How Does a Bong Work? A Guide to the Water Pipe
This article is sponsored by Smoke Cartel, an online retailer and head shop made up of a close-knit team of glass lovers dedicated to making sure you get the best possible smoking gear.
Bongs are one of the most common forms of consuming cannabis, especially dried flower. Also known as a water pipe and sometimes referred to by slang terms like billy, bing, binger, and more, the bong is so engrained in cannabis culture that many connoisseurs go so far as to name their pieces, turning the otherwise inanimate object into a personality within their smoke circle.
The History of Bongs
The word “bong” is said to have been derived from the Thai word “baung,” which traditionally refers to a round wooden tube of bamboo and has also taken on the modern definition of a cylindrical smoking pipe.
Some have traced the use of a water pipe to filter and cool smoke back to China’s Ming Dynasty. Other reports show a history of use in Africa, where tribes would build earthen bongs into the ground using the same principles behind modern bongs. There are even accounts of ancient bongs made of pure gold being used by a nomadic warrior race in what’s now Russia.
Bongs are also closely related to the hookah, a type of water pipe generally used to smoke flavored tobacco. Hookahs use a hose as a mouthpiece and can be designed to allow multiple people to enjoy the smoke from a single bowl.
Today bongs can take on many shapes and sizes, but the most common versions are hand-blown from glass by artists who blend science and art, creating masterpieces that are both beautiful and functional. This wasn’t always the case, though. Throughout its evolution the bong has also been made from materials including hand-carved wood, bamboo, ceramics, and even plastic. Many appreciate the MacGyver-like ability to fashion just about anything into a bong, from Coke bottles to watermelons and everything in between.
Anatomy of the Different Bong Parts
The anatomy of a standard bong can be broken down into five basic parts:
The bowl is the bulbous attachment where dried cannabis flower is loaded and combusted. It’s often removable, allowing it to function as pull- or slide-carburetor.
The carb, short for carburetor, is a small hole that allows the user to clear smoke from the entire chamber of the bong, completing the bong toke. The most common type of carb found on glass bongs is a pull- or slide-carb, which is exposed when the bowl is removed.
The downstem is the small tube that allows the smoke to travel from the bowl down to the base, where it then percolates through water.
The base is the bottom of a bong and can take many shapes, depending on style. A bubble- or beaker-shaped base is often used to create the water chamber in which the smoke cools as it passes through the water.
The tube, which ends in the mouthpiece, is the chamber that fills with smoke after it has filtered through the water. Other features, such as an ice pinch, are often included in the tube design.
All these parts can take various shapes, colors, and designs depending on the bong’s intended function. The downstem is often replaced with or attached to a variety of percolator designs that offer more diffusion or separation of the smoke as it passes through the water chamber.
The Different Types of Bongs
Here are a few of examples that show how some of the different kinds of bongs function:
The Salvager is designed for efficiency. Smoke percolates first through the showerhead percolator at the end of the downstem. It then travels through the internal recycler that recycles the smoke back through for a second diffusion before reaching the mouthpiece.
This bong includes two different styles of percolators. The first is a honeycomb perc that recycles the smoke into the second perc, which is called a Swiss perc because of the holes that resemble Swiss cheese that function to diffuse the smoke.
This piece has two separate percolation chambers that both feature inverted showerhead percs. The smoke travels through the showerheads and is continuously diffused as it passes through the honeycomb perc between each chamber.
Advantages of Smoking from a Bong
The main advantage that draws people to using a bong is its ability to cool and filter the smoke through water, offering a smooth draw even when a large amount of smoke is inhaled. When comparing the use of a bong to other consumption methods, the advantages can vary.
For those who typically roll their cannabis into joints, bongs offer their cooling percolation while maintaining the pungent spectrum of aroma and flavor that cannabis produces. When comparing the bong experience to that of a standard dry pipe, the result is a much smoother toke that is less harsh and easier on the throat and lungs than the hot, dry heat of a hand pipe. Bubblers, on the other hand, offer the portability of a hand pipe with the added functionality of water percolation. However, a bong tends to be a more fluid experience than a bubbler, offering less trouble than a bubbler’s smaller components that can often get clogged or dirty.
After browsing Smoke Cartel’s wide selection of bongs in all shapes, sizes, styles, and colors, are there any new ones you want to try? What’s your personal choice for favorite bong style? Tell us in the comments section below.
If you own a dispensary, headshop, or smoke shop, and are interested in purchasing wholesale glass pipes, bongs, accessories, and more, check out Glassheads Distribution.