Butane Torch vs. E-Nail: Reasons Why You May Prefer One Over the Other

Up Front Summary/TLDR:

Enail Pros:
  • Operates in almost compete silence
  • More steady and precise temperature for a longer session and cannabinoid profile targeting
  • Less energy and material waste
  • Enail Cons:
  • Not for the clumsy or careless! Easy to get too confident about it and drop your guard
  • Not especially portable or inconspicuous for on the go use
  • Torch Pros:
  • More portable than an enail
  • Pretty badass using a flame (awesome for pyros)
  • Torch Cons:
  • Can easily crack a ruby or sapphire insert
  • Torch is harder to get precise temps to match different concentrate types or #lowtemp dabs
  • No refills or gas byproducts, or hazardous waste to find a place to dump.

  • butane torch

    Operates in Silence

    Have you ever been trying to heat up your nail with a butane torch and realized it totally put a halt to everyone’s conversation? A torch can be on the obnoxious side sometimes, although fun in small doses. Nothing worse than when you are trying to concentrate and your roommates torch is roaring away. Worse yet, if you have kids they will definitely be asking lots of questions about the rushing sounds. Fire is a very captivating thing, and it can be pretty distracting when someone decides to warm up the dab nail

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    Steady Heat Control Means No Over-Cooled Bangers

    Flavor aside, sometimes you might just feel like a #dabasaurus and crank the temps up. For those who love taking massive gram-sized globs (for whatever reason) an enail is the clear choice. The heat remains constant so you won’t have to over-heat or overcompensate for cool down. Even as you are dabbing the temperature controller typically only drops a little before returning. You don’t need to torch the nail red-hot and wait another half minute to cool. Just switch it on and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. The PID inside the electronic nail senses the coil to even out temperatures according to how much it dropped. The controller reacts based on the size of the dab and how much energy it took during the last cycle.

    Ruby and Sapphire Cracking

    Most manufacturers of lab grown crystals such as sapphire and ruby will warn against heating directly with a torch. This is because ruby and sapphire have a crystalline structure. This fragile structure can easily be broken with uneven heating. If you were to heat one of these pieces with a torch, it would result in extreme hot spots. The hot spots cause some parts to expand more than others and create pressure. The pressure will build up and pop if it passes a certain threshold; resulting in cracking. These babies are not cheap or readily available; so if you are planning on using one an e nail might be your best bet to keep your gem dabs flowing. An e nail is designed to distribute heat gently and evenly without wasting any time on temperature measuring or guessing.

    Switching Temperatures For Different Dab Consistancies

    An electric nail is the surest way to do #lowtempdabs if you are looking to limbo as low as you can go to savor the flavor without worrying about a quick cool down. On the other hand, an electric nail is also the best way to keep a large dab nail hot and steady for large globs and dab snakes. An e-nail provides steady temperatures via feeding electricity to the heating coil (like an oven coil) which is it’s main advantage over open-flame heat. Electronic temperature control allows you to find your ideal temperature for different dab nails, concentrate types, and preferred cannabinoid profiles. For example, some of the drier material with less terps may require a higher temperature for complete vaporization or pyrolysis. However, something like a live resin, sauce, or distillate might best be dabbed at much lower temperatures. The typical temperature range for enail dabbing is normally set somewhere between 500F-800F.

    terp sauce diamonds

    Cannabinoid Profile Targeting

    A lower temperature will make for a smooth and more flavorful dab compared to higher temperatures. A #hightemp dab has it’s own unique type of high due to the way cannabinoids react when heated. There are so many preferences and different ways to use different temperatures to meet different needs. With a torch or an analog enail you really need to get to know your setup or use a heat gun thermometer. Cutting out the guesswork on the cool down makes an enail worth it just in that capability alone. You never have to guess if the nail is still warm enough after torching — just set it and wait a minute or two, that’s it!

    how to choose the best e-nail guide

    Electric Heating = #terpsfordays

    Terpenoids evaporate faster because they are more volatile. They are also more liquid than some of the other substances, such as lipids/wax. Terps don’t stick around long– any grower is painfully aware of this! This is why people need carbon scrubbers to defend from the neighbors. Terps will evaporate off of those plants at anything above freezing temperatures. This is why precise #lowtemp dabbing is crucial. Terpenes are evolved to leave the plant matter quickly and permeate the air. The advantage is that evaporated terpenes spread out through the immediate environment to attract pollinators and defend against attackers (like mites or mold).

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    Kick It Up a Notch!

    Some like to raise the temperature up higher to minimize pooling/waste, and residue crust. Also, many dabbers actually prefer the effect from the cannabinoid profile that comes with higher temperatures. High temp dabs can be more relaxing with a heavier “couch-lock” feel. This is because the cannabinoids are converted differently with different temperatures. They produce different effects depending on heat and duration of heating. The different terpenes effect the body in different ways. The mixture of different cannabinoid profiles also have different effects. Therefore, temperature and cannabinoid range selection also adds another layer of complexity to the effects that can be changed. Some prefer high temp dabs, or as Customgrow420 puts it: “hot n’ hurty”. Some prefer just to use a carb capper to lower the temperature needed to vaporize the product with the help of vacuum pressure.

    CBD Dabs

    One concentrate type to be aware of is CBD isolate. Because the isolate may be fairly “dry” and low in terpenes, it has a tendency to cake up and leave residue on your banger surface. This means even heating is crucial to avoid build up and chazzing. An enail is a much easier way to deliver even heating compared to with a torch.

    Many users prefer to mix their CBD dabs with terpenes to give it a smoother consistency that melts a little more evenly, and leaves a small pool at the end, which prevents crust from forming. Be careful though! It’s very easy to add too much terps to your dabs. Do not try to dab pure terps, you will be disappointed, and possibly even injured by the harshness. The only way to use terps is to mix with other concentrates in a diluted solution.

    CBD dabbing

    Energy Efficiency of a Butane Torch vs. E-Nail

    A butane torch heats only a fraction of the nail with the total energy it puts out. The pressurized gases then direct this heat through the nozzle on the can. The gases flow towards your dab nail but this is nowhere near lazer-focused. A large portion of that heat just blows right past and heats the room instead. This means a ton of heat energy just goes towards heating up your room, which is nice in winter but not so much in summer. Sure an e-nail may also do this a tiny bit, but compared to a torch the heat is applied more directly. Electric nails aren’t absolutely 100% perfect in energy efficiency, but the improvement from a butane torch is big. So much so that this is true even when leaving the e-nail on for long stretches of time.

    More Possibilities for Energy Efficiency

    You will boost efficiency even further by using different coilsnails, and cappers. The flat coil is preferred for it’s efficiency in heat distribution and use in the popular hybrid nail. A flat coil will sit directly underneath the dish, instead of covering the side walls of the nail. Most of the heat in the flat coil travels directly upwards to the bottom of the dish, which is where most of the concentrate glob will end up. Some heat will of course still escape from the outer side walls, but the majority goes up of course due to physics. The heat shield also serves to direct a lot of that heat back towards the center of the piece. It’s definitely a big improvement over a torch flame that will heat a dab nail way past temps while also using extra gas and fire power that never touches the nail at all. 

    heating coil confused
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    More Peace-Of-Mind, Less Toxic “Gick”

    No one likes toxicity. Although a certain amount seems inevitable in modern life, there is no need to litter your home with gas exhaust unless your dab space doesn’t have access to an electric outlet. Gas exhaust and/or rotten egg smell in my room isn’t my preference. Nope, no thanks. Butane is supposed to be only carbon dioxide when burnt, but that’s assuming you have the most God-like can of 100% pure butane ever imagined (and never made).

    The Smell of Rotten Eggs

    If you use a propane torch you can be left with exhaust hanging around; which is purposefully tainted with just a pinch rotten egg smell. This is done for safety and detection purposes. The gas will just hover around the floor of your living space and eventually some will soak in. One friend of mine reported that the sulfuric smell (which is added to propane as a safety measure to detect gas by products) ended up soaking into his garage floor to the point where he now has that smell stuck into a concrete surface!

    Spent Butane Cans

    Our household used propane torches for a while. At the end of this long run, we had literally dozens of empty butane torch cans sitting around after the first year. None could be recycled or up-cycled easily. Then I hear the Chinese are now rejecting our recycling because we suck at sorting it out properly from other trash (in Portland). The metallic shells sat as a reminder to our excess consumption. In other words it was time to ditch the cans and look into these new “enail controllers” I had been hearing so much about.

    butane torch

    A Small Price to Pay

    Electric nail setups are now much cheaper than they were when they first become popular around 2015 or so. A torch and butane can cost the same or more than a cheap enail controller. It seems like an easy choice to me considering the ongoing gas cost will be much more than electricity cost. Plus the time to recycle or put a nasty burden on the environment by throwing in the trash.

    butane torch

    Every Torch Has It’s Day

    I do still keep a torch around for other purposes. I will say that there is one thing that I still depend on my torch for and that is to remove certain nails that are completely stuck from reclaim. A lot of the time hot water alone will work, but I will give the torch some praise after being so critical. A butane torch is still the easiest way to remove a sticky nail. That being said, this is only necessary with my setup maybe every few months at the very earliest. Also, having a more constant heat source could be a bad thing for the accident prone. This is also true for people living with animals or humans. Check out Leafly’s handy explanation on why e-nails aren’t right for everyone.

    KBOX 200W Kangertech

    Alternative Portable Options

    A cheap inverter will power an enail using the cigarette lighter socket while out on a camping trip. There are also “portable e-nail” products available, but they just don’t deliver heat as well as the original enail. The batteries and heating elements aren’t nearly as reliable in the long-run. I have yet to read a review from someone who is satisfied with these “portable e-nails after more than a year’s use. There are ePens, and there are eNails. Let’s just say there are enails and there is everything else. There is a big difference in heating power and taste with the smaller coil compared to a proper e-nail coil and nail.

    Never Going Back

    I can’t imagine dabbing daily with a torch any more after getting used to an enail. Admittedly, I am a bit of a pyro maniac and have to admit that a butane torch is fun to use in small doses. It’s fun but also looks a little cracked out. This may or may not be an issue, if you have little ones or strict landlords. If you have small children around your dab space frequently they will of course take interest to the rushing sounds of the torch, as well as the fire if they catch a glimpse. I know I would have been instantly drawn to it since I remember being practically obsessed with my dad’s propane torch after using it just once. Heck, I was obsessed after seeing it just once!

    A Sinister Resemblance?

    Torches are often associated with hard drugs. It’s preferable for us if dabs are not associated/confused with more dangerous drugs that happen to use the same gear. The problem with the butane torch image is that having to light with a butane torch may visually strengthen this negative association. This is all surface image-politics stuff but it is worth considering for many people. My main point here is that the convenience of not having to deal with the rumble of the torch is one of the bigger reasons for me to use an enail.

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