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Getting started with dabbing can definitely be confusing for beginners. The good news, though? It’s easier than you might realize. The basic process uses a nail to help heat the concentrated oils and waxes in a dabbing rig. This helps make it easier to get a clean and powerful hit. That said, having the right nail is critical for a good dab experience. While personal preferences largely determine what the best nail is, we’re big fans of domeless quartz nails for the beginning dabber due to their safety, ease of use, and great tasting draw.
This list covers the myriad of great nails that currently exist, goes over their varied features, and explains what sets them apart. After all, quartz nails are rising in popularity, and for good reason. Acting sort of like a bowl for a bong, they heat up quickly and deliver an unmatched flavor experience for your wax dab, helping to make your experience all the more enjoyable. They’re also much easier to use over glass vapor domes commonly found on other rigs and can help to prevent unwanted heat loss when trying to enjoy a wax dab. Of course, our stock is constantly changing as technology improves, so please don’t hesitate to let us know if you find a new type of nail!
This dab nail is a must for novices hitting all the convenience and utility checkmarks that a new dabber might need to get started. It boasts a midsize bowl that’s easy to carry around, but it also has a respectable capacity. It’s completely domeless, which means you don’t have to fuss to keep it clean between uses. It also uses quartz, one of the safest materials out there, which provides a clean, strong, and smooth rip, without risking cracks or burning. While there is something positive to be said for every dabbing nail regardless of material or size, a domeless quartz nail with a 14mm bowl is a great one to start dabbing with.
This domeless nail is great for the beginner, as it has a generously sized bowl, no extra parts that require routine maintenance, and it features a distinct curved stem. This last aspect is especially important for the dabbing newbie because it allows you to heat up the nail further away from the dab, reducing the risk of accidental overheating. This keeps safeguard you from burns by moving your fingers and mouth further away from the open flame, and helps avoid shattering the quartz by over-exposing it to heat. That’s not a particularly common problem, but one that can arise when inexperienced rookies spend too long trying to get the dab ready.
So named because of their unique shape, birdhouse dabbing nails have a small opening perch for your mouth, which leads into a vertical chamber that contains your oil or wax concentrates. These nails feature some of the best airflow -- practically a direct line straight from the bowl to your mouth. And, thanks to their simple shape and wide surface area, they heat up very quickly and efficiently, while also still remaining remarkably safe. This makes them a great choice for the dabber who is in a hurry, limited in time, or just wants a fast hit to get them going…preferably one that won’t scald your lips or burn off fingertips!
The 14mm male birdhouse nail doesn’t brag about having the largest bowl, but even so, the reduced size works quite well in its favor. Since it has a smaller overall volume, there’s less area that needs to be heated, allowing it to fire up much quicker. And the tinier nail is somewhat more portable, making it carry out the main function of birdhouses: quick lights and direct hits for the dabber with only a few moments to spare (but still very discreet). While dabbing continues to grow in reputation and popularity, there are still a few situations where you may want to take a hit, but not advertise the act to everyone.
Banger nails feature a bent stem that curves away from the bowl, making them safer and less likely to overheat. The 14mm sized nail is excellent for demonstrating the utility of this by being small enough that the extra curvature doesn’t greatly reduce the heating time or direct airflow you want from your nail, while still allowing for a powerful, relatively quick dab that won’t easily overheat or cause injury. While other nails have slightly larger bowls or more direct airflows to maximize the potency of hits, this one doesn’t sacrifice too much, making it a great choice for new dabbers who aren’t yet confident with the many other types out there.
The main difference between male and female nails are the types of connections they make. While it isn’t a huge change, some dabbers swear by female nails because they share most of the same convenience as male nails, but with the added option of adding on a carburetor cap. Many beginners to dabbing quickly learn that excess oil or wax ends up easily wasted, so attaching a cap allows you to save that surplus for later. The trade-offs and complexities of using a female nail instead of the typical male nail are more than offset by the amount of dab you’ll be saving as you start out and get comfortable with your rigs and equipment.
If you need portability and prioritize safety features over sheer capacity, the 10mm banger nail is a great option to start out with. Small and discreet, yet featuring the typical curve that these nails are known for, this tiny nail offsets many of the slight drawbacks of bangers by sheer virtue of being so tiny as to not make a difference. The airflow through a curved stem this small is comparable to birdhouses and other straight and narrow nails of larger size, and it has low enough surface area to heat up very quickly. This allows you to keep your fingers, and the nail itself, safe from excess exposure to heat.
While most banger nails feature a gentle, curved bend, the 90° is abrupt, angular, and sudden, going from vertical to horizontal instantly. Not only does this have aesthetic appeal, but it also serves functionally for the rig as well. This allows it to be compatible with banger hanger joints and to pair up easily with rigs and water pipes that feature rapid vaporization, dramatically reducing the risk of shattering. If you prefer a nail that is multi-purpose and surprisingly flexible in use and will grow along with you as you explore many different devices, despite appearing deceptively rigid and inflexible in shape, then the 90° banger is an excellent starting nail for you.
Dabbing technology is constantly evolving, and the Terp Slurper is one such change that has recently soared in popularity. It features a clever bowl design that uses capillary forces (the mechanism that makes fluids climb up their containers) to “slurp” any oils that were added straight into the main bowl. This gives a much larger total surface area, which makes for drags and rips that heat up very quickly (yet still cools down to a safe level before you inhale) and have remarkable smoothness and flavor. This nail is a fantastic addition to anyone who wants nothing but the best, and you really can’t go wrong by trying out this latest and greatest in nail tech.
Most banger nails feature a gradual curve that comes out a smooth ninety degrees, but for certain types of water pipes and rigs, you may want a harsher joint to get a smoother rip. That is where the 45° comes in. It features a flat tilted bowl that functions as a small gravity well, making it great for smoothly vaporizing your waxes and oils in a traditional rig setup. It also working well with beakers, angled pipes, and homemade rigs. The angled neck allows for a larger range of utility, while still maintaining the greater safety and more rapid heating that makes banger nails so attractive to starting dabbers in the first place.
Most quartz nails already have thick walls, which are generally considered to be enough to insulate and diffuse the heat applied to them. However, all nails are exposed to a lot of extreme heat in their lifetime, which amounts to a great deal of constant stress that can seemingly inevitably break your nail. While nails that feature twice the typical thickness (at 4mm, compared to the usual 2mm) do take a little bit longer to heat up, they’re also vastly more durable and sturdy. This makes them a great option for a new dabber looking for a nail that will last them a little bit longer while they break it in.
Most quartz nails require an external source of heat to vaporize your dab, but electric nails are a newer technology that optimizes safety by containing their own firing sources. Not only is this better, as the nail can self-regulate the temperature (allowing you to easily hit that sweet spot of the 300-400 degree Fahrenheit range) for a cleaner tasting rip, but it allows the material of your nail to last longer. Sure, quartz can withstand incredible bursts of heat, but it isn’t recommended for prolonged use. For someone just starting out in dabbing and figuring out the right amount of heat, a quartz e-nail can be useful while you get comfortable with it.
Many of the nails that are on this list are sturdy enough and affordable enough to justify buying a few extra for rainy days, but what if you accidentally break your favorite one, and you don’t have a backup laying around? Honestly, even then, it’s not recommended to try making your own! Nails need to be able to handle extreme heat (up to a whopping 1000°F!), have a high tolerance for spontaneous stress, and still be safe to place your lips upon it. We definitely don’t recommend building your own nail, but if you have a bong or pipe already suited to the task, it’s worth considering using that temporarily to hold yourself over.
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