Marijuana bongs, pipes and vaporizers
Smoking recreational drugs, from jimsonweed and opium to peyote and crack cocaine, just to get stoned has been done since before biblical times. Smoking is the fastest and most common method of getting one’s brain under the influence in minimum time because drugs suspended in smoke are quickly absorbed through lung linings and directly into the bloodstream. Problem is, smoking requires equipment.
I recall being at a deer camp where a friend and I weren’t scheduled to be picked up from the remote swamp we were hunting for fourteen days, and having an ounce of really great bud, but no pipe and no papers. Such is the driving motivation for a true pothead to get baked that my friend arose early the first morning and shot a small buck for us to eat during our stay. Then he cut 6 inches off the knuckle end of a leg bone with the saw on his multitool, and used his survival knife to drill a one-inch bowl in the flat behind the slightly flared joint.
The marrow was hardened by boiling and removed from the bone’s core in pieces with a length of fence (and snare) wire whose end had been bent into a hook. Then a length of fence wire was heated red in the fire and used to poke small holes that opened bowl to stem. It was crude-some even called our bone pipe “gross”—but it kept a pair of stoners far from civilization tuned in for two reeks. That bone pipe served well for the next four yearly until age and heat made the bone brittle and it broke while being cleaned one day.
How to Roll a Joint
Isn’t it amazing how many people who smoke pot claim to be incapable of rolling marijuana in a cigarette paper into a clean-smoking joint? Enough; it’s time for all you nonrollers to learn to twist a joint. I smoked roll-your-own cigarettes for twenty years—not tapered-end movie cigarettes, but squared-end smokes that were often mistaken for Camels or Lucky Strikes—and I can’t abide a joint that doesn’t smoke well.
Rolling a good joint begins with having marijuana that is the proper “grain” to both roll well and burn evenly. Consistency should not be powdery, as this is both difficult to keep inside a paper and will tend to smolder and “run,” burning unevenly on one side but not the other. Makings that are too coarse can also make a joint run, and may result in a bumpy, homely looking doobie that no one can take pride in. The ideal pot for rolling a joint is somewhat coarse, about the consistency of fine mulch, and slightly moist—moist marijuana not only rolls more easily but also has smoother smoke.
There are enough types, sizes, colors, and even flavors of rolling papers on the market to confuse someone who isn’t high. It is my assertion that none is better than another if the objective is to get stoned by smoking a joint. Beginners usually find a larger paper easier to work with, and one edge should be gummed, to help keep the joint stuck together. Beyond that, it really doesn’t matter which paper you choose.
Grip the paper at the corners of its undimmed edge between the thumb and fore- finger of either hand. Then, slide your middle fingers upward along the underside of the paper, forming it into a trough. Hold the paper in that shape with one hand while the other sprinkles a thimbleful of marijuana into the trough.
With the paper held in a trough shape between thumbs and middle fingers of both hands, smooth the marijuana being rolled with your index fingers, pushing just a bit more to the ends than is in the paper’s center (this helps to ensure that ends remain tightly rolled as the joint is smoked). Next, place your index fingers atop and alongside your middle fingers, and use your thumbs to gently roll the marijuana at either end back and forth to form it into a tight cylinder. When the ends feel firm and evenly cylindrical, roll the unguided edge upward and tuck it under the other side of the rough, forming a tube of paper filled with marijuana. Smooth the joint’s outer surfaces by gently applying thumb pressure as you roll the tube back and forth toward the gummed edge. When you have the joint at dimensions you can live with, roll the ends tightly toward the gummed edge, give the glue a lick, and stick it down to hold your tautly rolled, even-burning joint in shape
I suppose we’ll never know who created the first toke stone, but it was a product of the latter twentieth century, when power tools became inexpensive enough for everyone to own them. Sort of a pipe for smoking joints, a toke stone is nothing more complex than a soft stone—clay, lime, or soapstone, usually—that has had a hole drilled through it from one end to the other, creating a wind tunnel of sorts. A tapered-end joint is inserted into the hole at one end of the stone, then lighted and toked on from the hole at the opposite end of the stone.
Making a toke stone isn’t a challenge. First, select a soft stone; most preferred are thick disc-shaped stones, like the water-smoothed stones found at shorelines. This shape enables a lighted joint in the stone to be set onto a table or counter surface while keeping the burning ember suspended in midair. where it won’t burn anything. And if you want your stone to look like an authentic Cheech and Chong prop, the flat surfaces also make good, if small, canvases on which to express one’s inner self in paint.
Next, fix the stone in a vise in a position that best accommodates the direction you mean to drill from—the drilling process is much easier if you have a drill press to keep stone and drill immobilizing but it has often been done using a hand drill. Determine where you want to drill, pop on your safety glasses, and start drilling using a new, sharp masonry bit in a plug-in power drill. Diameter of the drill bit determines how large or small a joint can be smoked through the stone, but 1/8 inch should be appropriate for all but the stingiest friends. The bit should start burrowing into the rock with little downward force, leaving behind a residue of fine powdered stone. It helps to keep the hole flushed and lubricated with plain water as the bit bores more deeply. When the hole is bored clear through, smooth away nicks and sharp edges around the openings with coarse (fifty-grit) sandpaper. Insert a joint in one hole, light it, and smoke from the opposite end until it’s gone.
This supersimple joint smoker consists of nothing more than a 6-inch (or whatever length you prefer) section of aluminum arrow tubing—broken arrows are fairly common at archery ranges, where they’ll often give them to you for asking. A 1/8 inch-diameter hole drilled through just one side, about l inch from whichever end you choose, is about the right size to accommodate most tapered-end joints. With one end of a fat hooter stuck into the hole, place one index finger over that end of the arrow tube to block it, and draw a hit from the opposite end. Keep your index finger over the other end as you toke, forcing all air drawn in to pass through the lighted joint, then, just before you can’t inhale any more smoke, remove your finger and let a rush of fresh air drive the smoke you’ve inhaled deeper into your lungs. Arrow takers are lightweight, concealable, and not likely to be recognized as smoking paraphernalia. They also let you smoke a joint down to virtually nothing without burning your lips.
Another version of the arrow taker is a head-rush tool known as a “steamroller. This simple joint smoker is made the same way as the arrow taker, except that it uses an aluminum tube an inch or more in diameter in place of arrow shaft. The larger tube is still smoked with its end blocked off by your palm as you inhale through the opposite end, but when you release it at the end of a long hit, and the smoke filling the tube is allowed to rush into your lungs, the effect is one worth experiencing.
The most basic tool for smoking any type of material that a person wants to inhale is an old-fashioned pipe. With a pipe, a smoker draws outside air through a bowl filled with burning marijuana, accelerating its burn rate and increasing the heat of its ember. Smoke is pulled from the bottom of the bowl through a drawing tube that terminates at the smoker’s lips.
Slightly more inventive pipes (and bongs) add a “carburetor” hole that is kept plugged by a finger or thumb tip while a smoker is drawing on a lighted bowl. When the burning bowl glows red and the stem or expansion chamber is filled with billowed smoke, the carburetor hole is unplugged to let air flow fast and freely to the smoker’s lungs. Similar to the ram-induction hood scoop on a muscle car, the sudden rush of wind drives smoke deeper into the lungs, resulting in a more of it being absorbed.
In the creative hands of marijuana smokers, the pipe has evolved into a variety of specialized tools that bear little resemblance to the briars and corncob tobacco pipes smoked by pre-hippie beatniks of the early 1960s. Purpose-built pot pipes of today range from beautiful multicolored blown-glass to ornate worked-brass models, and even works of art carved from soapstone.
Have you ever seen one of those crazy-expensive Rainbow vacuum cleaners? You don’t have to be an engineer to deduce that the guy who designed this machine knew the mechanics of a marijuana bong. The Rainbow’s fame stemmed from a system that brought in dirt from the outside to be exhausted into a tank half-filled with water. Dirt, dust, and other participates were exhausted at the bottom of the water tank, where they were trapped by being made wet and too heavy to pass into the impeller motor’s exhaust to the outside.
That is essentially the concept behind a water pipe, except that this venerable old design uses a smoker’s lungs to provide the suction force necessary to efficiently consume a vessel of burning marijuana—sometimes opium and other drugs, and sometimes in a “hookah” unit with several hoses for group smoking. In every form, a bong is a sealed suction unit, with outside air concentrated and drawn by vacuum through a lighted bowl, which accelerates the combustion of its contents. Smoke from this enhanced combustion is pulled to the bottom of a small water tank, where it is exhausted into water, which cools it and traps ash and other participates. Smoke that fills the airspace above the water is smoother to inhale and easier on the lungs than if it would be without the water barrier between bowl and mouthpiece.
The bong I remember best from my childhood was a monstrous contraption with three rubber hoses that we called the “pickle jar bong,” because the body of its construction had once held kosher dill spears. Using only a knife and the some- times frantic advice received from friends who were anxious for some means to smoke their weed, I had drilled a hole through the center of the jar’s screw-on lid, just large enough to accept a copper fuel-line tube if I twisted and wiggled it through. With the cover on the jar, the copper tube sat on its bottom and stuck up from the top one inch. An expended .308 Winchester rifle cartridge with its base cut off and a small piece of metal window screen pushed into the cut end served as a convenient bowl; its narrow neck fit neatly into the copper tube, after a little shaving with my knife. Around the jar lid’s perimeter, I carefully drilled three slightly smaller holes with the tip of my knife, then forced three 8-inch hoses of latex surgical tubing (we used it for our wrist rocket slingshots) through those holes from the top. The soft hoses sealed themselves, but I sealed the jar lid to the copper tube—making their joining airtight—with a generous layer of fifteen-minute epoxy. Even before the epoxy had begun to set, we had the jar half-filled with water and the filled bowl glowing red. That was actually good, because our combined suction, which probably approximated that of a small Shop-van, drew the rapidly hardening resin into any leaks, sealing them right away. That pickle-jar bong burned pounds of marijuana over five years before someone who must have really needed a bong stole it.
This bong hearkens back to the hippie culture of the ’70s. There are many variations (pot smokers are a creative lot), but the basic unit consists of a PVC pipe—or any tube—about 2 inches in diameter by 10 inches to more than 6 feet long. The bottom end of the tube is sealed with a flat glue-on PVC cap that allows the tube to stand on end. A hole drilled about 4 inches above the capped bottom should be just large enough to accept whatever metal tube you might opt to slide through that hole. Ideally, the tube—typically copper fuel or hot-water line—has an inside diameter of 1/4 inch, just the right size for a respectable joint. The metal tube angles through the drilled hole from the bottom of the capped tube to about 3 inches beyond its outer wall. Seal the hole around the metal tube with a generous application of quick-drying epoxy, and let it harden. Finally, a pencil-size carburetor hole drilled about 4 inches above and slightly to one side of the metal tube give the bong a lung-filling kick that is limited only by the length of the PVC tube used.
Probably most people are familiar with this bong configuration, because it seems to be an icon of pot smokers in the movies, and it works the same way. Fill the bottom of the tube with 3 inches of water (I’ve also used sweet wine or sometimes bourbon). Insert a lighted joint into the open end of the metal tube, place an index finger over the carburetor hole, place your mouth in the PVC tube’s opening, and suck. When your lungs feel about half-full, release the carburetor hole and let the tuneful of smoke flow into your lungs. This bong can also be used dry, and the tube end can be flared using a tube flaring tool and turned into a bowl. Push a faucet aerator or section of steel window screen down into bottom of the conical bowl to hold burning pot in place, and have yourself a party.
This is a northern redneck emergency bong that has gotten many a carload of good ol’ boys stoned when someone had weed, no one had papers, but everyone had a metal can containing some sort of beverage. By indenting the bottom end with a cross point screwdriver or some other tool that will make a conical depression in the metal, then punching a pin-size hole at the bottom of the cone, an impromptu bowl is formed; it can be oriented with the can’s drinking hole in any position that suits you. Finally, punch a small aureole through the can’s bottom to serve as a “carburetor.’
Fill the conical bowl of your can bong with some shredded bud, seal the drinking hole with your lips, and block the carburetor hole with the index finger of the hand holding the can while you apply a butane lighter to the pot. Inhale as much as you can, and just before you hit your limit, release the carburetor and let the canful of smoke rush into your lungs.
Vaporization is the latest way for modern humans to smoke pot. The machines use direct or indirect heat, usually generated by power supplied from a household outlet, to completely incinerate herb placed in their combustion clambers. According to stoning experts at High Times magazine, vaporization is an efficient method of smoking marijuana, it’s healthier than smoking joints or from pipes, and is “gaining thousands of converts each month.”
A big part of the vaporizer’s appeal is that it can stretch your pot supply about twice as far for most people. With some of today’s ultrapotent bud selling for $400 an ounce, a catalytic combustion system that delivers twice the high from a bowl of weed, with much less irritation to the respiratory tract, has tremendous appeal to apartment smokers. Vaporizers effect more efficient extraction of THC from the bud they burn, incinerating tars and other particulate by-products that irritate bronchial passages. For regular smokers, a vaporizer might pay for itself in a few months.
As might be expected of an industry in which CEOs stay stoned as part of the job, there are a lot of vaporizers on the market at this time, in many price ranges and configurations. Basic units begin at around $60, ranging to more than $500 for a portable outdoor party unit powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. While that diversity enables consumers to select from a larger array of models to find one that best suits their needs and pocketbook, it can also result in a lot of confusion. Probably most cannabis vaporizers are purchased online, sight unseen except for a thumbnail and a more-or-less-complete list of specifications. Following are a few tips that every smoker shopping for a vaporizer should keep in mind.
Vaporizer Heating Systems
At this time there are two methods by which vaporizers apply intense heat to marijuana in their combustion chambers: Conduction and convection. With conduction, or “hot-plate,” models, the cannabis to be smoked is placed on a hot plate that is heated by a nichrome (toaster) wire that glows red-hot when electricity passes through it. Contact between the herb and the heated element completely vaporizes the marijuana. Not as efficient as most convection modeled conduction vaporizers are usually less expensive and more portable than convection models, and are far more efficient than the carry-around, portable (and usually inefficient) glass and metal types that need to be used over a kitchen range or other type of open-flame burner.
Convection models are better, in terms of efficiency and smoking smoothness, but these are generally more expensive. Instead of applying marijuana directly to a red-hot element, a convection system drives a stream of superheated air (currently 360 to 430degrees F) through the pot being smoked. Similar in principle to the flameless that transforms wood into charcoal for summer barbecues, the flow of superset air reduces marijuana to carbon without actually burning it. The process produces cool smoke that is more gentle than bong smoke, while at the same time being comprised of finer participates that are more readily absorbed by a smoker’s lungs-like what a turbocharger does by converting gasoline to an aerosol before it’s burned. The clean heat of convection causes resinous glands, or trichomes (psychoactive cannabinoids that are the source of kif) in the outer layers of cannabis to literally “evaporate” The cloud of smoke released by this process is said to be cleaner than with conduction models, with better stoning and less coughing.