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The Quick Intro to the Bong

There are thousands of ways to smoke marijuana. Through a wooden pipe, stone, clay, even an apple. Necessity (or desperation) is the mother of invention. Go to nearly any gathering of smokers and you’ll find someone turning three sheets of paper and plastic straw into a pipe.

One of the great classic ways to smoke has been, for thousands of years, the water pipe or bong. Popularized by soldiers returning from Vietnam, some variation of this idea has existed for a very long time.

This article is an introduction to the purpose, the parts, and a few of the styles of bongs that exist (including a few you can make yourself).

The Basic Concept behind the Bong

The basic idea behind a bong is that smoke from marijuana, tobacco, hash, opium, or whatever else someone decides to smoke, is filtered through water to cool the smoke and remove some of the harsher chemicals. What is left in the bong is a very nasty and ugly brown liquid that ends up being something that people will taste on a dare.

The smoke, however, is allowed to cool off and the flavor that results is clean and gentle. When smoking marijuana, the smoke is usually a bit sweeter and much less harsh on the mouth, throat, and lungs.

The Parts of a Bong

In essence, there are three parts of a bong: the bowl, the reservoir, and the mouthpiece.

The reservoir holds the water. The bowl is mounted on a downstem. The end of the stem is below the water line. The mouthpiece is above the water.

The smoker draws air and smoke through the bowl and the water and into the mouthpiece. Many bongs have a carb or choke, a small hole in the mouthpiece stem that allows unfiltered air into the smoking area. This allows the user to simply open the carb hole and inhale quickly.

Optional Parts of the Bong

Some additional parts of a bong include the percolator, the nail, and additional mouthpieces.

A percolator is a piece of glass or metal that attaches to the bottom of the bowl stem. It has holes in any of dozens of configurations that break up the smoke. The smaller the bubbles of smoke are, the cooler and smoother the experience is. See our article on percolators for more information.

A nail is a removable bowl. The purpose is to avoid the need for a carb/choke hole. Once the bowl is removed, the smoke can be inhaled quickly. This is very popular with dabs (a hash-like substance that is made from the concentrated oil of marijuana).

Additional mouthpieces can also be added to the bong. This allows more than one smoker to use a single pipe at a time. This design is related to the legendary hookah. The hookah can allow several, even dozens, of people to smoke from a single device.

Material for making bongs

The most popular material for making a bong is glass. It’s easy to clean, durable, and relatively inexpensive.

The biggest advantage is that glass won’t leach any toxins into the water. The combination of heat, acidic chemicals, and water can leach lead and other toxins out of certain materials. Any material that contains toxins might make the water, and thus the smoke, toxic.

Another good material is stainless steel. It doesn’t rust and it doesn’t leach toxins, unless the water is replaced with a significant acid like lemon juice.

These days there are a lot bongs that are made from plastic or acrylic. The most important thing to pay attention to when buying a plastic bong is the type of plastic that it’s made from. As is common knowledge, there are many plastics that have toxins in them. Even with just plain water, these toxins can leach, but there are also plenty of plastics, like acrylic, that are safe. Obviously, the bowl needs to be made from metal or glass.

Ice Bongs

An ice bong is a simple way to cool the smoke even further. There is a space in the stem that holds ice cubes or crushed ice. As the smoker inhales, the smoke travels over the ice, cooling it.

Making Your Own Bong

There are thousands of instructions online for making your own bong, but it’s easy to get creative if you remember these few essential pieces:

  • The Bowl – The bowl can be something as simple as aluminum foil made into the shape of a bowl. It can be a purchased bowl or nail. It can also be a traditional pipe that is connected to a reservoir.
  • The Reservoir – The water can be in anything from a fancy glass bulb to a plastic Coke bottle. All that matters is that it has a hole for the bowl and a mouthpiece. The mouthpiece can simply be the top of the Coke bottle.
  • The Mouthpiece – As we said, this could be the top of a bottle or it could be a separate hose or pipe that comes out of the Reservoir.


The bong or water pipe is a classic and legendary way to smoke anything from marijuana to tobacco. It can be made from any of dozens of materials. The key factor is that it has the three basic pieces.

There are lots of places to purchase great bongs. You can get the ultimate art piece or a simple, practical pipe. Either way, a bong will give you a smooth and clean smoke that will make the experience and the high nicer.

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