Today we are going to talk about the two major types of glass water pipes, and the different replacement parts needed when they inevitably break at the hands of your clumsier friends.
First, it should be mentioned that we are not talking about acrylic water pipes. Though they still exist, acrylic and metal pipes of all types have essentially been phased out by glass. A big reason for the switch over was the metal bowl generally used with acrylic pipe. The metal’s ability to retain heat, combined with the plastic’s melting temperature cause water pipes to degrade over time, that combined with the taste of heated metal being mixed into smoke has lead the market to switch to glass. We will also not be talking about “bubblers” like the one linked, those are just like pipes, most are single pieces, and if it breaks, it’s broken.
For glass water pipes, there will be two types we are discussing today; glass on glass and glass on rubber, as well as the major differences between the two. One of the biggest differences between glass on glass water pipes and glass on rubber water pipes is the joint at the base of the pipe. On a glass on rubber piece, at the base of the water pipe there is a rubber grommet between the water pipe and the “female piece.” However, on a glass on glass simply a glass joint that is usually frosted, with no rubber piece, hence the distinction between “glass on glass” and “glass on rubber.”
The reason for the rubber grommet is to create an airtight seal between the pipe and the female piece. Generally, glass on rubber pieces are factory made and it is much easier to mass produce joints that can be covered with a grommet. Now, when it comes to replaceable pieces for a glass on rubber pipe, there are three that every pipe has; your grommet, your female piece, and your slide. Depending on your smoke shop, most glass on rubber pieces will come with the grommet and the female piece and a slide will need to be purchased separately. Make sure your slide has its own rubber piece on it; this will give you an air tight seal between the female and the slide. Unless you’re giving your pipe a real hard cleaning or it breaks, there is never a real reason to remove the female piece or the grommet. The slide acts as your bowl, and should “slide” easily in and out of the female piece to clear the pipe while smoking.
With the advent of extracts and specialty bubblers to smoke them, there are now too many glass on glass sizes to cover in one sitting, so today we are going to discuss the primary sizes for your typical glass on glass tube. Your first question for yourself when looking for replacement parts for your glass on glass water pipe is “does my water pipe use a downstem?”
For veteran smokers out there that might sound like a silly question, but for new smokers, you guys may not be sure and that’s okay. If your bowl connects right to your water pipe, you don’t have a downstem, and you have one less piece to worry about breaking. If there is a connecting tube between your water pipe and your bowl, which is much more common, you have a downstem.
Generally, the opening on your water pipe for the downstem will be an 18mm joint. If you are unsure, try to stick your pinkie finger in it. If your entire pinkie can fit inside, it’s an 18mm. If your finger can’t fit passed the nail, it’s a 14mm. When looking for a bowl, the same trick applies, stick your pinkie into your downstem. If your entire pinkie can fit, you have an 18mm bowl, if you get stuck at the finger nail it’s 14.