How to Use a Dab Rig

Imagine being able to consume an entire joint in one puff. That’s about what a dab of cannabis concentrate is like.

Concentrates, or “dabs,” are a product that is created by extracting THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids from raw plant material and creating a variety of consistencies that can be vaporized using a dab rig, a water pipe designed specifically for concentrate consumption.

This article will inform you on:

  • What a dab rig is
  • Essential dab vocabulary
  • Required materials
  • Step-by-step guide to using dabs
  • The benefits of cannabis concentrates compared to other forms of consumption
  • Precautions for consuming concentrates

If you still need more information, one of our Hosts can walk you through the steps for using a dab rig.

What is a Dab Rig?

A dab rig is a device, typically glass, designed for cannabis concentrates, as opposed to cannabis flower. There are a variety of styles of dab rigs, ranging from simple “dab straws” (a tube of glass or quartz, heated at one end to smoke concentrates with) to electronic dab rigs. Most dab rigs have a main “rig” and an attachment known as a “nail.”

Essential dab vocabulary

To use a dab, you’ll need the following materials. Here are the required materials for using a dab rig, with definitions:

Dab rig: A pipe or device used for consuming cannabis concentrates. Dab rigs are readily available at local head shops, smoke shops, and dispensaries, including all Happy Valley locations. Prices generally range from $30 on the low end to $740 on the high end, but can be as high as $100k. High end dab rigs are referred to as “heady glass.”

Nail: A heating element attached to a dab rig that consists of glass, quartz, titanium, or ceramic. Nails can be heated to extreme temperatures as high as 800 ℉.  Some nails, also referred to as “bangers,” are included or attached when you buy a dab rig. Arguably, quartz nails provide the best dab experience when used properly because they don’t crack under heat (or thermal pressure) the way glass does, and they provide better flavor for most concentrates. Titanium nails are recommended  for optimal use for hash or solventless products.

Electronic Nail: A heating element powered by electric current that serves as an alternative to traditional torched nails. Electronic nails consist of a controller box that drives the flow of electricity to a coil, which heats the nail. These nails offer butane-free heating with precise temperature control, but generally cost more than traditional nails.

Dabber: The tool you’ll use to “serve” your dab. These often look like small shovels or are reminiscent of woodcarving or dentistry tools. The idea is that the tool will take your dab from its container to the heated nail without you having to burn your fingers. Dabbers are generally made of stainless steel or glass.

Dab: A dose of cannabis concentrate about the size of half a grain of rice. These are usually marked as live resin, cured sugar, shatter, rosin, or similar names. A dab can be waxy, sticky, or brittle in consistency. Talk with your budtender about what options may be best for your needs and preferences.

Carb Cap: A carb cap is used to cover your dab while it vaporizes. This is like the lid of a skillet on the stove; the lid heats the overall temperature, allowing more of your material to vaporize without losing those vapors to the surrounding air.

Q-Tips: These common medicine chest tools are excellent for removing any leftover concentrates from your nail when you finish dabbing, keeping it clean with isopropyl alcohol for future use.

Torch: If you are using a traditional nail, a blowtorch or heat gun of some kind will be needed to heat your nail to the desired temperature. Lighters are insufficient for this purpose because they don’t get hot enough to properly heat the nail, and you need to keep the flame on the nail continuously for 30 seconds to a minute to bring it to the right temperature.

If you are using an electronic nail, this will need to be properly connected to the rig and turned on for use.

How a Dab Rig Works

Dab rigs are used to vaporize your cannabis concentrates without the need for combustion, or directly applying flame to your product. By heating up your nail for a specified amount of time, you create a hot surface that turns your concentrate into a vapor full of cannabinoids when placed upon it. As you inhale, that vapor is drawn through your dab rig of choice, usually through a water chamber, and inhaled into your lungs as you would a typical hit of cannabis flower from a water pipe.

Step-By-Step Procedure for Dabbing

Though technique varies with equipment, the fundamentals of dabbing remain constant. Here is the step-by-step procedure for dabbing cannabis concentrates:

1. Make sure your nail is secured to your dab rig

An essential part of using a dab rig is preparation, and securing the nail to your rig is absolutely crucial. If your dab rig is not properly secured, you may be subjecting yourself to a world of pain. Before the nail is heated, ensure the nail is fastened to your rig without a hint of wobble.

2. Turn on the torch and heat the nail

Using your torch or heating element, uniformly heat your nail. Apply the flame of the torch directly to the nail Generally, you can heat your nail for 20-30 seconds, depending on the thickness of the nail and the power of your torch. You may notice a reddish glow to the hot nail when it is fully heated.

3. Let the nail cool

Allow the nail to cool, letting the heat disperse throughout the nail. A good rule of thumb is to let your nail cool for at least twice as long as you heated it. The nail will retain much of the heat of the torch even minutes after heating, so keep the nail away from your bare skin to avoid burns.

Low temperature dabs are higher in flavor and less harsh on the lungs.

4. Use the dabber to apply the dab to the nail

Place your dab on the nail using your dabber, inside the dome. If the nail was heated properly, the dab will evaporate very quickly. Pivot the tip of the dabber until all of the oil has evaporated.

5. Cover with the carb cab and inhale

Slowly and calmly inhale the dab. Be careful not to inhale (or exhale) too quickly, or you might irritate your throat and lungs.  If you cough in response, this may be a sign that the nail temperature was too high before you applied the dab. When the dab is at the right temperature, there should be no coughing.

You may start to experience the effects of the dab within seconds of exhalation.

6. Clean the nail

Once finished inhaling, Q-tip the nail to remove any excess residual concentrate from the nail.

Dab Rigs vs. Traditional Joints or Pipes

First and foremost, dabs are much more potent than traditional cannabis flower. While cannabis flower may offer 10-30% THC content, concentrates often offer 50%+. This means that you only need a small amount to feel the same effects as you would after multiple puffs off of a joint or pipe. Additionally, the convenience of not having to worry about smoke, ashes, and a stinky pipe or roach after smoking makes dab rigs an appealing option, especially if you are using an electronic dab rig.

Precautions of Dabbing

Dabbing is among the most potent forms of cannabis consumption and should be treated with respect and caution. Start with small, pin-sized dabs and gradually adjust your dab size to your needs. You can always take a second dab.

When you consume too much cannabis concentrate

You cannot overdose on cannabis. In the event of taking too much, stop consuming dabs and allow your body to process the cannabinoids in your system. Lying down, staying hydrated, resting, or taking a shower can help calm you if your dab experience is too intense. Additionally, peppercorns and lemon peels are known to help offset the effects of cannabis use. Depending on your dosage, you can expect to feel the acute effects of the dab for one to two hours.

Be careful with your torch and nail

Torches and nails get extremely hot. A nail’s temperature can climb to 900° Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to give you a third-degree burn. Dab torches are designed to produce intense heat, and should be used far away from flammable substances and surfaces. When dealing with torches and high-temperature nails, always err on the side of caution.

If used correctly, a dab rig can be a unique cannabis experience that allows you to conveniently, discreetly consume cannabis in a vaporized form that avoids inhaling ash. Just remember to go slow, and keep your temperatures low, and be very careful with extreme heat.

Connect with Happy Valley for More Information

For more information on cannabis concentrates in Massachusetts, how to consume various cannabis products, connect with Happy Valley today. If you’re looking for limited time pricing on cannabis products, including concentrates, be sure to check out our limited time deals.

Open 7 days a week

East Boston



Mon - Wed 10am - 9pm

Thur - Sun 8am - 9pm

(Early Open Summer Only!)

Are you over 21?