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Cannabis 101

How to Dab Cannabis Concentrates

December 9, 2015

How to Dab Cannabis Concentrates

Dabbing may seem daunting at first, but it’s one of those activities that comes easily once you’ve seen it done. To help ensure your first time goes smoothly, this resource will teach you how to take a dab.

Essentially, dabbing is the flash vaporization of cannabis concentrates once applied to a hot surface and inhaled. These concentrates (you’ve maybe heard of shatter, wax, BHO, oil, etc.) are a lot more potent than marijuana flowers, so a little bit goes a long way. While bud tends to test between 10 to 25% THC, concentrates typically range between 50 to 80% THC, depending on the extract type and quality. You can even dab non-intoxicating CBD extracts for quick therapeutic effects with little to no cerebral euphoria, but in some regions these oils can be difficult to find.

Explore Cannabis Concentrates

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However, dabbing isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re new to cannabis entirely. The dosing process is more delicate, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, concentrates can offer you new heights of physical relief and unique cerebral effects. Extracts also contain a lot less plant material than flower, so you’re inhaling more cannabinoids (e.g. THC, CBD) and less combusted resin.

What Dab Tools Are Needed?

dab tools

Dabbing technology is evolving, but the traditional setup includes the following items (keep in mind that the appearance of each tool may vary slightly depending on its design):

  1. A cannabis extract. These come in a variety of forms, but the most common ones used for dabbing are BHO, CO2, and solventless extracts like rosin. Don’t dab with alcohol-based extracts, and if you have any doubt at all about the safety of dabbing a particular oil, ask your budtender.
  2. A water pipe. You can take the glass bowl pieces out and replace them with dabbing attachments to turn your pipe into a dab rig.
  3. A nail. Find a nail that fits your water pipe’s gauge. Some are made of ceramic and quartz, but titanium is the most commonly used type.
  4. A dome. This is the glass hood placed around the nail. “Dome-less” nails (see below) don’t need a glass globe, but standard nails need something to trap the vapor before it’s inhaled.
  5. A torch. Mini-torches used for crème brulee will do the job, but some choose to upgrade to larger propane-fueled torches that heat nails faster. New flame-less methods of dabbing are becoming available, but most people still use the torch method due to the low cost investment.
  6. A dabber. This is the glass, metal, or ceramic tool used to apply a dab.

Explore Dabbing Products and Accessories

How Much Oil Is Enough to Dab?

Cannabis concentrate with dab tool

Different extracts have different THC concentrations, so it’s helpful to know how potent your oil is before dabbing with it. However, it’s generally recommended to start small and increase the dose if you feel comfortable doing so.

A small dose is no bigger than a crumb. It may not look like much, but that’s still a lot of THC going straight to the dome at once. Dabbing can feel a lot more intense to those accustomed to flower, but as your tolerance adjusts, the effects become less jarring.

How Do You Dab?

how you dab cannabis concentrates

Once the rig is set up and your dab is prepared on the dabber, you’re ready to get started. We advise you to sit while taking a dab, since the rush of THC can be physically intense.

Step 1: Turn on your torch and aim the flame directly at the nail. Most people will heat the nail until it begins turning red-hot. If you’re using an electronic nail, refer to the section below for more information on heating.

Step 2: Once the nail is hot, turn off your torch and place the glass dome over the nail. It’s recommended to let titanium nails cool for about 10 seconds and quartz nails about 45 seconds so the surface temperature isn’t too hot. Refer to this article to learn more about the importance of low-temperature dabbing).

Step 3: Take your dabber, apply the dab directly on the nail inside the dome, and inhale slowly. Rotating the dabber tip on the nail can help you prevent wasting any oil stuck to the dabber.

Step 4: Exhale and enjoy!

Safety notice: nails and glass domes become extremely hot in the dabbing process. Take caution when handling them, and always wait for all pieces to cool down before you even think of touching them.

What Are E-Nails and Dome-less Nails?

E-nail on cannabis dab rig

The above tutorial explains how you take a dab using the common torch-and-nail method, but there are other dabbing attachments that deviate slightly from this process.

Dome-less nails are metal pieces that don’t require a glass hood to trap vapor. Instead, a network of holes throughout the nail deliver the vapor straight through the piece. You still heat it as you would a standard nail — the advantage is not having to hassle with an extra glass piece that can become hazardous with heat and sticky with resin.

Browse Different Dab Nails

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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Dabbing?

E-nails, or electronic nails, are significantly more expensive than standard and dome-less nails, but the investment is often worth it for serious dabbers. They cut out the need for a dome as well as a torch, which is easily the most dangerous element of dabbing. Furthermore, you have full control over your nail’s temperature. This is a fantastic feature if you care about making the most out of flavors and terpenes when you dab.

Dabbing technology is constantly improving and expanding, so be sure to check out other Leafly articles diving into the latest trends and products if you’re interested in leveling up your dabbing game!

Bailey Rahn's Bio Image

Bailey Rahn

Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.

View Bailey Rahn's articles

8 part series

  • Mo’

    Seems complicated. Will stick to smoking for now.

    • Sean Cruzzin

      It’s actually fairly simple. I just got into it, still learning but I think I got the hang of it now. What I learned from numerous mistakes is make sure you heat the nail sufficiently, shut off your torch once you see its turned mostly red, and the second thing, allow the nail to cool to the right temp. I place my hand a few inches over the nail and I know it’s ready when I can hold my hand above it without discomfort 😀
      Or if you really like it, get an E-Nail.
      It eliminates torching and offers adjustable temperature, which transforms the whole experience 🦄

      • Michael

        710 life eNail rocks

  • theoneshot1

    Just passing through

  • Phil Myweeny

    Why not dab alcohol-based extracts? What are they for then?

    • Dakota

      Alcohol is obviously super flash flammable. Not what you want to try to smoke. They’re meant to be ingested, orally usually, by putting a few drops under the tongue. (There is a nose spray but I’m not sure if that’s alcohol based?) this method allows the thc to enter the blood via a mucus membrane, causing a much quicker effect. It’s shorter lived than edibles but is wonderful for people who need fast medicine onset and don’t want to/can’t dab. Perfect for pain, nausea, anxiety and insomnia. Super discrete also and requires no gear. Hope this helped.

      • Linda Faraday

        I read all these comments, tips & opinions from various reasons, and I agree,…if it fails to relieve pain, stress or makes you uncomfortable in anyway, It obviously not suited for you, it may not be a good choice in your circumstances. Individuals have different reactions depending on using this method either for personal or recreational use.
        Please try to keep an open mind for the few people that suffer from allergic reactions to “traditional prescribed medicines” to alleviate the terrible suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This coupled with night terrors, and chronic interruptions, night after night,can lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep is essential to Healing needed for Chronic Piain, Anxiety the immune system. So there is no right or wrong answer, tailored an individual needs. Zzzzzz

  • Michael

    710 Life Enail
    The only AC powered high times cannabis cup winnimg eNail 2016

  • Isaiah Salaah

    This dabbing stuff is terrible for the body and can kill you. Don’t smoke or you can have a risk of lung cancer. My friend had it when he dabbed.

  • Isaiah Salaah

    Even one dab can kill you.

    • spooky scum

      youre a fucking idiot

      • melissa terrell

        amen

    • william almquist

      Lol wjy are you even at this sight. You must be a mommas boy huh

    • Becky Miller

      Troll!

  • MoonBam

    This isn’t the medical Cannabis oil, is it?

  • Why do people love dabbing so much? I never tried personally.

    • Joe Fish

      BC it gets you really high and terps are great.

  • Matt Vetrone

    Yeah lets teach people to dab with giant propane torches…. good article!

  • Kathleen Ferguson

    I just started and bought a rig. I love it and it lasts so much longer!!!!!

  • K.P.

    if you don’t want to mess with the flame, use a concentrate pen. I’ve never “dabbed” with a rig but would like to know from the “experts”, is there a “difference” in the end result? is one way better than the other or just the same? (am I even making sense?)

    • melissa terrell

      perfect sense, I use a pen but just tried dabbing for the 1st time and I think you get more bang for your buck, I live it, just a few hits and no coughing

      • JAM661

        That is what I hate about vaping is that it kills my throat. It is a effort to get a buzz because I can only keep the smoke in my lungs before they say enough. I guess that is what happens when you never smoked before and then try this at 57 years old. I guess I am getting more daring or realize that arresting a 100% service connected Veteran trying to deal with chronic pain would most likely not look good for the state to arrest me for me vaping in my own home and have no children to negatively influence. I do feel that pot should not be smoke by teenagers because there brains are still forming and developing.

        • Travis Centers

          It is because there is a specific base liquid to thin the wax, it is rough for everyone. Get an RDA “dripper” from the e-cig industry or an expensive pen that heats and doesn’t burn and wipe the wax on the coil. A liquid is only good if you need a pen and wouldn’t have anyway to reload your wax pen. There are some liquid pre-filled THC vapes out there, More in Colorado, less in Nevada, A bong is kinda odd, no? I thought wax was already refined, why use water to possibly loose natural chemicals?

    • Prob know now, but they’re different, concentrates. At least with the pre-filled. You’d need a wax pen attachment, or so, for ‘dabs’.

  • Tonto

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. Hope you make a video of this for Leafly TV.

  • Joshua Jason Molloy

    Is it possible to just put a little on top a packed bowl like Kief or hash. Sadly glass pipes & torches bring back my stupid choices of youth. What non tweekerish products I’ve come across so far are way to pricey ( I would like to see what it cost the makers b4 adding the markup). Open to any suggestions that doesn’t cost over $75-$90.

    • Josh Schlesinger

      You sure can. I actually will put a little wax in a joint.

  • Irene Patience

    how can you dab without a rig

  • My 420 Tours

    We’ve found that a lot of our 420 tour guests are a little startled by a blow torch and prefer dab pens like the CF-710. Also, so many questions! Thanks for this educational post =) https://my420tours.com/dab-smoking-questions-answered/ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a21c0f5de692e97173e95b3b34d873610709853277b649dd4106aa29fd9e9bf1.jpg

    • Kal El

      suck dat dab rig boi.

  • jan

    this isnt dab what i was looking for

  • LFB

    Years ago I use to smoke Hash by putting a small amt on the end of a thumb tack then light it on fire and blow it out. Then put a glass (8 oz or so) over the smoking “dab” and inhale the smoke. Would this work for dabs?

  • rlbbq Rick

    So, my bud tender sold me on the ease of using dab as an edible. I can no longer inhale any smoke, vapor, you name it. Every source I’ve turned to says dabbing is a combustible way to get high. Was I mislead that this 1 gram syringe must be smoked?

  • Cannabis veteran but I have still never got into dabbing.Certainly not against trying it but I’ll always enjoy sitting back and blazing a leaf rolled blunt. Keep Blazin