Back in the day, people needed rolling papers and cannabis, and that was really it. Sure, eventually they might branch out and get an old school pipe, but most people were stopping with dry herb.
These days, concentrates are everywhere, and easier than ever to use. But even with a fairly high-end, self-contained rig, you’re still going to need some types of dab tools. Whether you’re dabbing badder, budder, crumble, hash rosin, live rosin, sauce, shatter, or THCA crystals, a dab tool is the way to deliver that flavorful, potent dab and all of the effects it holds.
In this article, we will provide a complete breakdown of the dab tools and dab accessories anyone needs to make the most of cannabis concentrates and dab like a pro no matter which vaporizers, bongs, bubblers, or dab rigs they like best.
What Is a Dab Tool?
The most common dab tool is also called a wand or a dabber, but really a dab tool is any intuitive tool dabbers use to collect any type of concentrate from its container and place it on a portable vape pen or dab nail. It’s much easier, safer, and cost-effective to use dab tools than any homemade tool—and especially your fingers.
Dab tools might appear basic, but each dab tool is unique. Dabbers each have preferences; some swear by pointed tips, paddles, or flat-heads, while others only use glass dab tools or metal dabbers. Still other dabbers put style first, choosing something that’s discreet above all else like a keychain model, or something that’s big in the hand that you don’t drop all the time and fiddle with.
Although all dab tools do the same basic things, they vary in design, materials, and size. When you’re shopping for the right dabber, it’s important to consider all of these factors. Furthermore, many people search for dab tools and they also really need dabbing accessories—but we’ll talk about both.
There are lots of dabbing accessories, too, that you may want or need—and we’ll go into those below, too. But technically, there is a difference between the actual dabbing tool and other accessories.
Why You Need Dab Tools?
The main reason to use dab tools is that cannabis resin is incredibly sticky. Resin can be a challenge when collecting, concentrating, extracting, or separating, it. Good quality dab tools allow you to apply, dose, and work with your dab effectively and safely.
In fact, you’re absolutely going to need a dab tool unless you’re working with extremely stable concentrates such as shatter or isolates. They prevent waste on fingers or your rig, and allow you to apply your concentrate with more precision. They also keep you from burning your fingers, and from getting yourself and everything else too sticky—and sticky means wasted product, by the way.
FAQ: Everything You Need To Know About Dab Tools
Start by learning about the most commonly used materials for dab tools. Each has strengths and weaknesses, not to mention a set of die-hard fans.
Glass has always been the default material for all things smoking. It’s safe, doesn’t hurt flavor or experience, easy to find, relatively cheap, and can be made to look like just like anything.
Of course, glass dab tools and accessories have their drawbacks. The most obvious is that glass breaks easily, even when it’s high-quality, scientific glass that’s tempered to last. Sometimes this is from impact, and sometimes glass is just fragile after years of being heated to high temperatures.
Metals and titanium
Shatterproof and durable, many dabbers love using metal dab tools. They are especially popular for their ability to be designed longer and slimmer, making them perfect for dropping concentrate into deeper nails.
Titanium is the most durable dab tool material. Even after repeated exposure to high temperatures, titanium dab tools last well. They also ramp-up well and typically demand just 15 to 30 seconds to heat. They also retain heat well, so you can control your dab’s temperature more easily. Titanium accessories and tools can only be damaged after serious abuse and are practically impossible to break.
The down sides to titanium dab tools include that it is more expensive than other metals, and most other materials. You also have to season titanium nails before you use them or you’ll hurt the overall concentrate flavor.
Quartz occupies the middle ground when it comes to price between cheap glass and expensive titanium. It also heats very rapidly—in about 5 to 15 seconds, typically. Quartz is again in the middle of the road between glass and titanium for durability, and should last an extended period of time at the right temperatures.
Quartz is also consistently rated as the material for the best flavor from dabbing tools and accessories. These can also be used without any seasoning.
Silicone is a great modern addition to this list. It’s harder to find, but very effective on the tip of a dab tool, and silicone won’t scratch your other equipment banger or hurt your wax’s flavor. Silicone dab tools are also heat-proof and nonstick, so you’ll get to use more of your concentrate.
Types of Dabbing Tools and Accessories
Typically made of durable glass or quartz, bangers fit with a water pipe rig based on the joint connection. Most narrow joint openings work with female joint bangers, while joints with wider open bore diameters often pair with male joint bangers. If you’re not sure, check!
Nails are at the heart of the dabbing experience. A nail is the shallow dish that fits snugly into the downstem of your dab rig. The nail is where you apply and heat concentrate.
There are two basic styles of dab nails:
Nails with dome
Some nails require the use of a piece called a dome. The dome covers the heated nail’s top to help retain vapor and evenly distribute heat. To use a dome, you just heat the nail to your temperature, cover the top of the nail with your dome, apply the concentrate, and inhale.
Domeless nails—surprise!—do not require a dome. They feature a larger dish with a centered opening that the vapor escapes through instead.
Many dabbers love the bigger dabs and clouds they get with domeless nails, not to mention the simpler process. Some dabbers use a carb cap, directional carb cap, or bubble carb cap with a domeless nail in place of a dome, saving the concentrate flavor and getting a cleaner experience at lower temperatures.
Titanium nails heat fast and retain heat well. They are also very tough to break. After extended use, you may experience decreased performance with titanium oxide buildups, and it’s important to avoid products that are neither medical- nor food-grade, because at high temperatures they can potentially leach harmful contaminants.
Ceramic nails heat the slowest, but they also retain heat the best, so they stay at your desired temperature very well. Ceramic is inherently fragile, so breaks and cracks are fairly common with ceramic nails, but they do eliminate concerns about leaching harmful contaminants into the vapor because ceramic products are are medical- and food-grade.
Quartz nails, or quartz bangers, heat fast but also lose heat fast, too. This is why many dabbers pair quartz nails with carb caps. Quartz caps are safer from contaminants even at higher temperatures like ceramic.
Glass banger nails are very cheap, but they are the least durable option that you may need to replace regularly. Thermal bangers are glass nails that have a shape or design that makes it easier to maintain a lower temperature while dabbing.
Obviously, for anyone who loves concentrates, a dabber or dab wand is an absolute bare minimum and a must have. You need a dabber because that’s the only way to get that concentrate to the heated nail. Stainless steel, titanium, glass, and quartz are the most common materials for dabbers. Quartz is probably the most popular of all, since it’s so great for flavor production, while titanium dab tools are also popular for their durability.
Many dabbers also come with variety of tips. Depending on which concentrates you prefer, the right tip can make all the difference. Ballpoint tip dabber tools work best with sticky concentrates and dab oils. Shovel style dab wands are ideal for dabbers who like bigger, stronger hits and want to grab larger dabs. A flat tipped dabber is a perfect all-purpose dab tool, right for scraping and gathering lots of different concentrates from inside lots of different containers.
Keep an eye out of some of the most popular dabbers: combination dab tools. These combo tools have a longer handle with a carb cap on one end, and a scooper on the other.
If you’re looking for an accompaniment or an alternative to a classic dabbing rig, a nectar collector is a great choice. This smaller, handheld water pipe and nail/banger is compressed into a portable gadget for dabbing on the go. The main difference is that instead of placing the dab tool into the concentrate and applying the product to the nail, the end of the nectar collector dips right into the concentrate.
If you’re sick of butane torches and matches, an e-nail can heat up using continuous electrical current and maintain itself at the temperature you want. Yes, you have to maintain it, and if it breaks, it’s done. Another down side is the ongoing need to charge e nails.
Especially for dabbers who prefer domeless nails, a carb cap is a simple, effective way to restrict airflow, controlling the temperature and flavor of the vapor you get. Smoother, cooler hits come when you dab with a carb cap, also called a bubble cap. A directional carb cap helps control airflow and minimize waste.
Dab tool kits
For dedicated dabbers, there is no substitute for a complete dab tool kit. This way, they are ready to dab whatever type of concentrate they run across. A typical dab tool kit may feature a variety of stainless steel dabbers with an arrow tip, curved tip, flat tip, hook, paddle, scoop, and spearhead in a water-repellent, nylon case with pockets for other dabbing tools like cotton swabs.
If you’re not using an e-nail you’ll need a manual heat source such as a blowtorch. Many dabbers choose butane torches over propane torches, mostly because propane can heat the nail too much and damage it. Torches also come in regular full-sized versions or smaller, mini-torches are also available.
A reclaimer is an attachment, usually made of glass, that fits between the water chamber and nail on a dab rig. It collects any runoff wax, and if any concentrate condenses from the vapor, it also collects that.
After sufficient amounts of reclaim oil build up, you can either melt the oil out to remove it or scrape it out. This potent oil usually contains 40 to 50 percent THC as well as other cannabinoids, and it’s already fully decarboxylated—you can use it in edibles, for example.
It is critical for your health and to keep your dab rig performing well to keep your gear clean. Although everyone has different gear and standards, these are the most common cleaning tools for a basic dab rig:
- Cleaning wipes for glass pieces
- Cotton swabs
- Pipe cleaners for the downstem and other cylindrical glass parts
- Cleaning solution or isopropyl alcohol
Some dabbing equipment and dab rigs also come with special cleaning equipment. Always use whatever cleaning equipment is recommended.
Dabbing Accessories: Our Favorites
So, with so many dab tools out there, which are the best? The most important dab tool factor is heat-resistance: obviously, you don’t want your dab tools to degrade or melt when you’re trying to use them. You also need inert materials that don’t hurt the composition or flavor of the dab.
Past those obvious criteria, here are the most important dab tools and accessories for getting started:
Scoop dab tool
A scoop-style dab tool, sometimes called paddle style tool or blade style tool, is really important, because you often need that shape for stickier and looser, powdery concentrates. For example, if you’re dabbing badder, budder, crumble, or even terp sauce or live resin, you might need the mini-spoon shape of the scoop to get it where you need it to go.
All multi-tools are slightly different, but basically these are the Swiss Army knives of dabbing, with lots of small scrapers, dabbers, cleaning tools, and possibly a carb cap, and things like a light, tamping tools, and scissors. Sometimes this comes in the form of a tool and carb cab combo.
Dab mats actually make a bigger difference than you think, especially after the first time you break sometime because it slips off your table. Most dab mats are silicone and slip-proof, not to mention easy to clean.
As you dab more often, you’ll become more familiar with the dabbing setup you prefer. At that point you can look for more specialized accessories and customize your experience even more.
How to Choose the Best Dab Tools for You
If you’re shopping for the best dab tools, there is a lot to consider. Yes, a lot of this comes down to personal choice, but there are also some basic factors that anyone needs to think about.
Glass dab tools are cheap and pretty, but fragile. Quartz is also attractive and is much more durable than glass, but tends to cost much more. Titanium tools are just about unbreakable, but are also more costly than glass—and never heat anything but medical-grade titanium.
People who favor crumbly concentrates should keep spoon-shaped dab tools on hand, but for stickier concentrates, sharp tools sometimes perform better. Some dabbers really only like tools with two different ends—one flat, one pointed—that they can use in one session. And for shatter fans, ballpoint dabber tools are ideal, even though they are actually fairly ill-equipped to scoop up stickier types of concentrate.
What kind of rig are you using? It matters, because some tools are specific. For example, not carb caps fit on all nails.
When you can, stick to the same types of dabber tools. Borosilicate glass and quartz dabber tools work well together—better than they work with the titanium versions of the same dabber tools.
So ask yourself some questions as you shop: Will you be dabbing on the go or at home? Are you just into one type of concentrate, or might you dabbing more than one kind? Next, move on to more universal concerns like quality materials.
We hope this look at dab tools has been useful to you. You can find all of the dab tools you’re looking for right here in our online shop, because we’ve been curating the best dabbers on the market.