When it comes to glass, the options you have to choose from are virtually endless. There are so many different types of glass pieces. You have your bongs, bubblers, steamrollers, dab rigs, spoon pipes - just to name a few. What’s interesting is the fact that all of these different types of glass pieces fall into one of two categories: it’s either heady glass or scientific glass. Aside from the fact that scientific glass is made by machine and heady glass is made by man, what’s the difference between the two?
Scientific Glass 101
There’s a ‘high’ likelihood that if you indulge, you’ve seen scientific glass before. More times than not, it is blown with either clear or semi-clear glass - and it’s very easily identifiable. An iconic feature of the scientific glass bong is its beaker-shaped base. If you recall, it’s very similar to the one you used in science class back in the day...for educational purposes of course.
Delving deeper into the scientific glass rabbit hole, there is another scientific-style attribute of scientific glass which makes it super easy to differentiate from heady glass. Many times scientific glass will contain straight tubes. This characteristic gives the piece posture, and a more serious feel to it. An easy way to tell the difference is to play the “does this belong in a laboratory?” game. All you need to do is take a good look at the glass bong in question. Then you simply ask yourself, “does this belong in a laboratory?” If you’re envisioning yourself holding a bong in the shape of an avocado, then it’s safe to say that it’s not scientific glass. However, if you can imagine a lineup of 4 beautiful glass bongs; all of which have beautiful beaker bottoms and straight tubed necks - then you would be correct if you said that this was scientific glass. Think laboratory glassware, not mystical creatures made of glass.
Aesthetics aside, scientific glass offers many other useful qualities. When it comes to heat resistance, scientific glass wins that contest by a long shot. Ironically enough, scientific glass is developed with functionality first and foremost. This is why it tends to be sturdier and less prone to stress fracture. Just like with all science, it only gets better and more advanced over time. Imagine what scientific glass will look like in the 30s!
It has been said that scientific glass hits smoother than heady glass. While this tends to be the case, there are always exceptions. With that in mind, for those who love to smoke, yet suffer from lung sensitivity, you might be better off with scientific glass rather than heady glass.
Always made of sturdy borosilicate, scientific glass is extremely durable compared to its counterpart, heady glass. With scientific glass, it’s quite easy to customize your piece when it comes to different percolation options, tube designs, colors, sizes and more. Some pieces even feature different honeycomb designs and slit cut recyclers. As you may have already experienced for yourself, these different types of features change the way that smoke filters through your bong or rig - which has a huge impact on your smoking experience, for better or for worse. It’s all about your preferred smoking style.
Scientific glass is definitely a bit more basic and ‘user-friendly’, if you will. It’s also far easier to clean since it tends to have less intricacies than traditional heady glass.
When it comes to cost, scientific glass is relatively cheaper, and easier to replace due to the fact that it’s more mainstream than heady glass. There are many big glass companies out there which mass-produce their product - making it easier to find specific replacement parts, product-specific tools, and matching accessories.
Just as is the case with scientific study and experimentation out in the real world, scientific glass is also forever changing. Smoking technology is always getting upgraded, improved upon, and optimized. Smoking experiences only continue to get better and better as the mad-glass scientists and glass wizards continue to master their craft.
As you already know, nothing is perfect. Scientific glass happens to be no exception. Since standard scientific glass is usually clear or semi-clear, they tend to look dirty more quickly. This is because all the residue which builds up after continued use begins to collect on the sidewalls - giving it that filthy and disgusting look.
Although you can customize the percolation and tubing features in a scientific glass bong, customizing its design is not an option. The scientific glass spectrum is truthfully only made up of a few basic designs. This segues nicely into the fact that scientific glass is definitely a lot more obvious compared to heady glass. For example, if we were playing “hide the bong in plain sight from mom and dad”, my piggy-bank styled heady glass bong is definitely going to win over your basic, far less inconspicuous scientific glass bong. Which is why heady glass has its merits. At the end of the day, it’s very preferential.
Heady Glass 101
As you might have already guessed, heady glass is very different from scientific glass. It’s far more decorative in nature and tends to embody the vision and essence of the artist who created it. Heady glass is a very unique class of smoking paraphernalia for many reasons.
Often made of high-end glass, heady glass usually features vibrant, bold colors and over-the-top designs. Unlike with scientific glass, the design potential is infinite. A glass artist can bring their wildest dreams and fantasies to life through their glass creations - no different from any other artist. Interestingly enough, many heady glass artists have begun to look to scientific glass for inspiration - even taking certain elements and designs from its playbook. Don’t worry though, heady glass will always be more fun and imaginative.
Heady pieces are known to be very unique and original. Oftentimes they are limited edition or even one-of-a-kind. A fun fact about heady glass is that artists love to model their designs after everyday objects. Sometimes glass artists design pieces that are so intricate, and so detailed that it’s hard to tell whether it is used to smoke out of or if it’s the actual object itself. My Bud Vase is famous for this as they create beautiful heady glass bongs which look exactly like (and double as) flower vases. If mom smokes, then congratulations, because you’ve just found your next Mother’s Day gift for her. From cheeseburgers, to footballs, to ballerina figurines that look like they belong in Grandma’s living room - heady glass comes in all shapes, sizes, styles, and designs.
While scientific glass is known for being more functional, there is certainly an allure to owning unique pieces which speak to your artistic side. It’s safe to say that heady glass is definitely the ‘Type A Personality’ compared to scientific glass. Many heady glass pieces even serve as great conversation pieces. The naming is also very important. It’s a cardinal sin to own a heady glass piece without naming it!
Please don’t get confused though. While scientific glass is more functional than heady glass, heady glass is still incredibly well-made and dynamic.
And of course, along with such specific detail and intricate design, comes the cons of heady glass. As heady glass takes a considerable amount of time to create compared to scientific glass (being as it is individualized, and oftentimes custom work), the cost tends to be much greater.
Due to the rare and unique nature of heady glass, finding exact replacements and/or parts are next to impossible to find. Since such intricate glass work involves many small, fragile glass accents and details, heady glass is far more susceptible to overall damage (breaks, cracks, what have you).
Another not-so-great characteristic of heady glass is the lack of percolation options you have. Custom percolation and tube design is much harder to come across in the heady glass world.
When it comes to cleaning, depending on the type of heady glass piece you have, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. A more detailed and oddly shaped piece will be more difficult to clean than a basic scientific glass piece. A lot of this has to do with the types of curvatures in its design.
Believe it or not, heady glass tends to dominate head shop brick and mortar stores in terms of popularity- mainly because they’re more exciting and pleasurable to look at. They’re also far more interesting and more likely to fire up a conversation than will a boring beaker bong.
Which one is best for me?
If you’re easy going and you’re simply looking for a functional piece that is durable, scientific glass may be the better route for you.
Scientific glass tends to be for those who are most interested in the quality of the hit they get out of their piece instead of all the aesthetic bells and whistles. You could say that scientific glass smokers prefer function over fashion.
These days, it’s become a lot harder to tell the difference between scientific glass and heady glass compared to decades past. In these modern times we live in, artist collaborations between talented glass blowers have begun to blur the lines between heady and scientific glass. So far, there has been much success in such creative endeavors.
Glass artists have been gaining more and more recognition as heady glass continues to popularize across the globe. Renowned art galleries have even begun to credit some of the more talented heady glass artists.
In summary, it’s all up to you. What do you look for in a smoking experience? Do you care what your piece looks like? Are you looking for easier maintenance and repair, or are you the creative type who’d prefer an imaginative glass work of art that they can enjoy during their smoke sessions? Decisions, decisions.