For many consumers, bubblers produce more enjoyable smoke the way a bong does, but with the smaller, more convenient size that a spoon offers. Glass chillums can essentially be described as a small cylinder of glass you can smoke out of. You pack one end of the cylinder with flower, ignite it, and pull the smoke through the other end of the cylinder.
Steamrollers are basically extra-large chillums that often include a small depression for packing cannabis, a carb for controlling airflow, and a much larger-diameter glass cylinder. The idea is to let you fill the pipe with tons of smoke before clearing it all at one time for a powerful punch of cannabis smoke. Dab rigs typically use the same water filtration system as a bong, but they include a number of additional features and components designed specifically for vaporizing super-potent cannabis concentrates at higher temperatures than those for smoking flower. Instead of a bowl, for instance, a dab rig typically utilizes a nail or banger made from glass, quartz, or titanium. Once the heated chamber reaches the desired temperature, the concentrate is dabbed and filtered through water before being consumed. A common debate in the world of cannabis is whether glass pieces made in the United States are fundamentally different from or of better quality than glass pieces made in places such as China. One camp maintains that mass-produced Chinese glass is inherently inferior to American glass. According to this perspective, because Chinese glass is mass-produced and is intended to be much more affordable, manufacturers cut corners and don’t create products with as much care or quality assurance as manufacturers in the U.S. As seen on numerous online discussion boards and cannabis forums , common complaints about Chinese-made glass include: Lower-quality glass.
Glass that is not carefully hardened through a process called annealing, thereby making it more susceptible to stress fractures and breaking. Unoriginal designs, with many claiming that Chinese glass manufacturers essentially rip off designs created by smaller glassmakers and then mass-produce them. Another camp tends to be much more open to glass pieces made in China. In general, this cohort sees the quality of Chinese glass as close enough to the quality of any other glass that it doesn’t really make a noticeable difference. Further, this group often argues that because Chinese pieces are mass-produced for lower cost, they actually serve a valuable function within the cannabis industry, giving people access to very affordable smoking implements. For many, this affordability outweighs whatever drop in quality consumers might get with a piece made in China. As expert glassblower Luke Wilson put it: “The only difference is [Chinese manufacturers] take everything they make from other people and make it a million times over. … There’s nothing wrong with China glass as far as I’m concerned. So if you need a high-filter piece for your money, then go buy a China piece. But if you want something that’s collectible and that you’ll appreciate, go buy a personal artist piece.” Scientific Glass vs. The other key distinction in the types of glass used for cannabis pipes is if it’s made from scientific glass or artisan glass. According to The American Scientific Glassblowers Society , scientific glass is specifically designed to meet the rigorous demands and specifications of the scientific community. Per the Society’s website: “Scientific glassblowers provide highly specialized glass apparatus for all universities with graduate research programs, government, private, and industry-research laboratories, production facilities, the semiconductor industry, and many other aspects of scientific research.” Scientific glass is primarily focused on function, precision, and consistency. And smoking devices made out of scientific glass are much the same. These pieces tend to use thicker glass, are typically more heat-resistant, and have minimal issues with stress fractures or other manufacturing defects. Scientific glass pipes are primarily focused on function rather than style. As a result, they typically do not have a lot of color or decorations, and the designs are simple and minimal, more in line with something you’d expect to see in a research lab than a stoner’s dorm room. One big advantage of focusing on function is that many scientific glass pipes include high-performance percolators that require a high degree of precision to make well. On the other hand, artisan glass — often called “heady glass” — is focused much more on design and style elements. Artisan pieces are often one of a kind, made by established artists with recognizable aesthetic styles and cult following of high-end glass collectors. As such, these pieces can be very fun to smoke out of and many enjoy the sense that their pipe is more aligned with a piece of art than a smoking apparatus. Artisan glass is focused much more on design and style elements.
(Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps) The process of adding colors, crafting pipes into funky shapes, and executing complex designs often requires artists to use a slightly “softer” glass than a scientific glass piece. Additionally, the exclusive nature of artisan pieces often means that they carry heftier price tags than scientific glass pieces. There are three main factors to consider when buying a glass piece: What type of smoking experience do you want? Do you want to smoke out of a simple spoon or chillum? Are you interested in the cooler, smoother, better-tasting smoke of a bong or bubbler? Do you want the hard-hitting, massive hits of a steamroller? Answering these questions will help narrow down the types of glass smoking devices that fit your personal criteria. If you want consistently high-quality, precision performance you can’t go wrong with a scientific glass piece. If you’re all about personal style, creativity, and flair then you’ll love exploring the world of artisan glass. And remember, function and style are not mutually exclusive.
Many people who like minimalist designs find scientific glass to be very aesthetically appealing. If you’re on a tight budget and you simply need a piece that will get the job done, you might want to experiment with an affordable piece made in China. Don’t be surprised if you run into problems or if the piece breaks — at least replacing it won’t be too expensive.