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How to Shop for Your First Piece

Whether you’re a down-low secret smoker, an occasional festive puffer, or a proud bong gobbler, finding your forever device is a watershed moment in a fledgling stoner’s life.

In case you missed it, Oregon spent the last year incontrovertibly stoned to the bone. Collectively, we consumed an uncanny amount of weed in the past 12 months, reported by statewide increases in sales that can't possibly be attributed to varsity stoners alone. Wellness trends that focused on self-care, community awareness and plant justice have made amateur cannaisseurs out of erstwhile squares statewide.

And if there's anything a new stoner needs, it's a bit of friendly advice from an established stoner.

Cannabis users come from all walks of life, and there is a perfect smoke utensil out there for each of them. Whether you're a down-low secret smoker, an occasional festive puffer, or a proud bong gobbler, finding your forever device is a watershed moment in a fledgling stoner's life.

To help advise users in their quest to find their forever utensil, we reached out to Stonedware founder and ceramic pipe maker Ariel Zimman for a few pro tips on shopping for the ideal piece.

Define Your Smoking Preferences

How you take your grass is the first thing you should consider when you approach the counter of your local head shop. Bongs, pipes, chillums and bubblers each provide unique experiences: Bongs and bubblers filter smoke through water; pipes and chillums combust dry herb without a filter. Try as many different devices as you can before settling on one style—who knows? You might be more into oversized beaker bongs or decorative one-hitters than you thought.

"Take into account how much you smoke," Zimman adds. "This might inform how large of a bowl you'd like. A lot of new smokers might be interested in a smaller bowl. I always prefer this, regardless of how much I want to smoke, because I prefer packing a new bowl than smoking an ashy one."

Try this: A handblown glass pipe is a necessary tool, and a palm-size version in your favorite colors is a great first addition to your collection. Find them at your local bodega, dispensary or head shop.

Examine the Material

Ceramic, titanium, glass, Pyrex, silicone and acrylic are some of the materials shoppers will find lining the shelves of their local glass shop. Each style has unique benefits and potential drawbacks. Fragile glass utensils are popular for their relative affordability and easy cleanup, though some prefer the less-decorative but unbreakable Pyrex. Silicone and acrylic bongs are reserved for the truly butterfingered, and their low cost making them an easy choice for novice smokers on a lean budget as well.

"I don't recommend smoking out of metal, wood, concrete/cement, crystals or unglazed ceramic pipes," Zimman says. "These materials do not have as high of a temperature threshold as glass or glaze, and can be dangerous, especially if there is any other finish applied to the piece."

Ceramic pieces are durable and maintain temperature well, but are only usable when properly finished.

"It's very important to make sure that the inside of the piece is glazed," Zimman says. "Unglazed ceramics are porous, causing the material to absorb bacteria and debris and create a smelly piece or icky-tasting hits."

Try this: A silicone bong is a fun, low-stakes introduction to water pipes that will help develop your taste in bongs without breaking the bank. Find them at your local bodega, dispensary or head shop.

Shop Small, Shop Local

Oregon's commitment to its homegrown cannabis culture is obvious in how small canna-businesses are nurtured by the community. There are a multitude of local artists and small businesses producing a diverse assortment of creative, unique and functional smoke devices. Most of the city's head shops can help guide you in purchasing handmade goods from local artisans, but pro pro tip: My partner found our forever bong under the counter at our local bottle shop, so it also pays to shop outside the typical head shop channels.

Try this: Zimman suggests checking out Make Good Choices—local, handmade ceramics specializing in whimsical pipes shaped like woodland creatures, inhalers and flowers. Check out the rest of the inventory at makegoodchoicesshop.patternbyetsy.com.

Make It a Set

Zimman says different devices work in different scenarios.

"Sometimes you need a soup bowl, and other times a ramekin is best," she says. "The pipe you keep at home on your coffee table might be entirely different than the one you want to take to the beach or camping. Everyone's needs and best choices will differ depending upon personal preference."

Do you want something to facilitate your couchlock? Consider a medium-large bong with a small, sliding bowl. Would you also prefer to keep a one-hitter in your pocket for discreet puffs? A personalized Buddy pipe might also be your speed. If possible, keep your budget and your expectations flexible enough to make room more than one "perfect" piece, since perfection is a construct and circumstances are changeable. But if you're establishing your pad as stoner party central, maybe skip the shopping altogether and just make a gravity bong in your bathtub.

Try this: Zimman's own line of custom geometric ceramic pipes is rounded out by an array of stylish trays, tools and bowls, which, when displayed together, create an exceedingly chic centerpiece. Shop for them at stonedwarecompany.com.

Choose Beauty on Your Terms

Shove stoner stigma further into the shadows by choosing pieces that appeal not just to your desired functions but also your unique personal style. Shame-hiding an acrylic bong in a hard-to-reach closet corner isn't a hard-fast stoner requirement anymore. Having multiple centerpiece pieces proudly displayed in a designated stone zone not only helps further break down antiquated stigmas, but can also absolutely be a gorgeous addition to your home.

"Regardless of the situation, I believe that your pipe should bring you joy when in and out of use," Zimman says. "You should like to look at your piece. If you plan to leave it out and not store it away when not in use, try to find a piece that fits in with your décor and personal sense of style. Think about where you might like to keep and display your piece and what will match or pop in that space. The best advice I can give is to find a piece that's functional, comfortable to hold, and beautiful to you."

Try this: My Bud Vase creates gorgeous, display-worthy custom bongs from vintage flower vases. Each piece is a completely unique work of art. Shop for them at mybudvase.com.

Four Veteran Smokers Share Their Essential Weed Gadgets and Accessories

Flower Rolling Papers by Edie Parker ($10, edieparkerflower.com)

I've spent at least a decade wishing for floral-printed rolling papers, and they finally exist, thanks to Flower by Edie Parker. They're made with rice paper and soy-based ink, and the happy daisy motif is a major mood lifter. —Anja Charbonneau, Broccoli magazine

Joint Holder and Tamper Necklace by High Society Collection ($38, highsocietycollection.com)

Clever, functional design changes the way people see and view cannabis and the people who consume it. Normalization is an important next step for the cannabis movement, and good design is an essential component of connecting cannabis to new audiences. There is something so amazing about wearing gorgeous jewelry that I get compliments on all the time, simply because it is beautiful. Little do they know it serves a higher purpose. I love smoking joints, and it is extra magical when I hold my joint with my necklace. Functional, beautiful and handmade by an amazing mom in Portland? Sign me up! —Samantha Montanaro, Tokeativity

Grinder by Santa Cruz Shredder ($24.99, santacruzshredder.com)

I picked this baby up randomly when I was still living in California. I was 18, a regular smoker, and popped into a smoke shop one day and asked for a dependable grinder. The guy that helped me out went straight to the Santa Cruz Shredders and told me about how the blades would sharpen themselves every time I used it. I don't know if that's true or not, but it has lasted me almost a decade and still grinds flower to the perfect fluff. — Savina Monet, Cannabis Workers Coalition

MagicalButter Machine ($199.95, magicalbutter.com)

My indispensable cannabis gadget looks like a coffee percolator from the future yet made in the '80s. It's a combination thermal circulator and blender that keeps your infusing fat at a specific temperature for a set time. The blade chops the fat and flower mix every 15 minutes. It's simple, smart, reliable and easy to clean. My extractions are smooth, tasty and potent. Further, the temperature settings (rarely do I exceed 160 Fahrenheit) allow for some strain specificity to sneak through. — Leather Storrs, cannabis chef

See more of WW's First-Timer's Guide to 420 here!