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Romancing The Smoke: Anatomy of a Hookah

If you’re just tuning in to Romancing The Smoke, this is a blog following my journey to becoming a hookah know-it-all. If you’re also a beginner, or a pro who wants to offer some advice, then I hope you’ll follow along!
It’s time for a little anatomy lesson. If you’re squeamish, no worries, we’ll leave out the cadavers - but we do need to participate in a hookah dissection (or hookah set up, rather) so that we can fully understand what we're working with. Since I’m just a lowly hookah knowledge intern, I solicited the expertise of Hookah Dr. Scott to help us build this bad boy from the ground up! Every hookah is different, but this is a basic set up guide that should help you understand how to put your hookah together.
The first item we examined on the autopsy slab was the hookah base (or vase), which is usually made from glass or acrylic. These come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes - they hold the water that filters the smoke. The size of the base doesn’t really affect the experience, however if the base is too small it may not adequately cool the smoke. This doesn’t mean that littler bases are bad, for example the Mya Bambino is small and it works swimmingly, but anything much smaller than that may hinder the cooling effect.
That long metal part that you see inside the base is the down stem. This is submerged approximately one inch into the water in your base. Why one inch, you ask? Dr. Scott explained that the pull of the smoke is restricted if the down stem is submerged more than that. If it is not submerged enough, then the smoke will not be allowed to cool properly, resulting in a hot, harsh pull.
The down stem, if not already attached, is screwed into the shaft (also called the hookah stem or pipe), which is generally made from brass or stainless steel. This whole piece is placed into the opening of the base. A proper seal must be in place where the shaft meets the base, otherwise smoke will leak out. This seal is facilitated by a rubber base grommet that is placed around the part of the shaft that fits into the base opening.  There are usually two parts (depending how many hoses your hookah can hold) that stick out toward the bottom part of the shaft. One of the protruding parts is the hose adapter, and other is the air purge valve (or carb/release valve). The air purge valve allows air inside the base and can release stale smoke when you gently blow through your hookah hose during a session. There is a small ball bearing that lives inside the purge valve, be very careful not to lose it when cleaning your hookah!
The hose adapter is where you will insert one end of your hose, and is once again sealed tightly with a rubber grommet that is nestled inside the port. Make sure that you put the correct end of the hose into the port - it is usually a more distinct cone shape than the mouth piece. Next in this Frankenstein’s monster of a project comes the tray. This is what will catch the ash, hold an extra piece of hookah charcoal, and/or hopefully save your floor from accumulating burn marks from runaway coals! I did everything I could to keep this next sentence rated PG, but I can only do so much with the terms that I'm given: Once the tray is placed on the head of the shaft, screw on the bowl stem (not all hookahs have a detachable bowl stem, it just depends on the model you're working with), then place a rubber grommet on the tip. This is where the hookah bowl will go, fitting snugly so that the bowl will not topple off, and ensuring that no smoke escapes.
Now that the head bone is connected to the neck bone, and so on and so forth, Dr. Scott has gone all re-animator on this hookah and declared it ready to smoke! If you have any additional questions, or need any clarifications, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be happy to help. Otherwise, class dismissed!Until next time, happy smoking! -Katie
To see tutorial videos on this subject, and others, check out our How-To Playlist on YouTube!