When Martha Stewart gets a new cast iron skillet, she says it is “of immense importance” to season it properly to achieve the desired terps and to get a lifetime of proper use out of it. Ok, Martha didn’t say “terps” but the same can certainly be said about seasoning your dab nail.
Whether you prefer to use quartz, or if ceramic is more your style, or if good old fashioned titanium is the ticket for you, the way you prepare your dab nail for use can make all the difference in the world when it comes to saving flavor.
When Martha gets her new pan, the first thing she likes to do is clean it and you should do the same with your dab nail. Since we know that water and oil don’t mix, it is recommended that you avoid using water to clean your new nail, but instead use heat.
Throughout the manufacturing process, the packaging process, the warehousing and distribution process, the shipping process, and all the rest, there is a good chance that your nail and its dabbing surface have at least some degree of fingerprints and/or filth on it, and you’d don’t want to dab that.
The three materials – quartz, titanium & ceramic – all have different methods for proper and even heating, but you essentially want to heat the nail head up to a pretty extreme temperature. Again, the amount of time you torch it will vary between titanium and ceramic for example, or even between two different designs. Once you see the glow, just naturally let the nail cool down. Then repeat one or two more times.
Now that your nail head is clean, it is time to season it – don’t worry, you can dab soon!
Seasoning a dab nail with Claim (oil recovered from a smoking device like a dab rig, aka Reclaim)
The most common, and probably the most effective, way to season your nail, regardless of what it is made of, is by using the Claim, or Reclaim, captured from your rig after a series of sessions. While most people don’t want to dab this Claim, it is still a full melt product ready to vaporize on a new hot nail.
All you need to do is heat your nail as though you were preparing it for a dab. Once it is at a nice mild temp, apply a generous .10 to .25 gram glob of Claim on it, stirring the oil around the dish and allowing it to coat the entire nail head as it vaporizes away. You don’t need to, or probably want to, inhale the smoke produced. Just let it go. You can repeat this process another round or two to ensure full coverage in the dish.
While titanium is nowhere near as porous as Martha’s iron skillet, it seems to benefit the most from a proper seasoning technique. Ceramic and quartz are non-porous, so the seasoning process on these dab nails is mostly for cleaning and “breaking in” purposes, more than setting a foundation for flavor profile.
Seasoning a dab nail without Claim
Maybe you are breaking in a new rig and a new dab nail, or maybe you are just not the type to accumulate Claim – that’s ok – there are options for you too. If it is just the thought of putting Reclaim on your new nail that turns you off, you can use your own high quality oil to achieve the same goal.
While we do recommend that you at least put your new nail through the heating/cooling cleaning process described above, there are plenty of people who have a different name for seasoning a nail, they simply call it “doing dabs”.
Yes, you can just start ripping that new dab nail right away, but unseasoned titanium tends to leave a distinct metallic undertone for the first several hits, and quartz and ceramic also seem to hit their “sweet spot” after they’ve been broken in a bit. If you’re going to start ripping your new nail right away, the key is to take very low temp dabs to minimize any off flavors.
Things NOT to do when seasoning a new dab nail
Well, there are about a million things NOT to do with your new dab nail, but one of the most common pieces of bad advice out there is to season and clean your new nail by repeatedly heating it up red hot, then dousing it in clean, cool water.
Ceramic or glass nails will likely shatter and be completely destroyed. While a quartz nails can technically withstand this sort of abuse, it will absolutely shorten the life of your nail. It also causes an increase in oxide buildup, which negates the lifetime and efficiency of your dab nail (especially for titanium).
In researching this blog we even came across a guy telling people to heat the nail, then put salt on it, then heat it again and put jelly on it. Seriously.....Don’t do that.....
Martha slaps some Crisco on her gear and tosses it in the oven to season it – fresh oil and plenty of heat are your ingredients for a properly seasoned dab nail too.
UPDATE (9/1/20): Dabbing tech has changed a lot since we wrote this blog. Most people aren't even using titanium nails anymore. If you are dabbing at the right temperature, (not super hot like we all used to!) there is no need to "season" your nail. Just make sure you don't dab too hot and your dab will be as terpy as ever! To make sure you never dab too hot, grab a Dab Temp Tool from TheDabLab.com