Stoners Guide: Bongs Explained
What is a bong?
Well, if you google it... you would find out that a bong is a low-pitched sound made by a large bell. But we’re obviously talking about a different type of bong... maybe we need to look at urban dictionary for a real definition. Urban dictionary defines a bong as something you put flowers in when the cops drive by.
Okay seriously now, a bong (also known as a water pipe) is essentially a filtration device. What’s a filtration device you ask? Ok wow you have a lot of questions today don’t ya! A filtration device, in its simplest form, is an instrument that filters something through it. When talking about smoking weed through a bong, the cannabis flower is combusted (using fire) and is then filtered through the water, into the neck/tube and then through the mouthpiece directly into the user’s lungs.
The chemical process happening here is called “effervescence”. Effervescence is when you introduce a gas through a liquid. Carbonation, boiling and distillation are all examples of this process. In the case of a bong, it is to cool down the smoke that comes through.
The benefits of using a water pipe include a smoother and cooler smoke. The biggest benefit of using a bong if you are directly comparing it to smoking from a pipe or a joint, is that some of the contaminants you normally would be inhaling, build up on the sides of your bong. This is why it is important to clean your bong after every session. Link here for our blog post on how I clean my bongs. Dirty bongs are a breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and fungi, and if you smoke from a dirty bong you could get a lung infection or worse. A clean bong is the most efficient and most safe bong when it comes to your high and your health.
The history of bongs
It may not surprise you that people have been using cannabis for thousands of years. A group of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have dated the oldest bong being 2500 years old. Granted the “bong” does not utilise any water in its use, however, the fact that this thing was used purely for cannabis, specifically to hot box, I’m going to give them a little leniency here and let them define it as a bong.
The archaeologists who found this “bong”, more scientifically refer to it as a “wooden brazier”… I dunno about the other girls out here but umm.. that sounds uncomfortable. The wooden brazier was used to burn cannabis at funeral rituals in ancient China. This suggests that cannabis was smoked as part of a ritual and/or religious activity. The rocks pictured above would be heated up in a fire and placed in the hollowed-out wood, on top the cannabis material would sit and smoke would bellow out the top. When I die, I really hope my friends and family have a hot box in honour of me haha!
The oldest hand-held bongs we know about were found in a cave in Ethiopia dating back somewhere between 1100-1400 CE. They made their bongs from animal horns and repurposed pottery. Bongs were also discovered, in what is now called Russia, that are about 2400 years old. These bongs were made from gold and were used by tribal chiefs called “Scythians” to smoke not only cannabis but also opioids.
The water-pipe bong eventually made its way to Asia along the silk road trade routes where the first written records of bongs were discovered. But back then they were called a Bang/Bhang/Bhaung. The Bhaung was specifically referring to the bamboo water pipes that the commoners would smoke from. The higher social class, the more expensive material your bong was made from, for example brass, bronze, silver, some even decked out with jewels and diamonds.
When Europeans started settling in America, and the tobacco trade became popularised, bongs became wide spread.
Types of bongs
Bongs can be made from many different materials, bamboo, stone, wood, plastic, ceramic, silicone and glass to name a few. There are many different types of bongs out there, all bongs have three common elements, the bowl/cone, the chamber, and the mouthpiece. Bongs can however fall into more than one of these categories.
Let’s take a look at some;
Straight tube bong:
The design couldn’t be simpler here. Straight tube bongs are often made with thicker glass so they are more durable.
Maybe this style will take you back to chemistry class at school, the beaker bong is inspired by lab equipment beakers. The flat base makes for great stability.
Round Base Bong:
Only real difference between the round base bong and the beaker is the rounded base rather than the flared base.
Recycler Bong (Also known as a multi chamber bong):
These bongs use a two-chamber system and an intake tube for moving the water containing the smoke up through the piece before recycling back down, creating a whirlpool type effect.
There are many different types of percolator bongs. All percolators will provide an additional layer of filtration for the smoke, making for smother smoking experience. Pictured below, the green Dopezilla bong has a tree percolator and the black Dopezilla bong has two honeycomb percolators.
As the name suggests, this bong is using the power of gravity to function. As you light the bud on top, you simultaneously lift the inner glass up, creating a vacuum filling the space in between with smoke. Lift the bowl out, position your mouth over the top and push down.
Soft Glass Bong (Hand Blown):
Soft Glass is accurately named thanks to how long it stays malleable when hot and how much easier it can break compared to borosilicate when cold. The result: unique bongs that truly are one of a kind.
Bubblers are often small in their design, resembling more of a pipe than a bong, however they are considered a bong at the end of the day as they utilise water in their function. Easy to store, often made with high quality borosilicate glass and delicate in their design.
Insane hand-blown masterpieces:
Need I say anything about these?? Blown away. See what I did there...
How to rip a bong
Now you know the history of bongs and the different types of bongs, all thats left to do is rip a fat one. But how you ask?...
First things first, pack your bowl. There is an art to packing the bowl, and its mostly up to you as to how big it will be, but you should be packing the bowl loosely – DO NOT PUSH IT DOWN. The reason for this is, if you pack it too tightly, the air cannot pass through the cone properly and you will get a blockage.
Once your cone is ready, hold your finger over the carb (if there is one), hold the lit lighter/hemp wick over the centre of the cone and once it is lit in the middle, move the fire in a small circle around the outside of the cone so that the whole cone is lit. Once the whole cone is evenly lit, remove the fire from the cone.
As soon as you apply the fire to the cone, this is when you begin to inhale. You are essentially creating a vacuum that then creates the effervescence process to happen. You cannot bum puff a bong the way you can a joint, if you are not inhaling into your lungs, it will not work.
It is best to clear a bong in one or two inhales if you can. The longer you leave the smoke in the bong, the staler it gets, the grosser it will taste and the harsher it will hit (in other words cough cough cough cough cough ect.). Perfecting a bong rip takes practice, if you know how much air you can inhale, you will know how long you can stretch out your hit before running out of room in your lungs.
Starting slow and steady, once you have only a small amount of bud left in your cone you can speed up your inhale to clear the cone and empty the chamber. After you’ve cleared the bowl completely and are ready to clear the rest of the smoke, this is when you lift the cone/bowl out and take your finger off the carb (if there is one), making it a lot easier to clear as there will be more airflow.
If you don’t have any room in your lungs left after clearing the bowl, there’s no shame in exhaling quickly before you clear the rest of the smoke in the chamber… or at least that’s what I tell myself.
There are sooooo many types of bongs out there and its truly up to personal preference, for example, my favourite type of bong to use is a tree percolator but I am always gravitating toward beaker bongs. I just think they’re neat.
Hope you learnt something!! <3
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