Understanding the basics: Glass Pipes
Smoking devices have been made from various materials for centuries including wood, clay, metal, even deer antlers and old corn cobs. However, it was the invention of the blowpipe and the creation of blown glass for arts and jewelry during the first century, that would change how we smoke. Now, the glass pipe is considered an essential piece of equipment for any cannabis consumer. Meanwhile, just as civilization has evolved over thousands of years, so have the designs and intricacies of the various styles of glass pipes available in the market today.
The Glass Advantage Although
Wood and clay pipes can be used specifically for the purpose of enhancing the flavors of the material being smoked, glass pipes do not alter the flavor or add any impurities to the plant material during combustion. As cannabis smokers become more educated, the market is becoming more selective and particular about how their marijuana is grown and smoked. Glass pipes are part of that puzzle ensuring a clean, precise smoking experience. Plus, glass is easy to clean and maintain which means a consistent flavor each time.
Types of Glass Pipes
Oneies – (aka bat, one-hitter) – Available in various colors, these are very small pipes that only allow smoking a small amount of cannabis at a time. These small pipes may be stored and carried in a wood or plastic container called a “dug out”. Such accessories make smoking discreet and convenient no matter where you are.
Chillums – Only slightly bigger than a bat, this small glass pipe has a small bowl open on one end of the pipe, where the smoker will pack a small amount of tobacco, herbs, or cannabis. Although incredibly simple to use, however, without a carb, clearing the pipe can be difficult, and with a small bowl, plant to reload frequently if you’re smoking with a group.
Spoons – appropriately named as the pipe generally resembles a spoon with the bowl being on the top edge of the pipe, rather than the end of the pipe like a chillum. These are probably the most common style of glass pipe. Generally, made with a carburetor on the side of the bowl which allows air to be drawn through the pipe stem without going through the bowl, thus producing a fresher smoke than pipes without the carb.
Steamrollers – Steamrollers are appropriately named because of the way the smoke “rolls” through the main chamber. Both ends of the pipe are open with a bowl or attachment close to one end. Although, simple in design, steamrollers may take some practice before perfecting the technique.
Sherlock Pipes – (aka “The Gandalf) Think to the stories from your youth of the long, curved pipe that Sherlock Holmes famously puffed from and there will be little wonder how these pipes got their name. Striking pieces, these pipes generally have feet, or a flat bottom, allowing them to sit on a table or a shelf. The Gandalf is similar in nature to the Sherlock, but with a much longer stem.
Bubblers – bubblers are a small water pipe, similar to a bong, but smaller in size and simpler in nature. These pipes use water to cool the smoke, as well as, filter burning embers and impurities from being inhaled into the smoker’s lungs and throat.
Bongs – the granddaddy of all smoking devices. These can be simple or they can be very elaborate having multiple chambers and filtration systems working just like bubblers, but on a much larger scale. Some glass bongs are very simple, while others may be quite complex and very expensive.
Disadvantages of Glass
Although glass may be the best way to really savor the flavor of the cannabis you’re smoking, there are a few disadvantages to glass pipes as well. Obviously first and foremost, glass is glass it is fragile and it can break. There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than watching your favorite pipe shatter into a million pieces as it hits the tile floor. In addition, depending on the quality of the product and the craftmanship of the glass blower, all glass has minor stress points. As the glass is heated and cooled repeatedly through normal use, these internal stresses can fracture leaving you with cracks and may even cause the pipe to shatter.
To combat this, some manufacturers are using borosilicate glass, more commonly referred to by its brand name, Pyrex. This glass is designed to withstand the higher temperatures as such for smoking, cooking, and chemistry. Remember the glass beaker you used in your high school chemistry class? It was probably made of Pyrex to withstand the heat of the bunsen burner you sat it on.
With any pipe, as you smoke, the screen, the bowl, and the pipe itself can become gummed up with the resin, a black, tarry substance left behind during combustion. This can make it difficult to pull smoke through the pipe, it can alter the flavor of the cannabis you are smoking, and it can harbor bacteria. Thoroughly cleaning your glass will improve your experience and help keep you healthy.
Boiling Method – the main thing you need to know here is DO NOT drop a cold pipe into boiling water. Instead, place the pipe in a pot of luke warm water and allow the water to come to a boil with pipe already in it. This allows the temperature of the pipe to come up gradually. One the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat, and allow the pipe to soak for 15-20 minutes to soften the hardened resin. A pipe cleaner can then be used to remove anything still stuck.
91% Rubbing Alcohol and Salt – put the pipe in a container just large enough to enclose it. Pour rubbing alcohol in the container with a little Epsom salt and allow it to soak overnight. The alcohol will help dissolve the resin and the salt will act as an abrasive to break away any stuck-on particles.
Glass pipes are an economical and environmentally sound way to consume whatever it is that you enjoy smoking. With the unlimited creativity of the artists that create them, the styles and designs vary in complexity and beauty. Plus, with proper care, cleaning, and maintenance glass pipes can last can last for many years.