What Is Dabbing?

If you're wondering, "what is dabbing," you've probably never encountered a dab rig, e-nail, dabber or other devices and components that go along with the process. In this guide, we will take a look at various aspects of dabbing, including the history and evolution of the practice.

We will also explore other factors that may have contributed to dabbings' rise in popularity, and examine what the future may hold for the practice. By the time you finish this guide, you will no longer wonder "what is dabbing" but will have a clearer understanding of what it is, how it works, how to do it and what to expect in the future.

While figuring out the intricacies of learning how to dab may seem a bit daunting, understanding commonly used terms and definitions may help to ease any confusion. Of course, there will be a bit of a learning curve but once you've done it a few times, it will become like second nature.

Dabbing Definitions

Dabbing - The process of heating up concentrated dry herb or medicine and inhaling the vapor. You "dab" the concentrate onto the dabber, or stick, and that is where the name comes from.

Dab - A small amount of concentrated extract from dry herb or other medicine. Dab is oil, but it comes in many forms. There's budder, which is a creamier type of oil. There is shatter, which is solid, clear and smooth. There's also oil, and it tends to be the least refined and has a consistency that is sticky and gooey.

Taking a dab - This means simply to engage in the act of dabbing. Someone might say they are going to take a dab, and this simply means that they are going to heat up and inhale the vapor from their favorite concentrate.

Butane honey oil - Also known as BHO, this is a type of concentrate that is made using butane.

Dab rig - Also known as an oil rig, or just a rig, a dab rig is a pipe that is used to smoke concentrates. 

What is Dabbing - A Brief History

Given dabbing's rapid rise to prominence over the past decade or so, it's easy to assume that the practice only came about recently. Dabbing has been refined considerably since the start of the practice. The actual act of dabbing has been around for many decades. Not surprisingly, dabbing's roots stretch back to the 1960s, the era of peace, love and rock and roll. Dabbing was born out of necessity more than anything, so you can thank clever dabbers of yesteryear for today's exciting developments.

During the 1960s, people would sometimes find themselves with early forms of concentrated herb but without a proper way to inhale it. If a pipe or bowl weren't handy, or if there was too little of it to use such devices, people started resorting to "hot knifing." As the name implies, this method involves heating up some butter knives, quickly applying a "dab" or resin or concentrate, and then inhale the ensuing vapor. Needless to say, this was a practice that was usually only turned to as a last resort, as it was hardly elegant and created many opportunities for mishaps.

Before too long, some folks realized that inhaling vapors via hot knifing was preferable to outright smoking it in many ways. Also, new methods for extracting the medicinal components of dry herbs started to be developed, so demand for newer, easier ways to "hot knife" concentrates grew. Butane was the most common solvent that was used in the extraction process, and the resulting concentrate was often referred to as honey oil. This oil eventually gave way to "glass," which was an amber, resin-like substance that was much easier to dab. By the summer of 2010, dabbing had risen to prominent across Northern California and Colorado. A few years later, the process had become much more industrialized and consistent, and different types of concentrates, including wax, budder and butane hash "shatter" oil became more readily available.

The Evolution of Dabbing

As dabbing evolved from relative obscurity among smokers in the 1960s to broad appeal today, the majority of dabbing innovations have occurred within the last 5 years. With constant changes being made to rigs and devices, the future of dabbing is entirely unpredictable but exciting.

A few things have contributed to dabbing's increasing dominance and rapid evolution. First, people have used medicinal herbs of all kinds for health purposes, but the practice has long been limited to smoking them, which isn't ideal for many people. As the practice of using dry herbs as medicine has become more widely accepted and mainstream, it comes as no surprise that dabbing has become more accepted as well.

Another factor that has prompted the rapid evolution of dabbing has to do with health. Inhaling and smoking even natural, organic plant matter is not good for the lungs. Inhaling vapor, however, doesn't appear to have the same negative effects. As a result, many folks are opting to get their medicine via dabbing to avoid inhaling potentially dangerous smoke.

Dabbing Popularity

When figuring out what dabbing is, you've probably contemplated how easy or difficult it will be to actually execute. Even a few years ago, finding the supplies that you needed to dab was definitely an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, that's changed a lot in recent years, as more and more people have taken up the practice. Today is, without question, the heyday of dabbing. It's only just begun too, so you can expect it to become even more prominent in the future. 

For those who rely on the medicinal qualities of dry herbs, dabbing is a breath of fresh air. Most people prefer it to smoking not only because delivers a more potent concentrated hit but they find it doesn't leave a lingering odor and feels much cleaner in general.

The Future of Dabbing

In many states across the country, dispensaries and vapor shops have sprouted up in response to the strong demand for dabbing-related supplies. This makes it incredibly easy for residents of those areas to get into dabbing, as they simply need to stop by a local store to pick up everything that they need. Employees of these stores are typically happy and eager to teach newbies the ropes too, so it's even easier for people to embrace the positive benefits of this practice.

Dabbing supplies are increasingly available online too, and that trend is likely to continue and even intensify in the future. These days, anyone who is asking "what is dabbing" can quickly a detailed answer, and they can just as quickly shop around online to get everything that they need to give dabbing a try too.

Given the current trajectory of dabbing, it wouldn't be surprising to find more households and/or smokers experimenting with dabbing. As popular as it has become, dabbing is still somewhat in the shadows, and many folks are completely unaware and wary of the practice. It wouldn't be surprising to discover people that rely on dry herbs for medicine, turning to dabbing for its number of benefits. 


Whether you've had direct experience with dabbing or have never seen a rig in your life, dabbing is a great way to enjoy your favorite concentrated medicines.

When you started reading this guide, you were curious to find out exactly what is dabbing. At this point, you should have a very clear understanding of the process. Despite the confusing terms, it is actually quite a simple process. Once you experiment and get more into it, you may find yourself sampling various types concentrates and different components for your rigs. This is when dabbing becomes even more interesting and fun, as you can customize the experience to suit your needs.

Now that you know what dabbing is, you're ready to gather supplies to give it a try yourself. Here are a few more terms to help you understand what the pieces are and what they do before you purchase a rig or a kit.

Supplies Definitions

Concentrate - Dabbing is about inhaling vaporized extracts from dry herbs and other medicinal plants. These extracts are highly concentrated, so the stuff itself is often referred to as concentrate.

Concentrate Container - Keep your concentrate in an airtight container for best results.

Dome - A piece, typically made out of glass, that fits over the nail. It has a small opening on top for catching and directing the vapor down the pipe.

Domeless nail - A special type of nail that doesn't require a dome.

Dabber - Also known as a dab tool, it's the long, thin piece that's used to dab the concentrate onto the skillet or nail. They are typically made out of glass or titanium and usually, are specially shaped at one end so that concentrate can be easily and safely applied.

E-Nail - A high-tech rig that eliminates the need for a blowtorch because you can set the temperature yourself.

Nail or Skillet - Most setups use nails now, but some still use skillets. Either way, this is the piece that is heated up and where the concentrate is applied. It is typically made out of quartz or titanium. Glass is popular too but has a tendency to break.

Oil Rig - At first glance, an oil rig that's used in dabbing looks a lot like a traditional glass pipe or bong. It functions quite similarly too. 

Swing - A piece that allows you to easily move the skillet into place.

Torch - To heat your nail and vaporize your concentrate, you will need a small blowtorch. The kind that restaurants use for creme brulee works great. 

Thankfully, there's no need to spend a fortune to get started. In fact, it's best to start with very basic supplies to see if you enjoy it or not. Once you start dabbing, you can then exchange your starter set for other nails, e-nails, oil rigs, domes, dabbers and new components that are available. Eventually, you may decide to invest in a custom rig of your own. 

Can't get enough information on dabbing? Check out our How to Dab video. Once you're ready to get started, head over to our Ultimate Guide to Dab Rigs and Cheap Dab Rigs of 2016. Get started dabbing now with dabbing essentials and accessories at Cannsy!

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