Dab Nail Buyer's Guide
The dab nail is a small component of a dab rig, but can have the largest impact on your dabbing experience. The nail is where you place the concentrates for dabbing. Nails come in many forms; including domeless nails, halo nails, honey buckets and banger nails. Domeless nails, as the name suggests, come without a dome and take away the extra step of having to cap your nail after placing your concentrates on the dish. Halo nails have a slitted loop at the top that helps suck your vapor into the water pipe. A honey bucket nail is topped by a large dome (or bowl, depending on the construction) and a swinging arm with a bucket. Concentrate dabs are put in the bucket, vaporized, then collected by the dome/bowl while you inhale. Banger nails have dishes that are suspended at an angle away from your bong’s joint so that the joint isn’t exposed to the torch. When picking a concentrate nail, the most important consideration is how it deals with heat.
The most common nail, titanium (otherwise known as a TI Nail), easily wins the pure strength test. Titanium can withstand 3034 degrees fahrenheit, which is well over the maximum 2600 degrees of a butane torch. In addition, it also heats quickly and retains heat for awhile. Titanium nails last longer than other concentrate nails due to their durable construction.
Because of how common titanium nails are, buyers need to research each individual nail’s quality. Titanium is designated by grades, with the most common grade being Grade 2. Grade 2 titanium can range from the material used in aerospace engineering to what’s used in prosthetic knees. Take into consideration that prosthetic knees aren’t intended to be heated constantly with a butane lighter. Low-end titanium (i.e. not maximized for thermal resistance) is vulnerable to flaking, pitting, white caked residue (oxidation), and popping when torched for an extended period. Needless to say, you don’t want to inhale concentrate off of a poor quality nail, which will continue to degrade with each use. Titanium nails are a solid purchase as long as you buy them from reputable headshops. Make sure to pick up a nail from brands known for high quality products such as Santa Cruz Shredder.
Quartz nails are less expensive and don’t have to be “seasoned” (heated and washed) after being purchased like titanium. They are also aesthetically consistent with most clear glass dab rigs; many water pipes have matching quartz nails and buckets.
As you might have learned in chemistry, quartz doesn’t have the same level of thermal conduction as metal or ceramic. Quartz nails take longer to heat than titanium nails and don’t hold heat as long. Compounding this is the fact that a heated quartz nail doesn’t look much different from an unheated quartz nail, meaning that many inexperienced dabbers can misjudge how hot they are. This can lead to inexperienced dabbers “flashing” their concentrate (vaporizing a dab before it can be inhaled) when it’s too hot, or putting it on a relatively cold nail and being unable to collect the vapor. Smokers also have to be more careful about touching their quartz nail, as it can be difficult to determine how hot it is. An overheated dab can also leave dark residue on the nail. Quartz nails are best utilized by the experienced dabber who likes for all of their accessories to match and doesn’t want to pay a high price.
Ceramic nails are the newest concentrate nail material in the industry. Most ceramic nails on the market are produced by one company: HIVE Ceramics. Out of all the nail materials, ceramic is the most natural: it’s generally made from a mixture of clay, earthen elements, powders and water. As such, ceramic is especially safe and doesn’t have to be seasoned. It also leads to tasty, clean hits. Ceramic retains heat for a long time, meaning you don’t have to dab in a rush.
Ceramic nails have some of the same issues as quartz. Ceramic nails also take longer to heat and are hard to judge in terms of temperature. Ceramic nails need a very even temperature to be heated properly; so make sure to do a slow and even rotation with your torch. These nails are best suited for those who want the latest technology without a high cost.
An E-Nail’s benefits are pretty obvious when compared to its manual counterparts. E-Nails (electronic nails) don’t require a torch or any of the thought processes that go into dabbing. These nails come with power boxes that can be plugged into any outlet. You can then set the temperature and wait until it’s ready to be dabbed. There’s no need to worry about overheating, under heating, cracking, or cleaning.
The high value of the e-nail comes with an upscale price. An e-nail costs more than a manual nail and butane torch, making it an investment in a higher quality of dabbing. The e-nail is perfect for those who dab on a regular basis. Make sure to do a lot of research on the e-nails that you’re interested in so your investment is worth it.