Bong. The word alone conjures images of bubbling crystal clear water and homies coughing their lungs out on the back porch while taking in the summer sun. However, us humans haven’t always been in the know about the intense joy that bongs can bring. In fact, for thousands of years, we simply smoked that sweet sticky icky out of dry pipes. The bong, a.k.a. the original enemy of bad days has had a long journey from its humble beginnings to land on the coffee table in your living room. That’s right! Every time you hit your bong you’re breathing in a little piece of history. Not to worry, though. History is good for you and a little understanding can go a long way towards appreciating the true impact that bongs have had in the cannabis community.
Bongs may not have been invented until thousands of years after humans discovered the benefits of smoking cannabis, but that by no means makes them a new thing. In fact, some of the earliest bongs date back to almost three thousand years ago. One of the oldest bongs ever discovered was made from solid gold and is believed to have been used by royalty. Now, while most bongs these days are made of borosilicate glass, that in no way makes them any less important than the golden bongs of our distant past.
Why do we use bongs in the first place? It is believed that the earliest water pipes were often used for filtering tobacco smoke. However, the use of cannabis among humans dates back well before the use of bongs so it is safe to assume that they were also used by early stoners to ease the harsh effects of taking monster rips behind the convenience cave with the besties. But does filtering water actually help reduce the harmful effects of smoking?
Here’s what we know. Smoking puts hot smoke in contact with your throat and lungs. This is obviously less than ideal for your body. Cannabis smoke also expands, which is what causes those minutes long coughing fits. Using a bong means that the hot smoke has to pass through a cooled basin of water before it reaches your sensitive insides. This may sound great, but it can also be a double-edged sword. While the smoke from a bong may get cooled before it reaches your lungs, this often leads to people taking much larger hits than they would have otherwise. This can unfortunately lead to coughing episodes as well. But, like the old stoner adage says, “You have to cough to get off.”
Fortunately for us stoners living in the twenty first century, new innovations have been made in the world of bongs that are slowly but surely making that cute little rhyme a thing of the past. First, we’ve learned a lot when it comes to percolation. Percolation is the name for the smoke traveling through the water in your bong. Most early bongs, and many cheaper ones today, used a single hole for the smoke to travel from the bowl into the water basin. This led to massive smoke bubbles that carried enough smoke to retain a lot of heat before it got to our lungs. Over time we discovered that the smaller the bubbles, the cooler the smoke would get. This brought about inventions like the multi-hole down stem. From there, a plethora of new percolator designs have been invented that have been easing our lung trauma ever since.
Once we figured out the science of the bong, we moved straight into revamping the aesthetic. Glass bongs were key in this step of the development of bong making. Until we began using borosilicate glass to craft our pieces, we used anything we could get our hands on. From hollowed out gourds to animal antlers, clay, wood, even stones. No, that is not the origin of the phrase “getting stoned.” Finally, we discovered through the ancient art of glass blowing that we could create pipes and bongs from glass and since then, innovation hasn’t slowed down a bit.
Using glass blowing to make bongs, an entire new industry was born. Shortly after, glass bongs became a staple on the shelves of smoke shops the world over. You can’t walk into a head shop worth visiting these days and not find a wide range of glass bongs of all shapes and sizes. From the small personal pieces that are great for traveling and solo sessions to the giant, ornate, multi thousand-dollar pieces, there is a perfect bong out there for each and every one of us in search for one. Bong making has gone from a utilitarian practice to an artform that has been featured in museums and art galleries alike. It’s safe to say that the stigma that once surrounded the world of glass pipe and bong making has officially been lost.
These days, glass bong makers are renowned as some of the most talented, creative artists of our time and no longer have to hide behind their torches in the workshop. Instead, they can be found on the covers of magazines and personally displaying their latest and greatest creations to crowds of thousands of adoring fans that follow their every move within the industry at conventions in every state in the US and many countries all over the world. Bongs are almost synonymous with stoner culture. Most major movies and television shows that are centered around cannabis prominently feature bongs, further solidifying the connection between these ancient tools and modern cannabis consumption.
Bongs are like people. They’re all unique and special and serve a specific purpose in the world. Sure, your piece may not look like much right now. It’s likely sitting with days old water (your reminder to change your bong water daily) and covered in resin. But with a little tender love and care (along with some isopropyl alcohol) it can be brought back to its original beauty and functionality. Just be careful not to knock it over while cleaning, and your bong could be serving you tasty cool hits of that good good for years and years to come. However, should you accidentally break your piece soon, or if you’re just looking for a new addition to your collection, there is no need to worry! We have bongs of every shape and size to fit your specific stoner needs!