When it comes to water pipes there are a plethora of options. Often, walking into a head shop or glass store can be a hectic experience. You get shown so many pieces you forget what you were originally there to purchase and are then left facing the difficult question: which one is the perfect piece for me?
With there being so much variety in shape, size, brand, and appearance it can be rather difficult to compare and choose one piece, especially if you are new to purchasing and using glass.
Dry herbs vs Concentrates Use
The first thing you should consider when looking for a water pipe: what are you going to use this piece for? Is it for dry herbs, concentrates, or both?
While many pieces can be used as a pipe for herb, they can easily be switched for concentrate use by removing the bowl and replacing it with a nail and dome. There are advantages to a piece more attuned for either use, and even some pieces that are especially made for both. A concentrate rig will often be more specialized for better airflow and preservation of flavor for concentrate vapor. Sometimes, because of the tendency for a rig to be smaller, more scientific, it can be harder to clean. Ash from constant use can build up and get stuck in annoying places on percolators. Now by no means does that mean you can't just use a nail and dome on your favorite water pipe, or take a bowl and put it on your rig, it's just that for some glass users, myself included, how a piece pulls for either substance is a factor in a purchase.
Another very basic point to keep in mind is how often you plan to use a piece. If you are a heavy smoker you may want to choose an incredibly efficient piece to help you conserve your herb or concentrate, or you could choose something absolutely massive. If you are a light smoker something smaller and simpler might be the right fit for you.
The next thing to consider is the overall functionality of your water pipe and finding something that fits both your needs and personal preferences. Begin examining the shape and size of the piece, note the shape of the base, whether it's a beaker, a bubble base, or a lipped base, as this will play into the stability of a piece. The shape will also help you identify the function of the piece, i.e it could be a straight neck beaker, or if you see an additional side chamber that moves the water back into the main chamber you know that it is a recycler.
While height does affect pull and certainly helps reduce splash from the water, it isn't the be-all-end-all; a taller piece is not automatically a better piece. To further elaborate on key points for ease, know your joint size and gender, (this makes buying attachments and replacement parts significantly easier) and when considering a new piece ask yourself, will this fit the nail and/or bowl I have at home?
With attachments such as ash catchers or reclaimers you should look at the angle of the joint, is it 45 or 90 degrees? Trying to place an ash catcher made for the incorrect angle can place the bowl or nail at an awkward angle and sometimes flat out will not fit on your piece. Another point to keep in mind is portability, is this piece something I can take out with me, or is this something reserved for home use?
The most prominent variants in water pipes are the percolators, which work as extra chambers in your water pipe to filter smoke through the water. This can provide further diffusion and filtration, making a hit smoother and cooler. Of the types of percolators (or percs for short!), there are many, and you'll see different glass blowers make different types of percs and even make their own custom designs, and new types and combinations of percs are always popping up.
To name a few, there are in-line percs, which are simple straight horizontal diffused tubes leading from the downstem to the main chamber, tree percs, which are a series of similar diffused tubes branching from one central tube, and honey-comb percs, which are a horizontal net of small holes that the water and vapor pass through, laid out in a honey-combing pattern. Some percolators, and more importantly series of percs, are better than others, but for the most part it's up to personal preference. The easiest way to figure out what you prefer is to try them and see if you would like to go for the heavily diffused percs, or something that allows for a stronger airflow on the piece, and you may also find certain percs more aesthetically pleasing. In addition, certain pieces come with natural perks, rather than percolators, such as a splash guard to prevent water from the pipe ever reaching your mouth, and ice pinches, which allow you to place ice cubes or crushed ice into the neck of the piece if you so desire.
Durability and Thickness
When considering the durability of a water pipe, there are several important factors to consider to make sure you get the most out of your piece. Fancy tubes, and elaborate diffusion systems can leave your mouth watering, but don't be fooled. Often times the simplest water pipe will last the longest. Glass thickness, neck shape, base size, weight, center of balance, and how difficult the water pipe is to clean are all important factors in determining the longevity of your piece. Some glass shops will display the glass thickness on a small selection of products, however always make sure to get a feel for the piece yourself.
How much will you be using it? Will it be a social piece or mainly for personal use?
All these are good questions to consider when determining how durable your glass needs to be. Make sure that the glass thickness meets your requirements before making a purchase, or you will regret it.
Along with Glass thickness, be aware of the shape and size of both the neck and the base. Often the neck and the base are where most water pipes will break first, so it is very important that you consider both before buying a waterpipe. The style of the neck is important, however the quality of the glass used and its thickness are much more telling in terms of the longevity of the piece. In terms of the base of the water pipe, beakers, straight tubes and bells are all very similar when it comes to durability.
One thing to consider about the base of your water pipe is that beakers and bell bottom bases can ruin the functionality of a piece if broken, while a straight tube base will usually only chip off part of the base holding the piece upright and balanced, preserving the water pipes usability if it does end up breaking. Last but not least, don't forget about the water pipes center of balance!
One of the most common reasons a water pipe will break is because it is top heavy or unbalanced. If the neck, base or an attachment on the piece is too heavy, it is bound to fall over and become damaged at some point. Always make sure that a water pipe can sit upright on a table with a strong and sturdy center of balance before making a purchase decision. If you pay attention to these details when shopping around, you won't be disappointed.
Price is potentially the most significant factor when deciding on the perfect water pipe for you. Defining the ideal budget for your water pipe purchase will not only narrow down your options, but also prevent you from making an impulse decision and over-spending.
Heady vs Scientific Glass
Are you looking for something that you will use everyday? Or something for special occasions that you can treasure as more of a collectible?
Many pieces of glass having beautiful designs, patterns, colorings, and added ornaments such as glass marbles, this making each piece a work of art, especially if it is a one-of-a-kind work (also known as Heady Glass), and this is one factor that can significantly increase the price. Once you determine the amount of money you are willing to spend, you can begin narrowing your options and comparing them based on quality.
Brand name Glass
Don't get hung up on the brand name either, or you will impair your decision making process. While the brand name is important because it tells you the standard of quality the water pipe is held to, often times just by slapping a brand name on a product it will add $50-$100 to the price tag. Once you have a set price range, you can weigh all the other variables and make a much more educated purchase, and when buying your first water pipe it may be best to go with something smaller and simpler to test the waters before you head right to something large or incredibly intricate and expensive.
The world of glass is constantly expanding and the best way to become more knowledgeable is to dive right in and look around local retailers or an online headshop such ours (www.smokecartel.com). Finding the perfect piece can take a bit of searching, but finding a water pipe you love using is incredibly rewarding, so happy hunting!
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