The nightmare has begun, a simple cleaning day is halted by a downstem that has become stuck in the bong. You try twisting and jiggling, but the downstem will not break free of the bong, now what?
To find a solution, we first have to understand the problem. When the male taper from the downstem seals with the female taper of the bong the conical surfaces come into contact. Because of manufacturing limits, the tapers are not perfectly matched, this forces the taper faces to contact with a non-uniform seal. Depending upon how the seal is made, water from the bong and other contaminates can wick their way into the irregular interface. Ultimately, the combined friction from the non-uniform seal and contamination becomes too large to overcome. To compound this, the frosted surfaces of the tapers can produce a glass on glass molecular “fusion”.
There are a few methods to free the downstem from the bong, but you should keep in mind that any attempt to remove your downstem may break it, the bong, or both. Once you’ve prepared yourself for potential loss, it’s time to dive in. You should WEAR SAFETY GLASSES for any of these methods, you don’t want glass in your eye!
- Cold – Place your bong into the freezer and wait a few hours. Once it is nice and cold, pop it out and try twisting and jiggling the downstem out. The idea behind the cold method is thermal contraction. When glass gets cold it shrinks, a very small amount, this shrinkage decreases the downstem joint diameter while increasing the bong joint diameter.
- Heat – Fill your bong up with boiling water, give it a few minutes to equilibrate, then try twisting and pulling. The idea here is that the hot water will infiltrate the micro-spaces between the joints and dissolve contaminates that may be causing the binding. Be careful when handling the hot water, the twisting and pulling can be intense and you don’t want to add burns to the problem. DO NOT USE HEAT METHOD DIRECTLY AFTER THE COLD METHOD, THIS COULD CAUSE THE BONG TO SHATTER.
- Fire – Bevis and Butthead love this one. Use your torch lighter to heat up just the taper section of the bong, don’t make it red hot or it might shatter. Thermal expansion could force the two taper surfaces apart and free the downstem from the bong. As before pull and twist to free.
- Cleaners – Much like the heat method, the idea is to fill the bong up above the taper threshold with a strong glass cleaner. Wait a day and hope that the cleaners can creep their way into the small spaces to release the bong’s grip on your downstem.
- Brute force – The final option involves destruction of the downstem to save the bong. Grab an old drill bit that fits your downstem taper, for a standard 14 mm taper a ½ inch drill bit should work well. Twist the drill bit into the downstem using your hands at first, it should bite in a bit, you can then jiggle and bend to try to get it released. If that is ineffective, grab some pliers and twist the drill bit more into the downstem which will likely crack the downstem. Just keep breaking off chunks until the downstem is freed!
Hopefully, you made it through with at least your bong intact and will never have to go through this again, but you know what they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. So how can we prevent the downstem from seizing in the bong in the future?
The single best solution is with a downstem that is specially designed not to bind to the bong taper, enter Invincipole. The Invincipole has a patented pressure-lock-and-release taper which removes the irregularity of glass-on-glass interface. The Invincipole taper is constructed with two coaxial steps machined into its hard anodized body. When installing our downstem into the bong the first thing to come into contact is the smaller coaxial step which forms a sealed ring with the bong taper. The second coaxial step is slightly undersized and does not fully contact the joint. The first step makes the seal, the second step keeps the downstem from wobbling around.
When it comes to removing the Invincipole, simply press on the hex head with a little off-axis force and the downstem will make a “click” sound. See our video here. The slight under sizing of the second coaxial step provides the tiny bit of motion necessary to break the seal. You can now slide out your downstem for easy cleaning! Clean your bong, Invincipole and Invincibowl with 70% isopropyl alcohol and salt for best results.