Understanding Different Types of Dab Nails

By Emmett H.W. Nelson | June 18, 2017

Today’s wide world of cannabis provides more ways to take in THC than your standard joint or hand pipe. Savory and sweet infused treats, beverages, tinctures, transdermal patches, mints; you name it and there is good chance it can get you high. Let’s not forget about those concentrates either; vaping and dabbing have come into fashion as marijuana garners greater acceptance and the economic windfall from taxing it is recognized.

When beginning a journey to the dab side of thing there are a number of items one must acquire before reaching the final destination. Dab rig (think bong) + blowtorch (yikes!) + nail (what?) = dabbing. Each item is elemental to success for the novice dabber. Like most worthwhile endeavors getting turned on to dabbing is going to cost some moolah. Spending a bit more on the front end will save on the cost of replacing cheap, poorly crafted items over and again.

Though some dab rigs carry far more technical expertise, thoughtful creation, artistic accomplishment and merit a higher price tag——they all serve the same purpose. The essential function of the hardware is to act as delivery system for the highly concentrated doses of THC. Smoking out of anything that can’t be replaced when broken is a risky proposition.

Blowtorches can vary in style and maximum flame strength while they require butane or propane depending on the model. Similar to the dab rig, the utility of any given blowtorch will not change the resulting pleasantness of the dab. A crème brûlée torch from Bed, Bath and Beyond heats up a nail with the same usefulness as a heavy duty job from Home Depot.

The nail on the other hand is a variable that significantly modifies the dabbing equation. There are four standard types of nails: Glass, Ceramic, Titanium and Quartz. Size matters. Nails are measured in millimeters and typically identify as male or female though that is not a hard and fast rule. Knowing the size and sex of nail necessary to make sure all equipment is compatible.


Borosilicate glass nail (Grasscity photo)


Glass nails are usually free with the purchase of dab rig from head shop. They most closely resemble an average metal nail that you try to avoid stepping on at all cost, hence the name. They are intended for use with a dome that saves the vapor from escaping. They cannot withstand frequent heating and crack and chip without much provocation. Retaining heat isn’t a strong suit for glass nails either. It’s best to quickly take the dab after removing it from the heat source. The saving grace is that dabs taste quite nice off a glass nail. Glass nails are good to keep around in a pinch but shouldn’t be presented to guests other than by special request.


Ceramic domeless nails, female (left) and male (Billowby photo)


Nails made from “medical” or “food” grade ceramic are obtainable in every shape and size for anyone looking to bypass the training wheeled glass nail and dome set up gifted with every purchase. These nails take a long time to heat up and do not cool down very quickly. If the surface of the ceramic nail is not evenly heated then fragmentation is inevitable. Otherwise these are designed to last barring any unfortunate drops or rolls off a counter. Ceramic is easy to clean, only requiring application of direct heat and residual concentrates will disappear before your eye.


different-types-of-dab-nailsTitanium domeless nails, male (left) and female (Titanium Therapy photo)


Titanium nails are able to endure a higher temperature than any commercial torch can deliver. They are a workhorse; often tasked with bearing constant heat as part of an electronic nail set-up. Also available in manual transmission, titanium nails must be seasoned prior to use to remove any factory finishes. To achieve the desired result heat the dabbing surface to a bright orange and dunk it off in a bowl of water. Repeat several times, then a few more for good measure. Even after being stripped of all impurities the titanium nail still may impart a metallic taste to dabs being taken.


different-types-of-dab-nailsQuartz nail, female (Billowby photo)


American made quartz is the Cadillac of the dabbing community with the price tag to match. The “banger” style is most popular among dabbers. Knockoff Chinese composite quartz gets sold as such but is also passed off as made in the U.S.A to many unsuspecting online shoppers. Beware. Quartz offers the cleanest taste and is preferred by most serious concentrate connoisseurs. Seasoning quartz is advised. Using the same method for titanium if your nail shatters after being submerged in water it wasn’t quartz to begin with. Quartz can be seasoned additionally by dropping a few small dab of reclaimed concentrates onto a hot nail letting the surface baste. Using Q-tips after every use to clean any remaining concentrates will keep quartz looking good, tasting great and lasting until somebody drops it on the floor.

Emmett H.W. Nelson

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