Have you heard of dabbing yet? Of course you have. Using a wax vaporizer produces a clean, powerful high from a device that fits in your pocket and is always ready to use. A wax vaporizer works with “dabs,” or concentrated cannabis resin. Cannabis concentrates often contain 80 percent THC — or more — and are now available almost everywhere that marijuana is sold.
Wax vaporizers are convenient. They’re easy to use and maintain. Whether you’re a medical marijuana user who needs to dose frequently to handle a condition such as chronic pain — or a recreational user who wants to experience the most powerful high available — a wax vaporizer may be perfect for you. In this wax vaporizer guide, we’ll explain everything that you need to know about dabbing.
A wax vaporizer works by turning an oily or waxy concentrate — usually made from cannabis — into a vapour that you can inhale. Wax vaporizers are popular alternatives to dry herb vaporizers among those who choose not to smoke cannabis or other substances. To learn more about the differences between the two most popular types of vaporizers, read our dry herb vaporizer guide.
Some of the other popular names for wax vaporizers include:
The “pen” names originated because wax vaporizers are often long and narrow, like ballpoint pens.
Wax concentrates differ from dry herbs in how you use them and how they affect the body. A wax concentrate of cannabis contains far more active material than the whole plant, so it can allow you to achieve your desired state much more quickly than you can with dry herbs. Because the waxy material takes up little space, it allows wax vaporizers to be extremely small and portable. Combined with the fact that wax vaporizers require no preheating time, the portability of wax vaporizers makes it easy to vape discreetly and dose when necessary. People who suffer from chronic pain, for example, often find wax vaporizers very useful.
Compared to wax vaporizers, dry herb vaporizers produce a feeling in the body that’s more like what you would experience from smoking the herb — because you’re using the same substance. Since the effects come on more slowly with dry herb vaporizers, it’s easier to decide when you’ve had enough. If you already smoke weed, you’ll find using a dry herb vaporizer to be a comfortable, familiar experience. Using a dry herb vaporizer also leaves you with ABV weed — herbs that you can use again.
On the other hand, you may not want to go through the effort of saving your used herbs and doing the work necessary to use them again. You may not want to take the time to pack a dry herb vaporizer properly. You might not want to carry a vaporizer that has to be large enough to hold a heating element and a usable amount of material. Compared to dry herb vaporizers, wax vaporizers are:
A liquid vaporizer is essentially the same as an electronic cigarette. It vaporizes an e-liquid containing THC or nicotine as the active ingredient. A cannabis e-liquid usually gets its THC from the same type of concentrate that a wax vaporizer uses, but the maker of the e-liquid uses vegetable glycerin and/or propylene glycol to dilute the concentrate to a pourable consistency. You might prefer using a liquid vaporizer if you already own an e-cigarette and want to use it for both THC and nicotine e-liquids. A liquid vaporizer may also be useful if you like the convenience and portability of wax concentrates but want to vape something that isn’t quite as powerful. Otherwise, there’s little reason to use a liquid vaporizer vs. a wax vaporizer.
The most common — and least expensive — type of wax vaporizer is the pen-style vaporizer that’s basically a modified e-cigarette. A wax dab pen will include an atomizer — a heating wire inside a chamber — that vaporizes your THC concentrate. Some wax atomizers may have as many as three heating coils. An atomizer with more coils will get hotter and vaporize your material more quickly. Using an atomizer with more coils, though, also means that your material won’t last as long.
The original dab atomizers used silica wicks. The atomizer would liquefy the THC wax, and the liquefied wax would travel along the wick until it reached the coil. Today, silica wicks are rare because they can affect flavour and lead to wasted material — some of the wax inevitably ends up stuck inside the wick. In most modern dab pens, the heating coil is wrapped around a ceramic or quartz rod. The rod resists heat and doesn’t trap the wax.
Some dab pen manufacturers have experimented with a new type of atomizer design that doesn’t use a heating coil at all. Instead, it uses a flat ceramic plate. An atomizer with a flat design is easy to load and clean. Because the wax doesn’t directly touch the heat source, though, it takes a bit longer to vaporize.
One problem with dab pens is that they have small chambers that some people find difficult to load. As a result, most vape pens include metal tools that make the loading process easier — but some people would rather not go through the trouble. An inverted dab pen has a protruding nail that you can dip into your THC wax. After dipping, place the mouthpiece over the nail and vape.
An e-nail is a wax vaporizer that’s much less portable — and usually a bit more expensive — than a traditional dab pen. Some people, though, believe that the vaping experience with an e-nail is second to none. An e-nail is a battery-powered device with a metal rod — usually made from titanium — that becomes extremely hot when power is applied. After placing some of your THC concentrate on the rod, you’ll place a mouthpiece over the device and vape through the mouthpiece. Because an e-nail reaches extremely high temperatures, the mouthpiece often includes a water filter element. The result is a cool, smooth vapour that’s easy on the throat and lungs. If there’s any problem with e-nails, it’s the fact that they can be fire or safety hazards if you aren’t careful. Keep a hot e-nail away from pets, children and fuel sources.
A wax vaporizer requires a wax- or oil-based concentrate that turns to a liquid — then to vapour — when heated. Before wax concentrates existed, though, hashish was the only real THC concentrate. Hashish — pressed from the resinous trichomes of cannabis buds — doesn’t turn to a liquid when heated and doesn’t work in wax vaporizers.
When we discuss THC concentrates, we’re talking about the process of using a solvent — usually ethanol, butane or carbon dioxide — to extract the beneficial compounds from the marijuana plant. After the extraction process is complete, the solvent is allowed to evaporate. What’s left is all of the good stuff. THC extract is a thick oil or wax that changes in consistency depending on how it’s processed. THC extracts range from very hard — almost like glass — to a honey-like consistency. Some of the terms that people use to describe the consistency of THC extracts include budder, wax, crumble, honeycomb and shatter. These terms only refer to the consistency of the extract — not the purity or THC level.
Your new wax vaporizer will most likely include a long metal spatula called a dab tool. Use the tool to get a small amount of THC wax — roughly the size of a pea is plenty. Gently apply the wax to the top and sides of the atomizer coil, but avoid touching the coil itself with the dab tool. The heating wire is very delicate.
If your THC wax has a hard consistency, break it into very small pieces and place the pieces around the atomizer coil.
No matter how well you load your dab pen, there will still be some bare areas of the coil that the wax doesn’t touch. If you take a big hit immediately, the dry areas of the coil will overheat. You’ll get a harsh “dry hit.” Before you inhale deeply, press the button on your dab pen a few times in short bursts to heat the coil and melt the wax. When the wax softens fully, the coil should become wet enough for you to inhale deeply.
After loading and priming your vaporizer, hold the activation button when you want to inhale. When you release the button, the coil immediately shuts off and begins to cool. The atomizer of your dab pen will hold heat for a while, though, so there’s no need to prime the coil again until you’ve used all of the wax. The purer your THC wax is, the more completely it will vaporize. When the chamber of your atomizer is empty, it’s time to reload.
Many e-nails give you the option of selecting your vaporizing temperature, so you’ll begin by choosing your desired temperature and waiting for the nail to heat up. Once the nail reaches the target temperature, use your dab tool to put a bit of THC concentrate on the tip of the nail. Remember that the nail is extremely hot; don’t touch it with your hands. Place the mouthpiece or water filter attachment over the nail, and inhale the vapour. When nothing remains on the nail, it’s time to dab again.
A THC concentrate may contain minute particles and other impurities that remain after filtering. Those particles won’t vaporize — they’ll collect on and around the coil of your dab pen. Eventually, you’ll need to clean away those deposits. Otherwise, they’ll affect the flavour and performance of your vaporizer. Because most THC wax deposits are alcohol soluble, isopropyl alcohol works well as a wax vaporizer cleaner. Remove the atomizer and soak it in a bath of alcohol, swishing vigorously until the deposits dissolve. If there is any gunk inside the threading at the top of your vaporizer’s battery, you can clean it with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Allow all components to dry completely before using them again.
The easiest way to make a THC concentrate is with a hair iron and some parchment paper. Set the hair iron to a medium-low temperature. Break a bud into a few pieces. Place a piece in the middle of a folded sheet of parchment paper, and press the parchment firmly with the hair iron. You may find it easier to apply firm pressure if you grip the hair iron with an oven mitt. Open the iron after about three seconds. You should see a dark, oily spot on the parchment. Move the bud to a clean section of parchment and repeat the process. Use a razor blade to scrape the wax from the parchment, and store the wax in a clean silicone container. Kept in the refrigerator, the wax will retain its potency for several months.
Don’t throw your buds away after extracting them! Since you didn’t use a solvent to create your THC concentrate, the buds are still perfectly safe to use — and they still have some beneficial compounds remaining. You can use oil to extract the last remaining bits of goodness. Use the oil for baking or to make topical THC products. Alternatively, you can roll the buds and smoke them. If you’d rather not smoke less potent weed, give the buds to someone less fortunate than yourself.
Most people love the taste of using a wax vaporizer. Terpenes are the chemical compounds that give cannabis its smell and taste. Careful breeding results in cannabis strains with different terpene concentrations. Each strain has its own unique flavour and scent profile. When you smoke cannabis, you’re tasting and smelling those terpenes — but you’re also inhaling smoke, which muddles the flavour. Extraction concentrates the terpenes in cannabis, allowing you to taste the true flavour profile of each strain. If you like the flavour and smell of cannabis, you’ll love using a wax vaporizer.
If you don’t like the way that a cannabis wax tastes, something is probably wrong. Here are a few possible explanations:
The vapour from a wax concentrate is thin. The vapour does smell like cannabis, but you’ll find that it dissipates quickly. Unlike marijuana smoke, THC vapour doesn’t leave a smell that lingers in your home or on your clothes.
If you want to experience all of the beneficial compounds in your THC wax without destroying those compounds, the best vaping temperature is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Try experimenting with lower temperatures, though, because high temperatures also destroy the terpenes that give cannabis strains their unique scents and flavours. If you set your wax vaporizer’s temperature too high, the terpenes will be long gone before you take your first hit. Lower vaping temperatures are also good for those days when you’d like to enjoy a more cerebral high rather than staying locked to your couch watching Netflix all day.
If you’re using a dab pen, the first thing that you should do is press the fire button five times quickly. A vape pen requires no preheating time and is easy to carry in a pocket. To prevent accidents, most manufacturers give their vape pens locking fire buttons. Pressing the button five times locks and unlocks the wax vaporizer. If your vape pen still doesn’t work, charge the battery. As a last resort, try a different atomizer.
Dry Herb Vaporizers: The Ultimate Guide
Wax Vaporizers: The Ultimate Guide