabs and better tasting vapor. Ceramic acts as an insulator, so the hot nail never gets too hot, making it easier to dial in your desired temperature. 

What are Carb Caps Used for?

quartz glass carb cap

A carb cap is a small accessory that you place atop the nail of your dab rig. The purpose of it is to provide an extra seal on top of the nail. This helps to prevent any vapor that escapes from the nail from leaking out into the dab rig. It also creates a better tasting experience because it traps more flavor. 

Carb caps are typically placed on top of the nail. Nails come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials that can affect the way they work with your carb cap. When selecting nails for your dab rig, it's important to find one that fits well into its joint or stem so you don't experience any leaks. 

Carb caps are typically made from different types of materials including quartz, ceramic, silicon, or metal. Quartz is a great option because it's not porous and doesn't hold onto any unwanted flavors like other materials might.

The size of carb caps will depend on your preference or which type you decide to purchase in order to fit your dab rig correctly. You can also choose the shape of your carb cap to better suit your needs. 

Dab Rig Cleaning & Maintenance

person using cotton swab to clean their dab rig

It's important to clean your dab rig regularly to prevent the buildup of tar and resin. If you're using a titanium nail, you can use an alcohol-soaked cotton swab or q-tip, or paper towel that has been soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Place the swab over the nail and remove it slowly to suck up any leftover concentrates. 

If you're using a quartz nail, scrubbing with dish soap will work just as well. You can also clean your dab rig with hot water and soap or vinegar if they are made of glass materials. When cleaning with soapy water, be sure not to leave any standing water in your dab rig because it can cause bacterial growth which could ruin your equipment. 

Be sure to clean as often as possible and especially after using any concentrates containing harsh chemicals like butane or other solvents.

Dabbing, Step by Step

Now that you have an understanding of dab rig accessories and cannabis concentrates, let’s take a look at how a dab rig works in practice. 

Add Water

Your first step is to add some water to the water chamber of your dab rig. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve added enough water by blowing into the downstem; if you see the water bubble but it doesn’t splash out of your rig, you’ve got just the right amount. 

Get Your Dab 

Take your dab tool (sometimes called a dab wand) and pick up a small amount of your concentrate. Remember, a little goes a long way! And you can always go back for more dabs, so start small. Set aside the dabber tool. 

Heat Your Dab Rig Nail

Heat up the nail, using your dab torch, until the nail is red hot. After that, let the nail cool until well after it stops glowing, so it reaches the right temperature. The ideal temperature will vary from concentrate to concentrate, and from person to person, but there’s really no wrong way to go about it. It’s all about personal preference! 

Feel free to experiment the first time and you’ll hone the wait time the more you practice. You should always wait at least 10 seconds after the nail stops glowing. If you are someone who prefers low temp dabs, wait an additional 20-30 seconds for the optimal temperature range. 

Place the Dab on the Nail

After your nail has cooled slightly, pick up your wand and place the concentrate around the nail. You’ll want to slowly rub the end of the tool containing the concentrate around the interior edges of the nail. While doing this, pull air through the chamber, making the water bubble as the vapors are produced.

Inhale and Enjoy!

As mentioned earlier, you should always start small with dabs. A little can go a long way! As you use a dab rig more frequently, you will get a better sense of how you handle the hits, but erring on the side of caution is always wise to start. 

Canadian Vaporizers - Everything for Your Ideal Dab Rig Setup

Stundenglass® Gravity Hookah dab rig

Whether you are a dabbing rookie or seasoned veteran, Canadian Vaporizers has all the dab rigs and accessories you need! We carry the top bands in the business, with a wide range of dab rigs, desktop and portable vaporizers, bongs, accessories and snacks. No matter your cannabis preferences, Canadian Vaporizers has got you covered!