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Dabbing Mistakes Every Beginner Makes

5 min

Dabbing can be overwhelming. The process of setting up a rig can be scary (given the blowtorch and all), and the fact that cannabis concentrates are extremely sticky and hard to handle doesn't help. Luckily, to help make dabbing easier, we've outlined 9 common dabbing mistakes below, and will show you exactly how to avoid them.

Let’s be honest, dabbing can be a bit tricky—especially for newbies. Just knowing how much concentrate to use and how to get it onto the nail takes practice. Even the act of using a dab rig can be intimidating. If you’re new to the world of dabbing, in this article we’ll shine a light on common dabbing mistakes you’re probably making, and show you how to avoid them.

1. OVERHEATING THE NAIL

OIL PAN TITANIUM

This is by far one of the most difficult aspects of dabbing. Concentrates need to reach extremely high temperatures in order to vaporise properly. To reach such temperatures, you’ll usually use a blowtorch or jet lighter, which isn’t exactly very accurate. Plus, the fact that different concentrates vaporise at different temperatures doesn’t make things any easier.

The ideal temperature for vaporising concentrates is around 160–230°C (315–450°F). At these temperatures, all the cannabinoids and terpenes in your dab should vaporise evenly, making for a smooth, flavourful hit. Go above these temperatures and you risk combusting your concentrate, which will result in a loss of flavour and potency.

Pro tip: Heat your nail until it’s red hot, and give it some time to cool down. Place your dab on the nail just before it returns back to its regular colour. For more exact temperatures, consider investing in an e-nail.

2. OVERLOADING THE NAIL

OVERLOADING THE NAIL

Remember, getting your nail to the right temperature is the key to getting smooth, thick hits from your rig. When you overload your nail (another common dabbing mistake), you cause the temperature of your nail to drop, which can stop your concentrates from vaporising properly.

This is due to the temperature difference between the concentrate and the nail. Once you drop your cold concentrate onto your hot nail, the temperatures of both substances start to equalise. This means the temperature of your nail starts to drop while that of the concentrate rises. Hence, the more concentrate you dab onto your nail, the faster its temperature will drop.

Plus, using too much concentrate can cause buildup on your nail, which can smoke, catch on fire, and damage your rig.

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Remember that how you dose your dabs depends on the strength of your extract and your personal preferences. However, a small dose of concentrate is about the size of a crumb, which is a good starting point for most new dabbers. Also, make sure to regularly maintain your nail, using a torch to heat it until it stops smoking.

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3. BURNING YOURSELF OR GRABBING THE NAIL

BURNING YOURSELF OR GRABBING THE NAIL

This rather painful mistake happens to far too many newbie dabbers. Unfortunately, since most people start smoking cannabis flower, they often treat dab rigs like a bong; after they’ve taken their hit, they reach for the bowl, only to grab a scorching surface—with severe consequences for their mitts.

When smoking bongs, this cuts the airflow into the pipe, stopping any extra smoke from building up in the chamber. When dabbing, however, this usually just results in a whole lot of pain. Dab nails get extremely hot and can cause serious burns in milliseconds.

Pro tip: Ask someone to hold the rig for you while you’re getting started. Always remember that the nail is extremely hot and don’t reach for it—ever. Otherwise you'll learn the hard way why mommy said "the burnt child dreads the fire".

4. TAKING OVERSIZED HITS

TAKING OVERSIZED HITS

This mistake also stems from the fact that most people start off smoking cannabis flower and try to carry those same practices over to dabbing. Unfortunately, dabs are much stronger, and can quickly leave you dealing with an overwhelming high if you’re not careful.

Standard cannabis flowers contain between 15–30% THC, depending on the strain, how they were grown, etc. Cannabis concentrates, on the other hand, can contain THC levels of well over 60%. In fact, some concentrates can contain over 90% cannabinoids. Hence, if you hit your dab rig like you do your regular water pipe, expect to be really high in no time.

Whenever possible, find out the exact potency of the concentrate you’re going to take. If you live in an area where cannabis products are legal, this can be as simple as talking to your budtender. When you go to take a hit, start with a small dose (roughly the size of a breadcrumb) and build from there.

5. MISSING THE NAIL OR RIG

MISSING THE NAIL OR RIG

This can happen to anyone: You grab your dose of concentrate with your dabber tool, get ready to load it onto your nail, and it ends up falling either on the rig or somewhere else entirely. And given the price of these extracts, you really don’t want to be throwing them on the floor.

One of the best ways to avoid dropping your extracts is by investing in decent dab equipment. There’s a large variety of dabbing tools out there, so make sure to shop around for a quality product designed to work with a variety of different concentrates (such as shatter, wax, budder, etc).

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Also, try looking for rigs with a nice, wide bowl encapsulating the nail. These tend to be easier to use, especially for beginners. Finally, always take your time when dabbing, and remember that it’ll all get easier with time and practice.

6. COUGHING, CHOKING, OR PUKING

COUGHING, CHOKING, OR PUKING

This isn’t unique to dabbing; you may remember coughing, choking, or puking after your first bong rip too. Unfortunately, because dabs are so potent and produce thick, warm vapour, they are very capable of leaving inexperienced newbies coughing up their lungs or, unfortunately, eating their last meal backwards.

If you’ve found yourself coughing or choking at any time during or after a dab hit, rest assured that you’re not alone. Remember, our lungs are very sensitive to anything other than oxygen. And while cannabis vapour tends to be much smoother than smoke, it is more than capable of irritating your lungs and causing you to cough or choke. The fact that many cannabis users inhale smoke/vapour for extended periods of time really doesn’t help.

Luckily, your body will likely get used to the vapour of a dab rig. As a beginner, just make sure to take smaller, shallower hits that are less likely to irritate your respiratory system.

7. NOT HOLDING THE RIG PROPERLY

NOT HOLDING THE RIG PROPERLY

A lot of rookie dabbers make the mistake of not gripping their rig properly. When it’s time to light up, they’ve got their hands in all the wrong positions and end up dropping their dab, burning themselves on their nail, or possibly even dropping and breaking the entire rig.

When dabbing, you’ll generally only want one hand on your rig, usually around the main chamber or base. Your mouth should be pressed gently against the mouthpiece while you use your other hand to feed your concentrate to your nail.

As a noob, never try to dab without anyone holding down the rig. All it takes is a minor mistake for the rig to slip, fall, and break.

8. MOVING TOO SLOWLY

MOVING TOO SLOWLY

Unfortunately, dabbing takes a bit of speed to do properly. You see, the residual heat from your nail can start evaporating your concentrate from a great distance, and if you’re not close enough when this happens, the vapour won’t get trapped in your rig, but instead just gets lost in the air around you.

The trick to vaporising all of your concentrate is approaching the nail quickly. You’ll also want to approach it from a 45° angle. If you approach the nail from above, the heat rising from the nail will start to melt your dab way too early, making it drop somewhere you surely don't want to see or feel (ouch!) it.

Finally, once you’ve got your dabber tool inside the nail, you’ll want to move it around so that all sides of the concentrate vaporise evenly. Do this by rolling the tool between your index finger and thumb so that the extract twirls in circles inside the hot nail.

9. SWALLOWING VAPOUR

SWALLOWING VAPOUR

Sometimes, inexperienced dabbers make the mistake of swallowing vapour into their stomachs rather than inhaling into their lungs. This can be very uncomfortable and irritating. In fact, the irritation of swallowing vapour can leave you feeling nauseous and, in some cases, make you vomit.

To avoid swallowing vapour, don't collect it in your mouth, but slowly inhale directly into your lungs. Again, taking smaller, shallower hits from the rig will make this easier.

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A FINAL NOTE ON DABBING

After reading this post, the idea of dabbing might seem a bit overwhelming. But relax; once you get the hang of it, dabbing is a great new way to experience the effects of cannabis. Just always make sure to be safe, and remember that you’re far from the only one making these mistakes.

Happy dabbing!

Steven Voser

Written by: Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an Emmy Award Nominated freelance journalist with a lot of experience under his belt. Thanks to a passion for all things cannabis, he now dedicates a lot of his times exploring the world of weed.

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