Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes

Bubblers, chillums, Glass Pipes, Sherlock Pipes, Silicone Pipes, Spoon Pipes -

Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes

Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes

Glass pipes use both function and form to design devices that are aesthetically appealing and useful.  They come in many colors and styles from the simplest to the most visionary pieces and provide users with a wide range of smoking experiences.  

Among the smoking pipe types are the hand pipes which have a design that is more than glass tubes.  Another type is the bubblers, which feature double or triple chambers with ice reservoirs for cooling smoke and helical smoke chambers.

Artistic workers design weed pipes with accurate chemical formulas that are used to create designs and colors that were imaginable to be created from glass. The pipes are in various colors with some changing colors when being used. Some pieces are made from grander glass pieces such as gemstones while other pieces are created by use of subtle strands of glass.

What are Glass Pipes?

What are Glass Pipes

Glass pipes are used to smoke herbs or tobacco. Different from clay and wood pipes, These pipes do not affect the smoke flavor.  Initially, clay and wooden pipes were valued for the added smoke flavors.  However, with the growth of newer, more complicated varieties of tobacco and herb blends, new irresistible preferences for popular pipes have come up. These weed bowls isolate the smoke favors and offer uncontaminated smoking experience.  

How is Glass Pipes Made?

How is Glass Pipes Made - Glass Pipe Blowing

A weed pipe is made using two processes: Blowing and Fuming.


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Glass Blowing

In this method, glass is blown into a huge bubble using an even, a hexagonal arrangement of clear glass. The bubble is then collapsed back to its compact form.  Glass produced using this method is referred honeycomb glass.

Weed bowls have unique features compared to clay pipes that are mass-produced. An artisan designs these pipes, and they all have different levels of creativity.  Most of these bowls are hand-blown while others are whirled on glass lathes.

Patterns can be created on the pipes by blowing colored glass bubbles into larger fusions of clear glass.  They can also be created by weaving heated strands of glass together.  The layer of powdered glass is then melted and the entire procedure repeated several times. This adds consecutive color layers to the glass.

After annealing the end piece, elaborate patterns are engraved into the hand pipe using sandblasters. This reveals the underlying colors and the intensity of the colors depends on the etching depth. The resulting glass is referred to as Graal glass.

Other times, the crushed colored material is mixed with molten glass to suspend tiny color flecks in the end piece. This process is known as fritting.


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes-Fuming a glass pipe

This is the process used to produce color-changing weed pipes.  Silver, gold, and cobalt or other metal vapor are passed through the glass. As the material cools down, it traps small pieces of metal in it.  The glass will be left with a very faint tint. When the pipe is being used, tars and resins begin to start forming a coat on the inside of the glass.  This coating develops some type of dark background against which the trapped metal vividly shows.

The process forms shimmery, dichroic coatings on the glass through the vapor-phase deposition of metal oxides or quartz.  An electronic beam placed in a vacuum chamber is used to vaporize the materials. Small-charge is applied to the weed pipe. The charged pipe surface attracts the vapors which condense on it forming some type of drops similar to water drops.  However, this condensate in crystalline and is extremely thin.  

In addition to the visible colors, the dichroic layers will also have unique reflective colors. The dazzling color is as a result of color change when the weed pipe is observed at different angles or varying lighting.

Silver fuming will produce slight yellow shade that changes to blue when the pipe is used.  Gold fuming results in a slight pink shade that turns into gold when the pipe is in use.  Getting other color changes from gold fuming is possible. Cobalt fuming will produce a deep blue tint.

Types of Glass Pipes

There are many types made from the two glass making processes. They include the following.


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Chillums

Chillums, also referred to as hand pipes, are the primary type of weed bowls. They are small in size and have a simple design. The smoking material is packed into the end, then lightened and inhaled.  However, this simplicity has many disadvantages:

  • The absence of the carburetor making it difficult for the smoke to be cleared
  • They can only be used for small amounts of herbs or tobacco


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Spoon Pipes

These are more complex than the chillums as they possess a carburetor.  Immediately after the smoke has been produced, it becomes stale. The carburetors allow more air to be drawn in. the carburetor on the spoons is a small hole. When covered with a thumb or finger, the incoming air is drawn through the bowl and into the combustion material. The smoke is thus drawn into the pipe. Uncovering the hole draws the air through the carb as there is less resistance.  The smoke in the pipe is easily inhaled.


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Steam Rollers

Steamrollers possess a bowl on a glass fitting on one side.  Both ends are open and the end near the bowl functions as the carb. Some steamrollers possess chambers between the mouthpiece and the bowl that help in cooling the smoke. These pieces are known for hard, hot rips but they can also be used to smoke weed bowls. Steamrollers are ideal for starters.

Gandalf or Sherlock Pipes

Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Sherlock Pipes

 A Sherlock pipe features a large bowl with an arched stem.  It has a flat bottom to allow the stem to stand freely without being held.  

Gandalf is similar to the Sherlocks only that they have an elongated stem. Both Sherlocks and Gandalf may have or not have a carb. Similar to the chillums, steamrollers and the spoon pipes, these pieces emit smoke that is not filtered which can be harsh as a result of resins and tar.  


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Bubbler Glass Pipes

Bubblers are ideal for filtering the harsh taste that results from resins and tars.  Before the smoke is inhaled, the bubbler pipes diffuse the smoke through water. This process removes the tar and resins causing the smoke to have a smoother taste.  While cold water is the most used, sometimes hot water can be used.  Hot water increases vapor to the smoke opening up airways thus facilitating smoking.  Cold water cools down the smoke creating a fresher and crispy taste.  Some bubblers use ice.  Ice produces smoke that is denser than that produced by the cold water.

Further Reading: Types Of Glass Pipes And Their Characteristics 


Why Choose Glass Pipes

Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Why Choose A Glass Pipe For Smoking

If you want a pure and fresh taste from your herb or tobacco, then these weed pipes are your choice.  Glass is non-combustible and non-porous thus it doesn’t add extra tastes to the smoke.

Weed bowls are also famous for their artistic designs. Glass can be modeled into various shapes and you can buy a shape that has a meaning to you.  Some of the familiar fantastical shapes include unicorns, dragons, or serpents.  If you are a naturalist, you might be intrigued by shapes such as animals, mushrooms, flowers or trees.  Smokers who love art are drawn to attractive colors, curved forms or patterns. If you wanted exciting shapes, these pipes can be blown into complex engineering designs or gears.

Weed pipe do away with the need to use paper like in traditional cigarettes.  Weed pipe is notorious for pure smoke flavor. They also ensure that it is free from any toxins that may be on the burning paper which is a product of wood.  This improves the users smoking experience.  

Glass pipes are non-porous, hence no cavities where bacteria can grow. This is why it is useful for germaphobes. It is also easy to clean.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Glass Pipes


The advantages of these pipes are many. Here are significant benefits of smoking from a glass pipe:

  1. Glass doesn’t gain heat easily

This is the main benefit of using weed pipe.  Glass takes more time to gain hear compared to metal. Glass also loses heat faster. This property makes it more comfortable and more convenient to use weed pipes.  

  1. Healthy smoking option

The property of glass gaining less heat also contributes to them being a healthier option. These pipes do not produce surplus smoke; hence the pipes remain clean offering a healthier way of smoking.  With more smoke being accumulated in the chamber, there is no residual taste.

  1. These pipes are fun to use

Since weed pipes can be both opaque and transparent, users enjoy watching the smoke pass through the pipe. Smokers have fun seeing the smoke pack in the pipe chambers. Weed pipes are also subjected to change in character and look with use.  This is due to the transparent nature of the weed pipes, or if the blower used color-changing glass. As the smoke passes through the pipe for several times, the glass becomes foggier and adds more shades and designs.

  1. Great smoke taste

These pipes produce pure smoke with no added flavors. This is because glass is non-porous and non-combustible hence the quality of smoke is high.


Despite the many good qualities of weed pipes, they have some drawbacks that are worth noting before investing in these pieces. Let’s look at some of the cons of using these pipes.

  • They are more expensive

If you are on a budget, you might want to consider other options such as the metal pipes.  but if you want to spend on a smoking product that is of higher quality, then investing in weed pipes is the best option for you.

  • Easy to break

Since the pipes are made of glass, they are very fragile.  Compared to metal pipes, these pipes are also hard to disassemble and clean without the risk of falling and breaking.  They also don’t have replacement parts; once a glass pipe is broken that is the end of its life.  


How to Clean Glass Pipes

Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - How to clean glass pipes

Weed pipes should be cleaned regularly.  If not, you will experience these three things;

  • Accumulation of resins and tar which will affect the taste of the smoke.
  • The accumulated debris inhibit airflow through the pipe
  • The piece loses its attractiveness and also becomes unhygienic.

Color-changing pipes may look more attractive after some use, but even then, you should not use them until they affect the taste of the smoke. Cleaning a pipe that has been used lightly is also easier to clean than cleaning one with massive resin buildup.  

Weed pipes can be cleaned using two methods:

  • Boiling
  • Alcohol


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Boiling a glass pipe

Boiling is harmless to the weed pipe if it is done correctly. The method allows resins to be removed from areas that cannot be accessed using a pipe cleaner or brush.  It can, however, be tragic if done incorrectly. Avoid dropping the piece into boiling water. This applies to even anneal glass. The glass may not withstand the sudden thermal shock.

The pipe should always be completely covered with water. Make sure that you tilt the pipe back and forth at an angle that allows you to remove any air bubbles that may be trapped.  After ensuring that the pipe is well covered and filled with water, moderate hear is applied until the water boils. Continue boiling until the resin is completely removed.  

After the water has boiled, remove the heat source and leave the pot and pipe to cool down together.  Allow it to cool off for 15 minutes then shake the pipe and firth under water. This helps in washing out any resin than might have clumped. Spill the dirty water and fill the container with warm water and then add some soap to the water and gently clean the remainder of the resins.

Always use a container that is not for cooking purposes. This is because the resins from the glass pipe can form a ring at the water level, which may be difficult to remove.  Also, it would be advisable to have an exhaust fan above the heat source before boiling. This is because the smell from the boiling water will be unpleasant.  


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes - Using alcohol to clean glass pipes

This is the arguably the second more natural method to clean these weed pipes. Soak the pipes in 91% alcohol and add some salt.  Use an alcohol to a salt ration of 2:1.  Alcohol dissolves resins while the salt offers some scrape that helps in loosening the resin when it dissolves in the alcohol.

Put the mixture in a large plastic container and shake it enthusiastically. This way, the salt crystals will scrub the pipe. If shaking doesn’t remove the resins, you can use a Q-tip along with the alcohol-salt mixture to scrub the pipe. After cleaning the pipe, rinse it off first with clean alcohol and then use clean water.

Having a clean weed pipe is not always desirable especially when it comes to the fumed glass color-changers. But it is easier to always soak the piece in alcohol when not in using it.  If the resin buildup is little, soaking the pipe in 91percent or more alcohol concentrate overnight should dissolve the resin. This maintains the pipe clean always and you will only require rinsing it before you can use it next.

Further Reading: The Ultimate Guide: How To Clean Your Bongs, Glass Pipes and Bubblers

What are the Risks involved with Glass Pipes?

Other than breakage other risks linked with weed pipes is mainly the design.  Bubblers are notorious for an accidental spill.  The spills could be attributed to user error. Bubbler water can also have an odor.  Bubblers filter a lot of resin and tar from the smoke, and if you spill this on the rug the whole room stinks.

When inhaling from a bubbler, care should be taken not to cough.  In some designs, blowing can destroy the bowl.

Inhaling too hard from a bubbler, more specifically from the short bubblers or those with smoke chambers pose the risk of inhaling the filtration water into your mouth. Drawing this water into the mouth can be a nasty experience.

Safety Tips

Weed pipes are strong but can easily break when mishandled. This is especially true with Bubblers as are easy to break when cleaning.  The stem bowl is the most delicate part of the bubbler. While it is a small part of the bubbler, damaging it can ruin the whole piece.

The safest way of storing weed pipes is in a soft cloth bag or in a case. However, this is not necessary under normal circumstances and is only needed when traveling.


Beginner's Guide for Glass Pipes

The glass was a material that was only used by the royalties in the ancient times. Today, contemporary glass-working techniques create varying glassware.  Exotic designs and blowing techniques create truly inventive weed pipes that are both impressive and functional. They can be found in many colors. Fumed glass creates pieces that change color when in use.

Glass pipes vary from the simple hand pipes, chillums to complex bubblers. Glass can resist the heat that results from burning herbs and tobacco without being damaged.  When well taken care of and used correctly, these weed pipes can last a lifetime.

Category: Glass Pipes

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