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Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

Column: Water pipes

Some shake

Bubblers are definitely one of my favorite engineering feats. Their clever design allows you to suck out the funny smoke while a little bit of splashing water filters it and makes it more pleasant on your throat and lungs. If you’re a first-time smoker, or if you’re an engineer, I definitely recommend you get yourself a bubbler.

Bubblers, unlike regular, dry pipes, require a little bit of water to function properly, but everything else is essentially the same.

Like most other kinds of utensils, bubblers usually have a little hole on the side of the bowl called a carb. For some reason, learning to use the carb is usually the hardest part of smoking for beginners. But it’s not much different from pulling a trigger.

If you are right-handed, it is a lot easier to smoke if you hold the piece with your left hand. While this seems counterintuitive and awkward, it leaves your dominant hand free to do more important things like sparking up the lighter and maneuvering its flame.

Always start with your index finger across the carb, otherwise there won’t be enough suction and you won’t attract the flame into your bowl. Then torch the bowl as you suck slowly but deeply on the mouthpiece. As long as you keep the carb clogged, most of the smoke you draw out will collect into a cloudy mass and remain inside the bubbler.

But as soon as you let go of the carb, all that smoke is going to rush up out of the mouthpiece and down into your lungs.

Again, the reason I recommend bubblers is because they usually give you a cooler, smoother stream of smoke than any of the other utensils. This is all thanks to the water.

When you cover up the carb and suck in through the mouthpiece, the water starts bubbling vigorously. The smoke that is drawn out of the bowl gets trapped inside these bubbles and is then circulated in and out of the water.

All the movement through the water literally cleans the smoke and filters out some of the larger, hotter particles floating within it. The whole process leaves you with a cool, manageable puff of smoke that is a lot tastier and easier to breathe in than the painful rush of heat that you get with dry pipes.

While seasoned smokers actually enjoy the heavier, harsher hits, first-timers understandably find them extremely unpleasant and painful.

Bongs function in pretty much the same manner as bubblers: smoke is drawn, filtered, collected and then breathed in.

But the biggest difference between bongs and bubblers, besides their size, is the lack of a carb.

In bongs, there is no pesky carb to worry about. Just like with bubblers, when you take a hit off a bong, most of the smoke will build up and remain inside it. However, once you’re ready to release all that smoke, instead of letting go of the carb, you’re supposed to remove the bowl.

This is another particularly tricky part about smoking that most people have a difficult time with.

Physically, the act of removing the bowl feels a little awkward, not only because it requires finesse and coordination, but also because it feels like you’re somehow breaking the bong. But I can reassure you this is not the case.

The removable bowl actually acts exactly like a carb. While the bowl is in place, the entire bong is completely sealed and insulated. But when you remove the bowl, it exposes an open hole through which outside air can enter the bong.

This allows the bong to be “cleared.” Since the bong is no longer sealed, it is now a lot easier to breathe in all its contents.

Bongs are usually pretty big, and their large size allows for more water, which means more smoke is filtered, which means a cleaner hit.

Bongs also usually have a pretty hefty mouthpiece. Take advantage of this and fill it with ice. This cools down the smoke even more and makes the hit extra smooth.

While I recommend that everyone go out and buy a groovy water pipe, there is one last thing to keep in mind about utensils in general.

There is this terrible unwritten rule of the universe that says all glass pieces must eventually break.

I don’t mean to scare you out of investing in a fancy pipe. Just try not to yell at your roommate too much when he one day sneezes too hard and accidentally drops your baby.

LEO OCAMPO and his bong can be reached at gocampo@ucdavis.edu.

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