An ode to hot knives: honoring the OG dab on 7/10

a hand holding two butter knives against a flame hot knives

It seems like every month, there’s a new gadget or gizmo designed specifically for smoking hash. It makes sense. The types of cannabis concentrates on the market have diversified considerably in recent years—not to mention the way devices like the Puffco Peak revolutionized the way we think about dabbing.

With 7/10 (aka Oil Day) upon us, the topic of cannabis extracts has been on my mind a lot lately. As I reflected upon how far we’ve come in the era of adult-use legalization, I began to think back on how it all started for so many of us: in the kitchen.

Hot knives were, for many, the OG dab. The searing pain in the throat, the sensational high, and the inherent safety risks are somewhat similar to using a torch and rig (if not more pronounced), but hot knives somehow still hit differently (no pun intended). 

Back then, hash was the concentrate king. Comprised of pressed cannabis trichomes (aka kief), the dark brown or green substance was hard as a rock and packed quite the punch. While some people smoked the substance under glass or mixed with flower, hot knives were the preferred method of consumption thanks to their incredible power.

For the uninitiated, the process works like this: place the business end of two butter knives on an electric stove coil set to a red-hot temperature. Typically, a friend would be present to help facilitate the process since it really takes two sets of hands to do it right.

Once heated, the knives are quickly removed by your partner. You, eagerly waiting with a tiny piece of hash, step up and drop the concentrate on one of the knives. The other knife is put on top by your pal, sandwiching the concentrate inside. The resulting vapor is then inhaled, usually captured using a funnel made from the top of a two-liter soda bottle.

It was rudimentary, no doubt, but effective. When I think about the highest I’ve ever been in my two decades of cannabis consumption, hot knives definitely provided several top ten moments. 

There was the time I attempted to cut my friend’s hair. I started laughing uncontrollably as I placed the buzzers near his head, resulting in an extremely unfortunate look that had to be corrected by a professional.

Another time, hot knives made me hate Seinfeld, a sitcom I had once revered.

“This isn’t TV, it’s just four people reciting stand-up bits!” I said to no one in particular, refusing to believe a “show about nothing” should be celebrated (fortunately, Curb Your Enthusiasm made me see the light a couple of years later).

Taking hot knives across the pond

When I was an au pair in the Netherlands, I would tell people I met about hot knives frequently. I was typically dismissed since spliffs made from hash and tobacco were the preferred consumption method in Europe.

At one point, I was able to convince a Dutch counterpart to try this novel approach to getting high at a party in Utrecht. I told him that back in Wisconsin, hot knives were all the rage. 

Agreeing to take part in a sort of cultural cannabis exchange, the young man followed me to the kitchen, where I procured the necessary implements. I prepared the knives, and he dropped a tiny ball of dark brown Moroccan hash on the end.

As he exhaled the hit, he almost fell over, choking out the word “Wisconsin!” as he stumbled back against the wall.

Leaving the cutlery behind

This was the mid-2000s, and in 2012, I took an extended hiatus from cannabis. When I rejoined the fold a couple of years later, butane hash oil (BHO) was the hot new thing. Unlike the hash I had been consuming, which was made by separating cannabis trichomes via a series of screens, BHO was created using solvents to strip the active ingredients from the plant.

Needing a more efficient way to consume this sticky substance, the dab rig was born. People began heating a special bowl for oil instead of their cutlery, and hot knives fell by the wayside.

Nowadays, the thought of hot knives is one of nostalgia not necessity. When the folks at Puffco introduced their electronic self-heating dab tool, dubbed the Hot Knife, many of us chuckled at the “IYKYK” marketing. 

While future generations may not know the origin story of the product’s name, stoners of a certain age will wistfully recall the simple days. We have learned since then that there are better and safer ways to consume concentrates, and that a red-hot stove doesn’t need to be a part of the equation.

So as we celebrate all the innovation that has emerged over the last ten years, let’s never forget our humble beginnings when we huddled around a stove, anxiously awaiting our turn to blast off into outer space.

Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of GreenState.com. She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, Cannabis and Tech Today, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter