Consumer and technological trends in the cannabis concentrates industry play a pivotal role in what and how people are dabbing. More than a decade into the maturation of the extracts industry, the progression and invention of dab accessories and apparatuses is moving at a breakneck pace. If you happen to create an accessory that is widely lauded then people might adopt it nearly overnight. However, these successes have found it a struggle to keep up with the rapidly growing demand.
In our 2nd installment of examining the evolution of dabs with the aid of Google Trends, we want to chronicle the history of dab nails and carb capping. When did certain kinds of apparatuses go out of favor likely for something that provided more flavor, as is the general direction. Similar to looking at more general terms surrounding concentrates, we will also see which terms are continuing to climb to all-time highs of interest and popularity.
Examining Google Trends for dab nail specific keywords shows when certain types of nails started to go out of favor and how the different varieties stack up against each other. In particular with the rise of quartz nails/bangers, their ubiquity at gatherings of extract connoisseurs (for example a Secret Cup or Cannabis Cup) is plainly noticeable.
A Short Dab Nail Timeline
For years, those on the cutting edge of concentrates resorted to using coals or hot knives until titanium started becoming a more popular material to vaporize dabs. Originally, titanium pads and wire swing arms adorned the first dab rigs more than 10 years ago. The glassblowing brother and sister Hashmasta Kut and GGirl created what would be known as the some of the first oil rigs, at least chronicled by TokeCity’s longstanding glass forums.
Right here at Marijuana.com, some colleagues who have been introduced to extracts (but are not new to cannabis) within the past year or two never experienced the days before quartz and e-nails were more prevalent in connoisseur circles. They had no idea what or how to use a setup with an adjustable nail and a dome, and had never seen a titanium pad and swing before. In case any readers are also in the dark, the photo atop this article shows a titanium swing beating heated.
When Task Rok came out with the first Highly Educated titanium nail in 2010 the nails became widely adopted and remained the standard-bearers for dabbing for many years. First Highly Educated and other titanium nail manufacturers following HE’s step kept up the innovation with different types of nails. Initially adjustable titanium nails were the go-to product. These involved a Ti nail designed to fit on top of a male glass joint. A glass dome (sometimes called a globe) that used to come with all dab rigs, was used to surround the nail after it is heated up. When the dab is vaporized on the nail, the dome keeps the vapor from escaping, allowing it to be pulled through the male joint and into the piece. Highly Educated were also the first to release a domeless nail and carb cap combo, which revolutionized the way people dabbed (more on that to come.)
According to Google Trends, the term “titanium nail” reached its peak popularity at the end of December 2014. The interest level for “titanium nail” now sits just above half the interest it had at that time. From there, “quartz nail” and “ceramic nail” began to climb toward their current hierarchy with quartz at the top.
The design of early quartz nails mirrored non-adjustable and adjustable titanium nails starting from around the same time titanium nails. Starting around 2013, more and more artists started to produce their own innovative designs to provide a better dabbing experience. Currently, dabbing on quartz at low temperatures on a quartz “banger” (with the help of a timer) and using a cotton swab to clean the surface of residual oil after taking a dab is being widely adopted amongst concentrate connoisseurs.
The glass artist Quave created the Quave Club Banger or QCB back in 2013 and it immediately earned its status as in a class of its own. Since “bangers” became more popular, other artists put their own spin on the design and function of quartz nails. The market now has dozens of options when looking to buy a quartz nail for your dab rig, including Joel Halen Troughs, J-Red Diamond Knots, Evan Shore Bangarangs, Highly Educated, Pukinbeagle Thermal-Ps and nails, Mayoral Quartz, Ionic Quartz, and others (feel free to leave a comment with other quality quartz manufacturers out there.)
The peak in popularity for ceramic nails can be traced back to Hive Ceramics launching their first ceramic nails. It could never beat titanium out of favor and was eventually passed over by quartz as the widest adopted material for dab nails, buckets, bangers, and the like.
Why are Dabbers Choosing Quartz?
Quartz ascended to the top choice for the concentrate community for a number of reasons. Dabbers who turn to quartz over titanium point to its advantages in allowing more of the flavor in their concentrates to come through, to their preference in the aesthetics of quartz nails, and to their relative ease of cleaning and removal. Quartz is also much less prone to getting stuck on a joint like a domeless titanium nail and is much less likely than ceramic nails to break after a dab-related mishap.
Nowadays some high-end functional pieces in the multiple thousands of dollars range come with their own new Quave Club Banger for good measure.
The Rise of Carb Capping
Heavily involved in the use of recent-day dabbing is the carb cap. Google Trends shows that carb caps have never been more popular and for good reason — flavorful dabs are the growing preference for many concentrate smokers. The current iterations of carb caps offering directional flow, optimal airflow, and a general ease of use for dabbing are being widely adopted as more and more glass artists make carb caps and dabbers buy them up.
Prior to the current crop of carb caps, adjustable nail setups allowed dabbers to place their thumb or an object over the top of the dome. Undoubtedly, some dabbers burned their fingers or thumbs when the nail was too close to the top of the dome. Highly Educated’s domeless titanium nail setup really brought carb capping to the forefront of the connoisseur community in mid-2013. HeE made their new domeless nail to fit perfectly with their newly designed carb cap/dabber combo. The titanium milled carb cap started with 1 hole for airflow with a 3-hole version later released for optimal airflow.
To a casual smoker or someone not in a legal state with a larger concentrate community, carb capping might be confusing when they may only be familiar with the “carb” on a pipe. While they both essentially modulate how well you will burn a bowl or vaporize a dab, respectively, they are completely different.
The carb on a pipe is used to moderate airflow into a glass pipe or bubbler and acts in a similar manner to a glass on glass bowl/slide on a bong, allowing a smoker to clear the chamber.
A carb cap, when placed on a concentrate nail, creates a chamber to more efficiently vaporize your dab. A carb cap regulates airflow to the nail through a small hole in the top of the device. This opening restricts airflow into the chamber, which creates suction and lowers the air pressure of the chamber to a level below normal atmospheric pressure. Within this area of lower pressure your cannabis oil will be able to vaporize at a lower temperature. So dabs carb capped at proper temperatures will preserve more terpenes in your dab, leading to a more flavorful, tastier hit. Vaporizing at lower temperatures also means a less irritating hit for your throat.
Carb Cap Craze
One innovative product that has the concentrate community’s full attention is Hover Glass’ convection carb cap. Released by the artist around April 2016, they originally retailed for around $100. Unable to produce enough to keep up with demand, Hover Glass has promised to deliver them to the masses when ready and able. Hoards of dabbers on Instagram have been waiting for months for these carb caps to become available, either through the artist himself or through resellers and smoke shops. As of the end of February 2017, resellers for very exclusive drops of the convection carb caps are pricing them as high as $450. Direct from the artist they’re going for over $300.
Why the insanely high margins? Although it is a simple function of supply and demand, it highlights part of the industry’s inclination to hype up a product and for eager consumers to pay what it takes to own that exclusive product. When this happens, others in the industry sometimes step up to fill in the gap for demand or prices bubble up to exorbitant amounts.
Quartz, Titanium, and Electronic Nails
Google Trends tells us that the popularity of electronic nails (also invented by Highly Educated) is now down from its peak around the end of 2015. While still a popular and innovative product, the decline can be traced back to the rising use of quartz nails and the fact that titanium nails are more commonly used with electronic nail setups. The chart can also be misrepresenting drop in interest in e-nails. The rise in December 2015 could have been due to e-nails being high on the Holiday Wish Lists of many concentrate fans that year. There is certainly less e-nail usage in Instagram dab videos today than there was during 2015.
Trends in the cannabis concentrates community rise and fall at a rapid pace. Just within the past half decade, dab nail technologies and preferences have made seismic shifts in response to consumer preferences. There’s no telling when a new product will enter and disrupt the market, but there is a good chance that someone is working extremely hard on inventing that product at this moment. We look forward to riding the wave of groundbreaking technology as it changes the landscape of dabbing.
(Google Trends search term data from the last 5 years in the United States)