How To Dab: What To Know About Smoking Shatter And Wax

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Consumption, Dabbing | 0 comments

Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

A dab rig, e-rig, or dab pen flash-vaporizes concentrates, or dabs, at high temperatures. This guide covers classic dabbing using a dab rig.

Dabbing has a learning curve, so having an experienced dabber explain you how to perform it can be helpful.

Dabbing Essentials

Dabs have 60-90% THC, whereas flower has 15-25%.
Dabbing at too high a temperature will scorch terpenes and cause choking.
Avoid hot nails—they’re far hotter than bowls or lighters.

A dab rig?

Dabbing is done with a water pipe. Unlike a bong, a dab rig contains a nail for concentrates instead of a bowl for flower.

A banger, shaped like a bucket and made of quartz or borosilicate, is a popular nail style. Nails include terp slurpers. Vaporizing dabs requires 400-600°F nails.

How does dabbing work?

Dab rig nails are heated with a torch then cooled to the right temperature to take a dab. Extreme heat vaporizes cannabis concentrate in the nail. The dabber inhales through a carb cap on the nail.

The nail’s vapor enters the rig’s main chamber and is cooled by water before reaching the dabber’s lungs.

Setup for dabbing shatter and wax
To inhale a concentration, torch-dabbing requires numerous devices. Traditional dab setups require the following components.


A dab rig’s nail vaporizes concentrates like a bong’s bowl. Quartz bangers—bucket-shaped nails—are standard. Quartz, borosilicate, ceramic, or titanium nails can handle extreme temperatures.

You need a 14mm nail for a 14mm dab rig stem. Male nails are needed for female rigs and vice versa.

E-nails, or electric nails, heat a dab rig without a torch.

Carb cap

After dropping a dab onto a hot nail, a carb cap regulates airflow when inhaling. Like a bong bowl, a carp cap lets you cover or expose the nail when inhaling a dab.

A carb cap is used to touch the nail during dabbing because it’s too hot to touch.

Carb caps regulate airflow and are recommended. Combination carb cap/dab tools reduce dab gear.


Many people heat nails with a crème brûlée torch or other culinary torch. Butane cans are required.

E-nails give steady heat without a torch, but they cost.

Dab tool/dabber

All dabs are sticky, therefore you need a tool to get them out of their containers and into the heated nail without making a mess. To avoid touching the hot nail, don’t drop a dab.

Scoop, spatula, pick, shovel, blade, paddle, and others are dab tools. Runny dabs need a scoop, while thicker ones need a paddle.

Optional dab mat and timer

A dab pad under your rig or dab container can keep your dabbing area clean as dabs are sticky. It’s optional but good.

Dabbers utilize dab timers to acquire the right temperature and keep the nail heated (see below). Some dabbers don’t use timers because they feel the right temperature.

Making dabs

Before dabbing, remember that solvent concentrates like shatter, wax, crumble, honey, jelly, and more are manufactured using butane. These concentrates can only be manufactured by licensed technicians with the right equipment.

Only a legal market technician can remove solvents from an extraction to make it safe to eat. Incorrect solvent extraction might cause explosions or toxic gases.

However, cannabis flower and simple household gear can be used to make solvent-free dabs.

Dabbing weed using a dab rig

Dabbing requires temperature. A heated nail will sear terpenes, ruin flavor, and cause a coughing fit. Heat the nail hotter than you want, let it cool to the right temperature, and then dab.

Start dabbing after setting up your rig and preparing your dab on a dab tool. If you’ve never dabbed, sit down.

Step 1: Light the torch and aim it towards the nail’s base. Most individuals heat the nail to red-hot.
Turn off the torch when the nail is heated. Quartz nails should cool 45-60 seconds and titanium nails 10 seconds. A timer can help.
Step 3: With the right temperature, apply the dab to the nail with your dab tool and inhale carefully. Rotate the dab tool in the nail to remove all concentrate.
Step 4: Cover and uncover the nail with a carb cap while inhaling to adjust airflow. Cap dabs.
Step 5: Relax!

Dosing dabs

Measuring a dab is hard. A shatter sliver may have more THC than a sugar scoop. Most solvent dabs are 60-90% THC, with some exceeding 90%, whereas solventless concentrates may be below 50%.

Start slowly and increase the dose if you feel comfortable with a new dab or concentration. Small doses are somewhat larger than crumbs or slivers. That’s a lot of THC going straight into your body.

What size dab is best?

Concentrate packaging must list THC and CBD potency in percentages in legal markets.

One gram of hash—about the size of your thumbnail—with 80% complete THC contains 800 mg of THC.

Each of the eight equal sections of that gram of hash will have 100 milligrams of THC. Edibles start at 5-10 mg.

To create a 25 mg dab, split one of those eight chunks into fourths or divide the full one gram of hash into 32 equal parts. Again, one 25mg dab of 80% THC hash is around the size of a few grains of rice.

A dab the size of a few grains of rice has 25 mg of THC, while one numerous grains of rice has 50 mg.

A 25 mg dab with 90% THC requires only a few grains of rice. To avoid overdabbing, check the label for potency.

Start dabbing tiny

Like edibles, dabbing should begin slowly. Take a small dab—you can always take more.

Each person’s endocannabinoid system reacts differently to cannabis. A small dab may be good for your pal but too much for you.

Dab temperature control

Torch-dabbing temperature can be checked and controlled in several ways:

Timer Experience
IR thermometer
Many dabbers use timers. Before applying the dab, burn the nail for 30 seconds and let it cool for 60 seconds. This is an approximate estimate, so experiment to discover your favorite timing.

Some dabbers use their hands to feel a heated nail. This takes practice and is less accurate than a timer.

To execute this, heat the nail with a torch until it’s barely blazing red—about 30 seconds—prepare your dab, and then hold your palm at least 6″ away from the cooling nail. After the nail cools, dab it. Again, experiment to find the sweet spot.

Infrared dab temperature guns monitor heat with sensors or lasers. Heat your nail, prepare your dab, and aim the gun at the cooling nail. You can add the dab at the right time by checking the temperature.

E-nails and e-rigs are the easiest way to control heat without a torch.

Cleaning dab nails

Nails accumulate carbon, recovered oil, and particles. Many dabbers clean the nail after each strike, but it should be done at the end of each session. Best nail cleaning methods:

Q-Tips. Use a Q-Tip to remove excess oil after each dab. To remove little char, wipe an end with isopropyl alcohol.
Torch. To remove carbon and reclaim, flame your nail without concentration. Let your nail cool before scraping.
Scrape. Use a sharp dabber to carefully scrape nail buildup. Avoid breaking glass.
Wash. Wipe or scrape the nail after 10 minutes in 91% isopropyl alcohol.

Cold-start dabbing

Cold-start, “reverse,” or “dabbing cold” maintains terpenes and tastes better than hot dabbing. It’s low-temp dabbing.

Cold-start dabbing involves placing a dab in a cold nail before heating. A lower melting temperature than traditional dabbing gives the dabber a more delicious and terpene-rich hit.

Cold-start dabbing is fantastic since it doesn’t require as much nail cooling after each strike.

Cold dabbing preserves hardware better than regular dabbing. Less heat reduces nail breaking and buildup.

Cold-start and low-temp dabs leave char, residue, and oil since they don’t vaporize the entire dab in a nail. To start your next dab on a clean surface and get the complete flavor profile, remove and discard all of these.

Cold-start dab

Cold-start dabbing is simpler and safer. Cold-start dab:

Step 1: Load a dab into a clean nail.
Carb cap the nail.
Step 3: Light your torch and slowly heat the bottom of the nail with the flame several inches away until the dab bubbles and turns into a vapor—usually less than 10 seconds.
Step 4: Turn off the torch and inhale while spinning the cap for convection.
Step 5: Relax!

Dabs without a rig

There are several ways to dab without a dab rig.

If you don’t have a dab rig or don’t want to buy one, here’s how you dab without one:

Concentrates on flower bowls
Twax a joint (roll dabs).
Dab or e-rig
Nectar collector
Concentrate edibles.
Use hot knives like nails.
Use healthstones

Enrico Bratta

Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like…

Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.