How Does a Dab Rig Work?

4 min read
dab rig kit

How, why, and what accessories to buy

Over the last few years, the dabbing craze has grown at out-of-control rates, and it seems like just about everyone is doing it. But are dab rigs just a fad, or do they have some real function to their flair? In this article, you can find out exactly how dab rigs create the results that everyone has been raving about. Whether you’re a seasoned dabber or just getting started, we hope this guide can help you on your way to becoming a dab rig expert.

What’s the difference between a dab rig and a bong?

Like bongs, dab rigs are part of the  water pipe family, meaning they use water to filter, diffuse, and cool smoke. Because wax becomes very, very hot, dab rigs have more intricate designs than bongs, which allows more air and water to flow through in order to cool down the wax faster. Dab rigs are also usually smaller than bongs.

How to use a Dab Rig

  1. Torch it: Use the  torch to heat up the banger until it starts to turn red hot
  2. Shake it: Use a  dab tool to stir your wax into the banger as evenly as possible, so that more wax touches the hot quartz
  3. Cap it: Use the flat part of the  carb cap to cover the nail, which redirects airflow into the rig
  4. Inhale: And watch the dab rig bubbling as it cools and filters your vapors!

Parts of a dab rig and what they do

  • Nails  are bowls for wax. Most of ours are quartz, which generates a fresh, clear flavor.
    • Bangers  are domeless nails with a curved neck and a flat bottom (hammer-shaped). This shape lets you to heat wax more evenly and for longer, creating a more even pull of vapors through the tube.
  • Chambers  are spacious areas in the rig that can hold water, air, vapors, or all three - that’s where the magic happens.
  • Joints  are where the nail attaches to the downstem.
  • Downstems  are usually built-in in dab rigs, making them easier to transport.
  • Intakes  are a part of recycler dab rigs. They carry vapors from the 1st to the 2nd chamber (learn more about recyclers below).
  • Drains are part of recycler dab rigs that let water drip back down from the 2nd to the 1st chamber, creating a cycle.
  • Ash catchers  are a small containers underneath the banger which catch large ash/tar particles before they even hit the chambers. Many rigs have these  built-in, but you can buy a  separate attachment if yours doesn’t.
  • Percs  (percolators) are glass features with tiny holes used for filtration and to cool the wax. There are many different types of percs, which are named for their shape, such as  inline percs,  matrix percs, and  honeycomb percs. The more holes there are in a perc, the greater the filtration power.

Dabbing tools

  • Torch:  A stronger lighter that reaches higher degrees, used specifically for dabbing
  • Carb cap:  This is used to cover the nail so that wax can get evenly heated airflow can redirect into the dab rig
  • Dab tool:  These are a stick (often attached to a carb cap) which is used to stir the wax into the nail

How Different Types of Dab Rigs Work

There are two main ways to cool down and diffuse vapors:  percolators (percs)  and  recycler systems. They both function on the same fundamental idea: More bubbles = even distribution of vapors through the water = cooler, smoother hits.

Percolator Dab Rigs

As air is pulled through the main chamber, the percs create a whole lot of bubbles. The bubbles help the water come into contact with more of the vapor faster, which increases its cooling and diffusing abilities.

dab rig diagram

The  Experimental Dab Rig uses a circ perc and an inset perc to create bubbles and diffuse vapors

Recycler Dab Rigs

Recyclers also cool and diffuse vapors by creating more bubbles, but they do this by using a two-chambered system through which water and air recycle. As water and vapors swirl, the water cools things down and removes toxins. Recyclers also help vapors bubble close to the mouthpiece, which creates fresher tasting hits. There are two types of recyclers…

External Recyclers

External recyclers feature two totally separate chambers, which gives them unique and often beautiful shapes. Vapors also look mesmerizing as they move through external recycler’s circuits.

recycler dab rig diagram

The  Around the World Recycler is an external recycler dab rig

Internal Recyclers

Internal recyclers still run vapors and water through a circuit, but this all happens inside a larger main chamber. These are less delicate than external rigs, and still pretty fun to watch in action.

internal recycler dab rig diagram

The  Genie Dab Rig has an internal recycler system


Perc-Recycler Dab Rigs

These combine all the benefits of recyclers and all the perks of percs to create outrageous amounts of bubbles, and give you the ultimate experience of diffusion, filtration, and cooling.

percolator recycler dab rig diagram

The  All Torched Dab Rig has both a percolator and an external recycler system


Dab rigs may not be the simplest smoking accessories out there, but it’s that complexity that makes them so effective at creating a satisfactory wax using experience. Now that you’re a dab rig wiz, put your expertise to use and shop our collection of dab rigs to find the one that’s right for you!

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