Bongs have been an unquestioned part of cannabis culture from time immemorial. It is an unique act performed and singularly appreciated by cannabis enthusiasts. But what makes a bong a bong and not just a pipe? Lets find out.
Bongs are as old as smoking itself
The humble bong is one of the most ancient of devices. They can be elaborately ornate objet d‘art or a simple plastic bottle and garden hose arrangement for emergency disposal. Blown glass fantasies of ergonomic cleverness or rudimental stainless steel, the bong takes many shapes and forms. The bubble pipe, water pipe or bong is a revered device with a rich history. Jewel decorated silver curiosities were used by the Chinese nobility. Simpler brass or copper creations were used by merchants and urbanites, with peasants using bamboo.
Credited as a centuries old Thai invention, the word derives from the same word for a stalk of bamboo. A hollow section of bamboo was used for smoking tobacco, opium, hashish and cannabis. 2,400 year old gold bongs have recently been discovered in Scythian archaeological excavations in Russia. Entombed with chieftains, the importance of the bong as a marihuana smoking tool is unquestioned.
What does science say about bongs?
Prohibition has really affected the serious study of most aspects of cannabis culture, so not a lot of investigation has been done with regard to waterpipes and their effectiveness. With the rise of the vaporizer as the preferred method of discrete cannabinoid delivery for the contemporary medical marijuana patient, no studies are on the horizon. Understandably, the bong certainly alienates Joe Public. It is such a foreign thing to do, indiscrete unlike a spliff or vaporizer. Exhaling a party cone full of dense indica can result in a cumulonimbus of thick blue smoke that hangs in the air for hours. A human volcano of smoke and coughs can really freak the normals out and cast cannabis use in a poor light.
Perception of the bong aside, literature review of past water pipe studies carried out in the sixties and seventies indicate that toxins and particulates are filtered out of the smoke without compromising THC content. There were contradictory results to these early studies in a more comprehensive look taken in the nineties by NORML California state manager Dale Gieringer and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Study). The surprising results indicated, that an unfiltered joint outperforms a bong with regard to particulate filtration and cannabinoid delivery. Bongs actually slightly reduce the amount of cannabinoids available in the smoke and increase the amount of tars by 30%.
It is speculated this is due mainly to the intense heat generated in the cone during the drawing process. Extra tars are created at the higher temperatures and cannabinoids along with terpenes are destroyed by the excessive heat. Drawing too intensely on a cone has a similar effect to bellowing a smithies fire. There is some debate about the vaporization temperature of THC, but it is certainly above 157°C. The heat of a cone being pulled can be thrice this heat, so some substances are simply destroyed. This indicates, that drawing gently on a bong can increase cannabinoid intake due to a cooler burn.
The bong remains the same
Regardless of the science, the bong remains an ubiquitous cannabis smoking tool throughout the world. As ubiquitous as the horrifying phrase-bong water on the carpet. The effectiveness of the bong as a smoke delivery system has been understood throughout the ages and is still revered today. Although outperformed by the modern vaporizer, the bong remains a favourite utensil for cannabis use around the world. A good clean hit from your favourite bong is a great way to get an immediate impression of the quality of your weed.
Diffuser chillums have grinds on the one hand (opening 14,5 / 18,8mm / some 29mm) and at the bottom, which stands in the water, small holes, in order to further disperse the smoke into small bubbles. Percolator chillums have small holes, small slots.
Ice chamber / Icetwist
A chamber or part of the bong, into which ice can be stacked. During glass blowing or acrylic processing, the outer wall is slightly pulled inwards. The prongs prevent the ice cube from falling through.
Smoke is deflected over a small glass ball, dirt and condensation accumulate on the glass‘s inner wall. Ash is collected and does not go further into the bong.
Activated carbon chamber
Probably the best invention for the bong. The large surface area of the porous material absorbs toxins and particles like a sponge. Traces of ash are collected too and do not get into the bong. However, ashes quickly clogs the chamber.
With or without Percolator / Diffuser A water-filled small glass bulb, on which a little cone can be put. As with the bong itself, the smoke has to pass a down-pipe through the water. If the smoke is finely split at the end of the tube by small slits it is a percolator; if the smoke is split by small holes at the lower end into small bubbling bubbles, it is a diffuser. There are countless different types and designs of percolators and diffusers.
The Standard Glass Type
You shan‘t steal things from chemistry lesson. There are analogies to lab glass (chemistry). Often even laboratory glass blanks are blown into bongs. This glass is borosilicate glass (also borosilicate), which is impassible to chemicals and temperatures. As with laboratory glass, one finds standardized joints (diameter) 14.5 and 18,8mm.
Are u sucking a vase? The Holland bong is simple and made of ceramic. It is reminiscent of a vase of flowers (motley colours and paintings) and has no kick hole. On the ground it measures about 15cm, tapers to the upper third of the bong and broadens again towards the mouthpiece. The chillum usually consists of aluminum, onto which a wooden or metal head is plugged / screwed. The chillum is sealed with a rubber ring. Since no standard joints come into use here, extensions can only be used to some extent.
The Plastic Type
Don‘t forget to pack the light, indestructible festival-bong for the camp. An acrylic bong is cheaply produced, but at the same time due to stability offers high life expectancy. Acrylic bongs come in many colours and shapes. Their make resembles glass bongs, but with the already described alu chillum. The chillum is also fixed with a rubber ring. Some acrylic bongs have an ice chamber. A kick hole is rather standard. Since acrylic bongs have a rubber foot, which can be removed, one can reach the lower end with brushes well. However, frequent brushing can leave scratches and particles accumulate faster on the inner wall of the acrylic bong. The ideal festival or for shared apartments.
The Metal type
„I want it indestructible.“ Metal bongs are made of stainless steel or aluminum, have a rubber or acrylic foot and an alu chillum. They are virtually indestructible. Metal bongs do not have an ice chamber. On the other hand, the material itself has strong cooling properties. However, surface structure and temperature of metal bongs cause dirt and smut to quickly accumulate on the inner wall.
The Ice Type
Cold, colder, coldest. The ice bong is constricted below the mouthpiece (ice twist / ice chamber). Ice cubes can be filled into the down-pipe. This provides cool smoke and less scratching in the throat.
The Lab worker / Tech-Freak
Looks just like a meth cooker‘s homes. Perc and diffuser bongs are suitable for pure smokers who like cool smoke. The many separate chambers can be cleaned less comfortably from tobacco and grass residues. At sharp angles and edges, deposits quickly form. New and different filters are a must-have for Hi-tech freaks. The larger 29mm joint can also be found. Modular plug-in systems, which can be combined with various modular extensions, are well suited to fine-tune the bong to individual needs. Generally, percolators and diffusers further split smoke bubbles into small bubbles and thus cool the smoke.
The Hash oil Type (Dabbing)
With BHO, Shatter & Honeycomb Sugarwax
Healthy bong smoking? Is it possible? The oil bong type does not need a huge bong, but a slight cooling. A percolator or pre-cooler is sufficient. What is needed are utensils, such as a blowtorch and silicone bowls for the oil (baking paper works too), as well as a glass or titanium nail for portioning and an oil bong head. The hash oil (various consistencies, from oily soft and sticky, to hard and firm without strongly adhering) is portioned with a spike of titanium or glass and applied to a glass or titanium nail which has previously gotten smoldering with a blow torch. The oil head (glass or titanium) usually has a depression in the center, from which oil / wax can not run down so quickly. During application / dripping (hence the term „dabbing“), the oil vaporizes and the head is covered with a dome open at the top. This prevents that too much of the evaporating oil escapes before the air is inhaled. For dabbing you need some steps and the right timing. The availability of good hash oil is not guaranteed everywhere. However,hash oil is a very tasty variant without tobacco. If the oil bong turns yellow or makes a dirty impression, it is not from residue of tar and nicotine, but mainly from resin. Resin remaining in the bong is easier to remove than tobacco and grass incineration residues.