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May 18, 2023
7 min to read

What is a Dab Pen & How to Use One Effectively

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

A lot of people talk about dab pens, but they’re not always understood. It doesn’t help that the term is often misused as a synonym for weed oil pens. In reality, dab pens are a whole different device.

You can’t hook a vape cart up to a dab pen — actually, you can’t use one of these pens to vape oil at all, or to connect a cart. They’re designed specifically to vaporize semi-solid concentrates like wax or shatter. Compared to a full-size dab rig, pens are an accessible, portable way to vape concentrates.

Using a dab pen for the first time can be confusing if you’re used to vaping THC or CBD carts, but they’re more straightforward than many expect. To help you get started, we’ve created this guide and answered a handful of frequently asked questions.

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What is a dab pen?

Dab pens are a convenient way to vape semi-solid concentrates, such as shatter or wax. Instead of delta 9 THC (“THC”), CBD, or delta 8 carts, the concentrate is inserted directly into the device’s chamber. The coil heats and allows the atomizer to convert wax into vapor.

The phrase “dab pen” stems from the colloquial terms “dab” and “dabbing.” The dollop of concentrate is the dab, while dabbing is the process of heating the wax and converting it into vapor. Traditionally, dabbing has required a desktop dab rig. It’s a stationary activity. Dab pens are designed to offer a portable alternative.

Other terms for a dab pen are wax pen and wax vape. While all of these terms are correct, “dab cart” is not a thing—and people tend to use it erroneously. Unlike THC or CBD pens, dab pens don’t use disposable carts.

How do dab pens work?

A dab pen works by heating weed concentrates, including wax, to produce vapor. This vapor is inhaled through the device’s mouthpiece.

Although the construction of dab pens varies between brands, there are a few components that all devices share. There needs to be an atomizer or chamber for users to load weed concentrate, a mouthpiece, and a heating element.  Dab pens are powered by a battery, which is typically rechargeable via USB.

To vape thick concentrates, dab pens use higher temperatures than oil pens. On the low end, dab pens should be heated to around 315° F. Some users prefer temperatures of 400° F and beyond.

How to use a dab pen

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As we mentioned, dab pens don’t take much time to get the hang of. One of the biggest adjustments weed vapers need to make is getting in the habit of cleaning their device frequently—and preferably after every use.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using a standard dab pen.

  • Charge your dab pen: Most dab pen batteries are charged using USB, though others have external lithium-ion batteries. These usually need to be taken out of the device and placed into an external battery charger.
  • Disassemble the device: Next, prepare to load your device. Remove the mouthpiece and open the chamber, which is where you’ll be placing the dab.
  • Load the wax or shatter: Concentrates are thick and sticky, so take care to minimize the mess. Use a metal dabber tool to transfer your concentrates directly into the chamber. Avoid overfilling or stuffing the atomizer full of wax.
  • Reattach the chamber: Reassemble your dab pen by screwing the chamber and cap back into place.
  • Turn on the dab pen: If your dab pen needs to be turned on by pressing a power button, this is the time to do so. You may need to push the button several times rapidly—usually three or five.
  • Press a button and inhale: To begin vaporizing your concentrate, put your lips on the pen’s mouthpiece. Most dab pens will require you to press a button to heat the coil and produce vapor. Take a gentle one to three-second draw before releasing the button.
  • Cool down your dab pen and clean the chamber: Once you’ve finished your session, power down your device and give it time to cool. Disassemble the device. Using isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab, clean any residue from the chamber or atomizer. Before scrubbing, use your metal dabber to remove large bits of leftover wax. You can even heat up your pen and set it upside down on a paper towel.
  • Dab pen FAQs

    Interested in learning more about dab pens and what to expect from your device? We’ve rounded up your frequently asked questions.
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    What types of dab pens are there?

    There are three categories of wax pens: pens with wicks, wickless, and flat. All of these varieties feature a coil, and vary based on the presence or absence of a wick. The coil’s position can play a role, too.

    Flat ceramic dishes are recognizable by their lack of visible coils or wicks. Instead of coming into direct contact with the coil, waxes are stored in a donut-style dish.

    Atomizers with wicks use coils wrapped in a fibrous wick. These devices perform best when paired with high-viscosity waxes. On the other hand, wickless devices lack this absorbent fiber and are superior for vaping runny concentrates.

    What does a dab pen look like?

    Most dab pens look similar to an oil pen but may be heftier due to the width of their built-in chamber.

    Specifically, wax pens are compact metal cylinders, each a few inches in length. They have a visible mouthpiece or cap at one end.

    Your pen’s button is an essential part of its use, and you’ll find it on the device’s side. This button will light up to signal that the dab pen is on or in use. It may also flash particular colors to signify battery status or let you know about errors.

    Aside from the mouthpiece, a dab pen’s body is made of two large segments. The upper section, right beneath the mouthpiece, is the chamber. This section is also where the heating element is housed. The bigger portion beneath that is the battery.

    What is the best temperature to vape wax?

    The ideal temperature range for vaping wax is between 350° and 400° F. Those new to dab pens can start around 315° F and gradually work their way up, until reaching the desired flavor and vapor output. Inexpensive dab pens often don’t offer voltage controls.

    Not in the mood for gradual adjustments? Use the chart to find the boiling point of the cannabinoids you’re vaping, and set your dab pen to a temperature approximately 10° F higher than that boiling point.

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    How much does a dab pen cost?

    Dab pen prices range from about $30 to $150. Higher-priced devices may provide additional customization opportunities, including precision temperature and airflow controls.
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    What is a dab pen high like?

    Waxes and dabs are highly concentrated substances. After vaping a THC concentrate, expect a powerful high. For some vapers, this high is similar to one derived from oil pens, though it may last longer or be achieved more quickly.

    This doesn’t mean that all concentrates will get you high. As an example, hemp-derived CBD or CBG concentrates are non-intoxicating.

    Are dabs or dab pens a felony?

    The legality of dabs and dab pens is heavily dependent on location.

    Possession of an unloaded dab pen is unlikely to result in criminal charges, regardless of location. In states where marijuana is illegal, a THC-loaded dab pen may be considered a criminal offense. Some states punish possession of concentrates more harshly, sometimes adding felony charges. Learn the local and state laws; ignorance is never an excuse.

    Do dab pens produce a smell?

    While dab pens produce a noticeable herbal scent, it’s less intense than the smell produced by smoking. This scent is also unlikely to linger for long after you’ve finished vaping, especially if you’re in a location with windows or decent ventilation.

    Dab pens make it easy to vape concentrates

    Gone are the days when vapers needed a desktop rig or e-nail to enjoy concentrates. With dab pens, you can vape THC, delta 8, CBD, CBG, and other hemp-derived cannabinoid waxes on the go.

    With our guide in hand, we hope you can use your dab pen with confidence.

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    Hayley Heidelbaugh

    Vaping since: 3 years

    Favorite products:

    Favorite flavors: White Wedding, Northern Lights, Platinum Valley, OG Kush

    Expertise in: Oil carts, cannabis concentrates, cannabis flower

    Hayley Heidelbaugh

    I'm a Pennsylvania-based cannabis enthusiast and writer. As a part of the Vaping360 team, I'm eager to help cannabis consumers explore vaping and get the most out of their experience. You can also find me @faeberrystudios on Instagram.

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