Finding the Right Downstem Size for Your Water Pipe: A guide

Choosing the right downstem size for your water pipe can be crucial. This is because the size you choose will influence how well it smokes and how much effort is needed to clear the chamber when it gets clogged.

To help you decide what size might be best for you, we have created this guide that explains the different water pipe downstem sizes and how you can determine the size you need.

Let us have a look!

What exactly is a Downstem?

A downstem is a component (tube) that connects the bowl to the water in your bong. It's essentially the bridge between your cannabis and the water in your bong. Some downstems are removable to help you clean them without a hassle. In case your downstem isn't removable, ensure you are using only high-quality material for the same.

The downstem you choose must be made from a material specifically designed for water pipes. If the downstem is made of metal, corrosion can quickly occur and cause the pipe to corrode away from its intended use. If the downstem is made from other material, such as plastic, it would be subject to the elements and would likely get quite dirty, making it unhealthy and prone to breaking and leaking.

Now let us peek into the categories, sizes, lengths, and size determination process of downstems.

Categories of Downstem

There are two primary categories of Downstems: female and male.

1. Female Downstem

The female downstem is usually made of stainless steel or copper. It has female threads that fit into male threads on the water pipe. These types of downstems are typically used with larger diameter water pipes because their copper or stainless steel threads can get very close to the outer diameter of the pipe. This can restrict the amount of water that may pass through and form a sort of seal.

2. Male Downstem

The male downstem, on the other hand, is designed for smaller water pipes and is commonly made of brass, copper, or steel. Male downstems tend to form a solid connection with the pipe wall and usually do not interfere with water flow.

Downstem Size

A majority of downstems are available in the following sizes for glass joints:

  • 10 mm
  • 14 mm
  • 18 mm

Downstems are also available in these sizes for non-glass joints:

  • 14 mm
  • 18 mm (sometimes called 19 mm, this size is referred to as 18.8 in oil rigs)

Some downstems fit into aluminum adapters for the 10 mm and 14 mm sizes. These are still considered glass downstems because they are made of borosilicate glass. Downstems for aluminum adapters have a male joint, so you will need an adapter with a female joint to fit them.

Downstem Length

The length of your downstem will depend on the height of your water pipe and the size of your joint. The standard length is 12" or 30 cm.

How to Measure a Downstem

Size is the most crucial aspect you must know when purchasing a new downstem for your favorite piece, which can be quite perplexing if you're buying your first one. Downstems are only compatible with pipes that have female joints since the downstem must be inserted into the joint.

Now the issue is how to identify the size of the downstem you'll need. The best way to figure out what size downstem you need is to measure your present piece. If it's already busted, look at the pieces or contact the store where you bought them from and see if they have a replacement for you. If not, don't worry! We've got you covered.

Here are three measurement details you need to know before buying a Downstem:

1. Length of the downstem

If you don't have your present downstem on hand to measure the length, a pencil that fits inside the bong/water pipe can be used to determine the measurement of the inner chamber of your bong. Remember to leave at least a centimeter of space between the bottom of the downstem and the bottom of the bong. Don't go all the way to the bottom. Insert the pencil into the bong's inner chamber until the tip is roughly 2 cm or 0.5 inches from the glass on the other side of the joint opening. Make a mark on the pencil and then measure from that spot to the end. That will be the required length of your downstem.

2. Size of Ground Joint

Determine the inside diameter of your water pipe's ground joint. It will be 10 mm, 14 mm, or close to 19 mm. If the measuring tape is not available, a dime will suffice. If the dime fits in the hole, it is 19 millimeters long. It's a 14 mm or a 10 mm one if it doesn't. It'll most likely be 14mm since bongs with 10 mm ground joints are uncommon these days and classified as tiny water pipes.

3. Size of the Bowl to Downstem

Joint While determining the size of the bowl, you need to be careful. The bowl size should not exceed the size of the downstem in terms of length and diameter (the lower end of the bowl should not protrude past the lower end of the downstem). If it does, your downstem can crack due to heavy hits, or the bowl can fall through the downstem if it's too big. If you have a bong with a 19 mm ground joint, ensure that your pipe has an 18 mm sized bowl. If you're using one of those small 3-inch bowls on your 14mm water pipe, be sure to remove it before taking a hit. A 14 mm bowl should only be used on a 14 mm downstem.

Ending Note

A downstem is an essential component of any bong or water pipe, regardless of the substance you smoke. Nothing else matters as long as you obtain the appropriate size of downstem for your water pipe. You can enjoy smooth and relaxing hits with your water pipe and downstem, so long as they fit together and are maintained well.