A bong, also called a water pipe, is a filtering device mainly used, and associated with, smoking cannabis, but may be also used to smoke to tobacco or other herbal substances. A bong is similar to a hookah, however hookahs are almost universally used to smoke (fruit-flavored) tobacco. The word bong traces its roots to the Thai word baung, describing a wooden pipe or container.
There are many various and in part completely different types of bongs in terms of making, making material, shape, size or color. The most common making material is plastic or glass, but wood bongs are also known to be used. Bong is considered one of the products which are most universally, and first and foremost, identified by their application, rather than by any other trait. In other words, almost every small container in more or less the shape of a tube, containing water at its base and built to smoke from, can be called a bong if it used to smoke cannabis or tobacco.
Bongs have arrived historically from China during the late Ming dynasty, roughly translating to the 16th century, alongside tobacco. They were generally divided back then into two categories, a common homemade bamboo bong used by country people, and a more elegant metal bong for the merchants.
In terms of health, bongs are considered less harmful to the human lungs and throat than traditional cannabis or tobacco cigarettes. The water in the bongs, if replaced periodically, has shown to possess a cleansing effect which spares the lungs. In addition, the water cools off the smoke, which spares the throat from exposure to heated substances.
Bongs are very often homemade. There are various different reasons for this, ranging from local availability and prices, to legalities often concerned with the use of bongs to smoke cannabis, which has prompted many governments to outlaw distributing and selling of bongs, even though the device itself has no illegal aspects, whether in manufacturing, supplying or sell, and the illegal association is made with its applied use.
As part of being a homemade device, bongs are considered relatively easy to make. Some may invest a lot of time designing their bongs, especially when the act of smoking is a vital and important part of their lives, and the utensils used should express this ‘devotion’. Others may just ‘grab a plastic bottle’ and make a bong out of it in less than five minutes. We will generally try to explain the making process, such that it can be applied universally and refined by the user to whichever degree desired.
Generally, most homemade bongs are made of plastic bottles. This is due to plastic being, when compared to wood or glass, the easiest to process privately. Glass needs to be heated up to be shaped, a delicate process which involves a lot of dedication and time, and may pose dangers to the maker if unexperienced, whereas wood needs to be cut to the shape, a less dangerous process, but nonetheless just as refined, requiring concentration and expertise.
Describing in general language the parts of which a bong is made, there is the mouthpiece which is the top of the tube. This part is used to inhale the smoke which is filtered through the water. The smoke comes up from the water, which fills up the tube to at most 25% of its volume, after having traveled though the so-called ‘stem’. This is an additional thin tube protruding from the main tube, and at its end the cannabis is placed. During use, the user typically lights the cannabis placed at the end of the stem. The smoke produced from this process is forced to travel through the stem, into the water, where it is filtered, and then again out as smoke to the user holding the mouthpiece to their mouths.
Usually, a 16 oz plastic bottle should be an ideal candidate as the basis for a bong. Around 2 inches from the bottle’s bottom, punch a 1/8 to 1/4 inch hole in the bottle. This hole will serve to connect the bottle, the main tube, with the secondary tube, the stem.
After creating the whole in bottle, place the stem into it and make sure it is fixed in place. You can use gum or more professionally tape to make sure the stem doesn’t move, and more importantly, you should pay attention the hole has become air tight after inserting the stem and taping. If it is not airtight, the smoke will go out of the holes when the bong is used. To test that the bong is air tight, blow into the mouthpiece and put your hand near the seal. If you feel air, then it’s not yet airtight. In addition, when you place the tube stem into the bottle, make sure it’s at a positive angle, otherwise the herbs placed at its ends might get wet from the water.
Next, you need to attach some kind of bowl to the end of the stem, where the herbs will be placed. The bowl doesn’t need to be expensive, just to fit in dimensions the size of the stem. Alternatively, you can also roll a cigarette with rolling papers and have it attached to the end of the tube. Aluminum foil is generally not recommended for the bowl function, and you should make sure that whatever you use for it is safe for inhalation before starting to use it.
In terms of making, the bong is officially finished. When used, as mentioned before, you should fill it with water by at least 1 inch. It is possible to fill it with more water, which will result in less smoke volume in the chamber. Also, make sure the water level isn’t too high so as to drown the herbs.
While healthier to use when compared to cigarettes, bongs also require more maintenance to remain effective in filtering. Two key areas of maintaining a bong are replacing the water periodically (ideally between every individual use, though this is not always the case), and cleaning the bong thoroughly after several uses. It should be also noted that homemade bongs, especially those made of cheap plastics, should be often replaced due to material wear and pollutive elements accumulating within the bong, which are often not removed when the bong is cleaned.