What is dabbing?

What is dabbing? 1

The world of dabbing can be confusing to the uninitiated. It might seem like insider baseball with all its terms and abbreviations. Our guide to dabbing will go over what dabbing is, how to dab, all the different types of dabs and how they’re made, and more.

What is dabbing?

Dabs are concentrated forms of cannabis that come in a variety of textures. They are consumed in a dab rig, e-rig—”electronic rig”—or dab pen. The process of dabbing is extremely hot and flash vaporizes dabs in the range of 400-600°F, whereas combusting or smoking flower happens at around 350°F.

A typical dab rig looks similar to a bong—it is a glass piece with a chamber for water, except instead of a bowl for flower, a rig has a nail for dabs. Because of the high temperatures needed to dab, the nail is usually heated with a torch and allowed to cool to the right temperature before dropping in a dab.

Dabs are named for their texture, and their texture is indicative of the process used to create them. There are numerous extraction methods to create a myriad of different dabs (more below).

All dabs are sticky and can be messy to work with, and can be a variety of colors: yellow, amber, brown, and even white.

What’s the difference between concentrates, extracts, and dabs?

The extraction process begins with trichomes, the resinous glands on the cannabis plant which contain cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, and terpenes—basically, the compounds that make you feel high, and the flavor compounds.

There are several extraction methods (more below) which separate trichomes from cannabis plant material to create a cannabis extract—these can have a texture and consistency like oil, sap, wax, butter, taffy, sauce, and much more.

These extractions are concentrated forms of cannabis, containing only the resin from trichomes and no plant material, and are also called cannabis concentrates. The terms extract and concentrate are interchangeable.

Most concentrates or extracts are consumed through the process of dabbing. Concentrates or extracts consumed through dabbing can also be called dabs.

Some concentrates or extracts are not dabbed, such as kief, tinctures—which are usually alcohol extractions—and others, so these are not dabs, but they are concentrates or extracts because they remove trichomes from plant material into a concentrated form of cannabis.

How to choose the best dab tool

(Patrick Bennett for push dispensary)

Cannabis extracts are sticky, potentially messy, and can be challenging to work with. A proper dab tool, or dabber, is essential for any dab session. Here’s what to look for in a dab tool.

What is a dab tool?

A dab tool is a small, handheld wand used to safely and effectively get your dab from its container to a hot nail when dabbing. They can resemble a dentist’s tool—one end has a specific shape for handling dabs, and some shapes work best with certain concentrates.

As dabs are small amounts of concentrate, a dab tool allows you to precisely dose and apply dabs so you don’t make a sticky mess and so your hands stay well away from a hot nail.

How to choose a dab tool

Dab tools come in many different styles and materials. They can be hand-blown glass pieces, or metal wands with a carb cap on one side and a blade on the other.

Whatever you’re using, it’s important that a dab tool is heat-resistant so it doesn’t melt or degrade when it comes into contact with a hot nail.

They should also be made of inert materials, such as titanium or glass, that won’t flake off into the dab and ruin its flavor or composition. The most common dabber materials are titanium, stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or quartz.

It’s also important to have a shape that matches the consistency of the dab—runny concentrates like sauces and sugars will need a scoop, whereas taffy will likely need a blade or paddle to cut off pieces. Blades are also good for breaking off chunks of shatter, or you may prefer a ball tip.

Dab tool styles

Here’s a selection of different types of dabbers.


extraction, cannabis concentrate, marijuana concentrate
Scoop dab tool. (Grant Hindsley for push dispensary)

Scoop dab tools are great for sticky concentrates such as waxes, budders, and crumbles, and can sometimes be used for isolates like crystalline THCA and CBD. A good scoop will function like a small spoon, allowing you to shovel up a dab and drop it into a nail. Scoops can have a bit of a blade on the tip to cut into solid concentrates and break off just the right size of dab.

Tool & carb cap combo

Carb cap/dabber combo. (Courtesy of ThickAssGlass)

A carb cap is essential for controlling airflow when dabbing. A combo tool has a dabber on one end and a carb cap on the other.

With a combo you can scoop up a dab and put it in a nail, and then flip it over to cap your dab instead of reaching for a separate carb cap. This will cut down on your amount of dab gear. Combos fit nicely over e-nails.

Glass tools

(Courtesy of Mile High Glass Pipes)

Glass tools can be custom, hand-blown pieces and are usually aesthetically pleasing, whereas metal tools can seem more functional. Glass dabbers are easy to clean but can also break easier than metal.

The smooth surface of rounded glass can make handling certain concentrates difficult, unless they have a scoop or blade on one end, but they are great for sticky forms like live resin and sugar. Glass tools are also nice if you have an expensive heady glass piece and want to avoid potential scraping with metal tools.

Blades and paddles

Paddle dab tool. (rgbspace/iStock)

A happy medium between a straight tool and a scoop, blades and paddles are extremely versatile. They have a bit of a scoop as well as a sharp edge to cut thicker concentrates. These are great for slicing off part of a rosin patty or dividing up some thick taffy. Paddles are also good for viscous materials that can be both gooey and solid.

Dab tool kits

If you’re not sure what kind of dab tool you need, you can get a kit that has a wand with different attachments that screw onto it. These kits allow you to try all kinds of dabbers to dial in your dabbing routine, including scoops, spatulas, picks, shovels, blades, paddles, and more.

There are also dab multi-tools, which look like a Swiss Army knife for dabbing. More compact than a kit, be sure to fully clean a tool before closing it up.

If both of those seem like too much, double-sided dabbers can give you two different types of dab tools. Just be careful one side is cool and clean before you switch to the other.

Will Hyde contributed to this article.