Education & Wellness

What is a Dab Rig?

June 25, 2022

If you’re new to the world of dabbing, one of your first questions after “what is a dab?” was probably “what is a dab rig?” It makes sense, as these are two terms you’ll likely hear a lot in the world of cannabis. 

Short answer, a dab rig is a water pipe meant to vaporize cannabis concentrates. That’s what it breaks down to, but it’s a little more complicated than your traditional bong for smoking flower

While using a dab rig might seem complicated, really, it’s just a few different parts and a slightly different process compared to using a bong. For most, dabbing is a “less is more” option, allowing them to get the desired effect with less time and effort.  

What is a Dab Rig Used For? 

For those who jumped on the dab scene early, before dab pens and electric nails, a traditional dab rig was the only way to consume concentrates. Wax in its various forms can be smoked by mixing it into a bowl or joint, however this isn’t an option for all concentrates. Besides, the full experience comes from dabbing. 

Dabbing itself is the process of vaporizing cannabis concentrates like shatter, budder, or crumble. There is more than one way to go about this, including with a dab pen or a nectar collector as suitable options. Though, the original and most popular way to dab is with a rig. 

a glass clear dab rig with an orange mouthpiece and base, on a wooden plate
Some dab rigs look very similar to straight tube bongs, while some have more intricate chambers.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rigs come in many sizes and types, just like bongs. Some have multiple chambers and interchangeable pieces – like with any glass piece for consuming cannabis, it depends on how intricate you want to get. You can get a small and simple dab rig without spending too much cash. The more you’re willing to spend, the more options become available. Some dab rigs have multiple chambers, while others work as a bong that converts back and forth between flower and concentrates by switching out the pieces that have the bowl or banger on the end. 

Dabbing requires a few different attachments and tools to get the job done, so let’s get into it. 

What Are the Pieces of a Dab Rig?

Dab rig. Banger. Dab tool. Torch. What are all these pieces? And how do they work together?

Base

close up image of the base of a dab rig filled with water, with carb caps laying next to it
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

First, let’s start with your base – which could be anything from your standard water pipe or bubbler to a multiple chamber recycler. The base/chamber holds water and has a similar purpose to a bong. The vapour from the dabs is cooled by the water before it’s brought to the mouthpiece. 

The additional chambers are meant to further filter and cool the smoke or vapours for a smoother inhale, which is nice, but not necessary for a good dabbing experience. 

Downstem

base and downstem of a dab rig

This piece is typically fixed in place and pointed upright and away from the rest of the piece. This may also be called a ground joint. The downstem holds the rest of the dab rig together, connecting to the base and also holding the nail or banger. When you inhale to do a dab, the downstem pulls the smoke into the water chamber and causes it to bubble up. 

Banger

a glass banger attached to a pink dab rig
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The banger or nail is essential for the act of dabbing itself — it’s how you heat the concentrates to create vapour. A nail somewhat resembles a construction nail with a cupped rim and a tube down the centre and is often made of titanium or ceramic, while a banger usually is made of quartz and is more of a bucket shape. 

Dabber/Dab Tool 

a metal dab tool with a chunk of orange yellow cannabis wax on it
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The dabber (a.k.a. dab tool or dab wand) is a small tool, typically made from titanium or quartz, used for scooping up a bit of wax and loading it onto your banger to inhale and “dab” your wax. 

Carb Cap

two carb caps, one clear and one brown-ish orange
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Another piece most dabbers use is a carb cap. When you put it on top of the banger, it will contain the heat and restrict airflow, increasing the amount of vapour produced. 

E-nail

Some people also use their rig with an e-nail which provides more temperature control, and is safer than heating a regular nail or banger since you don’t need to bother with a torch. Electric rigs, or e-rigs, are also a great option if you find that using a torch isn’t for you. 

How Do You Use a Dab Rig? 

You should have your wax ready to go before you start heating the banger or nail. Once you have a small amount of wax on the end of your dabber, you can use your butane torch to heat the banger or nail. 

You’ll want to heat the nail or banger until it is red-hot and let it cool for around 30 seconds or so – this is the perfect time to grab your dab tool with concentrate ready to go.  

Drop the wax onto the nail or into the banger. Some people like to swirl the wand, but as long as you’ve got all the wax off the tool that’s what matters. 

a chunk of cannabis wax loaded into a banger using a titanium dab tool
Apply the concentrate directly onto the nail or banger using your dab tool. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Inhale as the wax begins to disappear and the vapour begins to fill the chamber. To get more out of each dab, now would be the time to put the carb cap on to keep the wax vaporizing as the banger cools down. 

It’s important to be extra careful with dab rigs because of how hot they need to be to vaporize the concentrate. Once you get the process down, dab rigs are certainly one of the most effective and efficient ways to consume concentrates. 

When you’re done, simply run a cotton swab through the banger or across the nail before it fully cools to clean it. You can also use a q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean it, just be sure to follow it up with a dry q-tip to soak up any remaining alcohol and you’re good to go for your next dab. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a Dab Rig Different From a Bong?

A dab rig is different from a bong as it’s meant specifically for use of cannabis extracts like wax and shatter. Rather than smoking, you’re vaporizing with a dab rig. The key difference visually will be the quartz banger or nail where you would normally see a bowl for ground flower. 

Should You Buy a Dab Rig?

If you’re someone who likes cannabis concentrates, there are few downsides to buying a dab rig even if it’s something small and simple. In fact, with a dab rig often less is more and smaller is better. However, if you’re looking for something more discrete and easier to keep put up, you may want to consider a dab pen or nectar collector. 

Are Dabs and Extracts the Same Thing?

Dabs refers to cannabis concentrates like wax (shatter, budder, crumble, etc.) which are a form of weed extracts. However, not all weed extracts would be considered dabs, as is the case with RSO (Rick Simpson Oil), THC oil, or isolates to name a few examples.