What’s the deal with downstems
You may often use the water pipe without actually studying its parts and understanding its functions. You can only know so much about the different water pipes unless you’re a genuine fan of them. All the more, you could as well be showing off your fancy pipe collections to anyone with delight. It’s fascinating to note that the downstems of the water pipe happens to play the most vital role. This tiny glass piece mainly helps perform an essential function in the quality of your produced smoke. Its knowledge will be handy if you plan to buy or upgrade your pipe in the coming days. No matter which downstem situation you may be in, this guide to downstems will provide you with all their solutions.
What is a Downstem?
A downstem is an elongated glass piece that allows the bowl to connect with the bong’s body. It extends from the bong’s bowl into the water present in the chamber. It creates a path for the smoke from the bowl to enter the bong through the water. Some downstems exhibit slits in their bottom, breaking up and diffusing the smoke to produce smaller bubbles. That, in turn, provides a smoother hit and enhances the smoke’s flavor.
These glass pieces usually come with a water pipe when you initially buy them. You will find that some downstems are removable, whereas some come fixed to the bong. You might be already familiar with what a downstem is but was just unaware of its name.
What role does a downstem play?
The absence of a downstem will cause the smoke to pass directly into the bong chamber without filtration. The unfiltered smoke will then rise to the neck and finally to the mouthpiece of the water pipe. Hence, with a downstem, the smoke has to pass through the water, which filters it for smooth inhalation. Or else, your bong would be no different than an ordinary hand pipe.
Just like the name implies, these downstems come attached with your bong as a whole piece. The perks of fixed downstems are that you don’t have to set up anything and are very convenient to use. But the trouble starts when you break it: you cannot replace the part, once broken and hence, becomes unusable. Ultimately, you will have to end up buying a whole new bong. Problems as these are frequent in bubblers with downstems due to their inaccessibility from the exterior.
A more common and preferable bong type is the ones that have removable downstems. As they are easy to remove or assemble, they are more portable and reliable. You can easily clean the piece and can replace it with a new one if it ever breaks. Usually, after some time of gradual use, resins and other particulates begin to clog up the downstems. Hence, removable downstems allow you to replace just the piece cheaply without buying a new bong.
What are downstems made up of?
The most basic and standard material used for making downstems is glass. Though the value may depend upon the type of glass, the benchmark quality of glass used is borosilicate glass. That is so because; borosilicate glass is the most heat-resistant and hard-wearing glass type available. Some glasses release toxic gases when subjected to high temperatures and can be harmful to humans. However, borosilicate glass is one of the purest glass types and is toxic-free. Hence, they seldom pose any threat to your health even if you smoke through them. Also, unlike other glasses, you can clean them with minimal effort.
Another fine material that recently entered the downstem market is silicone. It proudly challenges the reliability of previous construction materials with its bendable, colorful and unbreakable silicone downstems.
Are downstems present in every pipe?
Every pipe does not have a downstem. Most of the pipes that are not bongs will not possess a downstem. There are some water pipes like dab rigs, which do not have a downstem. As compared to dry-herb bongs with hard smokes, the vapor from concentrates in dab rigs is usually very smooth. Hence, requiring less diffusion and filtration, the chances of needing a downstem are low.
You may often observe that there are pipes with no stems: stemless water pipes. The dab rigs with 90-degree pipes are an example. There are some 90-degree pipes whose bowls connect directly with the percolator for a better diffusion. Consequently, you’ll understand that such pipes do not possess a downstem, and hence, you term them as a stemless water pipe.
How do I clean a downstem?
When it comes to cleaning your downstem, it is not so different from cleaning other water pipes. It is effortless to clean a removable downstem. Firstly, remove the piece from the bong and then place it in a solution of salt and rubbing alcohol. Allow it to soak in the solution for a few hours, and then take it out. In case the dirt removal is not entirely successful the first time, repeat the process for an effective result.
On the other hand, cleaning a fixed downstem is more challenging and will require you to break a sweat. You can make it a routine to always wash your bong after each session of a good time. Additionally, try to rub in some cotton swabs through the downstem and remove any accessible dirt stuck in its walls. Do this weekly, and your glass piece will be free from stains and look almost brand new always.
Another method you can employ is to fill your bong with a solution of isopropyl alcohol and salt. Allow the mixture work its magic as it sits there for a few hours. After proper soaking of the glass’ internals, use your fingers to block the joint and the mouthpiece. Then proceed to give it a few good shakes to get the grimes out. Make sure you don’t shake it too vigorously that it breaks or cracks. It can get tedious, but combining these methods will help you keep your fixed downstem clean and long-lasting.
How do I know which downstem size to use?
You might be wondering whether there are sizes for downstems and, if there are, which size you should use. The two dimensions you need to check when buying a downstem are its length and joint diameter. The downstem’s end should fit into the bong’s joint like a glove.
If you wish so, you can purchase multiple downstems of varying sizes to select the one with the best fit. However, that would be critically inconvenient and pricey. So, to find your downstem’s most suitable length, you can employ a pen or pencil. Take the pen and shove it into the joint of your water pipe until its tip fully submerges in water. Usually, the end-tip lies about an inch shy from the bong’s bottom. Now, mark the point where the pen’s section leaves the joint and take it out to measure the depth inserted. Add an inch to the measured length, and you have the perfect downstem length for your bong.
That leaves you with determining the joint diameter of your bong. You will find three standard sizes used for bong joints: 10 mm, 14 mm, and 18 mm. The 10 mm size is usually for small rigs and is the rarest of the three. As simple as it sounds, the joint sizes directly refer to the joint’s diameter or width. It is much easier to measure the width or diameter than its length. Hence, all you have to do is grab a ruler and measure the diameter across the joint in millimeters. With this information, you can confidently head on to buy the right downstem for your bong.
When looking to buy a new bong, make sure you understand the perks and cons of the 10 mm joints. Such bongs may be small in size and hence portable. However, given their rarity, it is hard to find an immediate replacement if things go south. Additionally, it is easier for the smaller downstem to clog up than that of a larger downstem. Hence, a 10 mm joint bong will require more maintenance than an 18 mm joint bong.
What are the various styles of downstems?
Now, the basic understandings of downstems like their sizes, materials, measurements, and maintenance are out of the way. The fun part of buying a downstem is looking for different downstems with fascinating designs and colors. The unique and attractive styles add value to the downstems and can make you get attached too.
Tree perc downstem: With its multiple branch-like tubes stemming from the other end, the smoke diffuses at several smaller outlets. The shape allows better filtration of the entering smokes. Hence, if you have a thing for smooth tastes, the tree perc downstem is your piece to go.
Fire-cut downstem: It’s intriguing to see how a little alteration in design can bring about considerable changes in a downstem’s performance. Unlike the normal downstems with slits, fire cut downstems have multiple holes at the diffusing end. As the hydrogen torches precisely craft these holes, they allow more refined diffusion with build-up resistance. They are an upgrade to typical slitted downstems.
Metal downstem: If you’re tired of replacing your fragile glass downstems, then an adjustable metal downstem is perfect for you. With its cutting-edge features, you can use this titanium downstem for almost any joint size. Additionally, it exhibits proper smoke diffusion, and unlike the glass pieces, it doesn’t break easily. You can make it your downstem and take it anywhere you go without fear of damaging it.