By Adam Rhodes
Bongs come in many shapes and sizes, with any number of chambers or percolators. Sometimes referred to as water pipes, bongs are the heavy hitters of the glass world. Bongs can be identified by their size and that they all hold water. The special element of bongs are that they percolate the smoke or vapor through that water. This has the effect of significantly cooling the smoke. Cooler smoke is denser and can pack a larger amount of active THC into a given volume of air. In the early days of glass pipe production, the most common type of percolation is known as a straight stem. These produce a few large bubbles, multiplying the surface area of the smoke/vapor in contact with the water by several times.
The tools and skill needed to produce a beaker like this is quite amazing. Some blowers can have worked for 20 years or more without ever getting to the point where they can produce a tube of this size and technical expertise. A glass lathe is usually required to produce the quality of welds needed to keep a piece like this stable and even. Lathes are not cheap either.
Because of advances in tools and materials, glass blowers today have developed a myriad of percolation techniques. Many of these techniques are more efficient at cooling or nicer to look at than the basic straight stem. Some styles are popular because they are better at cooling than others while other styles are popular because they add a visual element to the experience. I have found that my favorite bongs have more than one style of percolation.
A percolator works by creating a pressure differential between its inlets and outlets. Low pressure at the outlet end is usually provided by lungs. The smoke/vapor at the inlet is directed to the bottom of a column of water. The column is where the pressure differential causes the smoke to pass though the water in small bubbles and then rise to the outlet. Basically, diffusers make smoke cooler, rise more evenly through the pipe. The diffuser serves primarily to cool the smoke and combustion vapors that pass through it. The surface of the bubbles come into direct contact with the water, where the temperature difference causes heat to be sucked out of the smoke/vapor and into the cool water.
Vessel Style: This is a beaker style bong/water pipe. It is a style that was inspired by laboratory equipment. The wide base give great stability while the narrow tube at the top makes handling it very easy. As a student of science, I find that the beaker style brings me back to my days at university. I used similarly shaped but significantly smaller glassware to extract DNA and create Alum in the laboratory. I feel that the clear glass gives me an unhindered view of the magic going on inside. Standing at 14”, I am able to comfortably take a full hit in any situation I find myself in.
Down-Stem Type: The 7” long stem has a 14mm female glass-on-glass fitting. Glass-on-glass fittings are the best type I have found. There are no rubber grommets, O-rings or other pieces that need to be replaced. The four spiral cut slits chop the air into an explosion of tiny bubbles. The opening on the end also prevents clogging of the diffusion elements. I also love that all of the cuts are fire polished, leaving a smooth edge. This prevents cracking because it removes the internal stresses and fractures that come with cutting the glass. The spiral-cut diffusion slits actually work better than horizontal cut designs by allowing each slot to engage simultaneously.
Chambers: It can be hard to determine the right level of water because it changes as the piece is tipped. If the chamber is left level, it holds a massive amount of water and can become very heavy. I find that holding it between 30-40 degrees during a hit is optimal.
The cone shape of the bottom chamber funnels all of the smoke right into the base of the top chamber. The overall depth of water between the chambers is nice as it gives a little resistance but not enough to make it difficult. I have owned several versions of this piece over the years and have seen the difference quality makes firsthand.
Percolators: In short, the primary function of the percolator is to create a cooler, cleaner and even smoke. A secondary function of a percolator is to trap certain components within the smoke. Water-soluble substances get trapped as the smoke/vapor contacts the water, while less soluble substances pass through with relative ease.
The tree percolator design incorporates a number of small openings instead of large singular ones in order to diffuse the smoke into a larger number of smaller bubbles. This serves the purpose of increasing the surface area of the smoke that is in contact with the water and increasing the efficiency of heat transfer.
Final Verdict: This is an amazing piece of technology. G-labs has put a lot of time and energy in producing a high quality product. Everything on this piece shows attention to detail that many blowers don’t bother with. Many of the extra effort went into things that can be easily overlooked. Things like the vessel proportions and the fire-polished diffusion elements show that they care about the experience. This piece has become my daily driver and I love it. I would have enjoyed a deeper tree perc but the overall execution is top notch. If you are looking for a large daily driver, this is a serious contender. Thanks for reading.