How to hit a dab rig

It’s a lot less scary than it seems.


Collegian | Lucy Morantz

Photo illustration of a dab rig and Honolulu Choo Choo wax Nov. 28.

Bella Eckburg, Opinion Director

If I asked you to picture a stoner or someone smoking weed, you might think of some hippie smoking a blunt or joint — or the occasional bong rip/blow-it-out-the-window combination. Dab rigs look a bit different.

This method of smoking is arguably the scariest and least seen in popular media. It seems more crack pipe-esque than the beloved bong rip or drag from a joint. The first time I saw someone hit a dab rig, I thought, “Damn, these people are doing real drugs.” 


The truth is it’s really not that different from hitting a cartridge or loading a PAX with a wax oven and filling it with wax. It is more involved, though, and deserves a tutorial.

“As a reminder, smoke safely, and use moderation, especially if you’re testing out a dab rig for the first time. Wax is potent — it’s good if you want to get stoned for the night but less so if you’re trying to also be a functioning human being.”

1. Prepare your supplies

To make a dab rig, you can take the bowl piece out of a bong (the part where flower goes) and replace it with a dab nail, which is also called a banger. This, unlike the bowl piece, has a deep cup that juts out and connects to the glass joint and water chamber. Place the rig on a secure surface — you’ll need both hands for this operation.

You will also need a butane torch to heat the nail. Don’t make the mistake of trying to use a regular lighter — it’ll turn the bottom of the nail black and won’t heat fast enough to make it worth the damage to your nail. 

You also need a (preferably metal) tool to place the wax in the nail and a little carb cap, which you’ll place over the nail to direct smoke through the dab rig. The carb cap should be made of the same glass or quartz as the nail, and you can find them at most smoke shops that sell smoking glass pieces.

Finally, you’ll need the most important piece of the apparatus: the wax itself. The consistency of the wax is your choice, but I find gooier waxes work better. Shatter is fine, but it doesn’t ball up in the way you want it to, which makes it hard to place in the nail. No one wants to waste wax.

Make sure to get your wax ball ready before heating. Think about a pea, then cut it into fourths. You can do bigger, but I recommend starting small if you’re smoking from a rig because the strength will smack you in the face before you realize the error of your ways. 

2. Heat it up

Take your torch in your dominant hand and your rig in the other, and light up. Focus the tip of the flame (not the base) on the bottom or corner of the nail’s bowl. You can heat the whole thing, but concentrating the heat to where you’ll actually place the wax is better. 

You’ll see the quartz or glass get red hot before pulling your torch away. The effect will dissipate quickly, but don’t place your wax right away. If you do, you’re going to cough your ass off because it’s too hot. Also avoid touching the nail with your hands at all costs. The burns are less than forgiving. 

Cooling to 500 and 700 degrees is preferable. At this point, you can feel the heat by hovering your palm above the nail. If it hurts to keep your hand there, the nail is way too hot. I like to set at least a 30-second timer before placing my wax. If you’re new, it is also a good idea to have a more experienced friend double check the temperature before placing the wax.

3. Put your wax ball in, and smoke it up

Place your mouth on the mouthpiece, hold the tool with your wax ball at the end of it in your dominant hand, grab your carb cap in the nondominant hand and then place the wax where you concentrated your flame. Swirl it around and inhale while doing this. 

The wax will heat in the cup, and the smoke it produces will percolate through the water. This way, you’re not breathing 550-degree liquid weed wax into your lungs.

Remove your tool quickly, and place your carb cap on top, keeping the smoke in. As you finish your inhale, quickly seal and unseal the carb cap from the nail the way you provide airflow on a pipe with your finger. Do a final pull, watching as the smoke leaves the water chamber, and let it out. 

Every time you do a new dab, you should repeat the heating and wax process. You might be able to squeeze in a tiny second hit if you time it right and the nail is hot, but it’ll likely just leave wax residue in the nail’s cup, and you’ll burn it off the next time you heat it, wasting the wax.

As a reminder, smoke safely, and use moderation, especially if you’re testing out a dab rig for the first time. Wax is potent — it’s good if you want to get stoned for the night but less so if you’re trying to also be a functioning human being. Happy dabbing.

Reach Bella Eckburg at or on Twitter @yaycolor.