An Ode to the Paperclip, Preferred Tool of the Marijuana MacGyver

In this new era of marijuana culture, where public acceptance outweighs the stigmas of prohibition, many of the new trends within the industry focus on “high-end,” top-of-the-line products like $300-something vaporizers and fine concentrates that require a down payment to dab.

But what about the humble tools that got us to this point? Before there were specialized accessories for each need, stoners once had to be resourceful, using whatever household items were lying around to fulfill the duties of smoking paraphernalia.

Among the most versatile of all makeshift smoking tools is the paper clip — a thin, twisted piece of metal traditionally used to hold documents together. The handy little office supply can do so much more than help with your filing and presentation needs, though.

To this day, I keep a paper clip or two tucked into the cuff of my jeans or clipped to the side of my hat because when they’re in my pocket, they get tangled up with lint or poke my fingers when instinctively reaching for my vibrating phone. It’s a system that works by reducing injury and increasing productivity.

I was taught very early on in my smoking career that paper clips made for the perfect roach clip, or poker to clean out an ashed bowl pack. But years of experience and experimentation have led me to realize those were just the tip of the iceberg, as the simple little contraption can do far more for us than we give it credit for.

To ensure you’re getting your penny’s worth with each paper clip, let’s run through the most useful ways you can put your clips to work, from the most obvious to the most obscure.

Roach Clip

Though years of burning blunts to the bone for efficiency’s sake has left the tips of my thumbs and index fingers somewhat numb to fresh incineration, it’s always nice to use a roach clip for the normal humans in your smoking circle. You can get creative with how you transform your paperclip into a roach clip, as long as it tightly secures your blunt or joint and creates some separation from your delicate digits. But if you’re caught stabbing the clip through the joint and creating unnecessary airflow because you’re a bad bender, you’re out of the group.

Bowl Poker

Many people prefer bowls as their primary smoking apparatus, but if you pack your bowls tight, you know ashing them can be a sticky situation sometimes. While in a perfect world, gravity would do its damn job and empty the burned remains when you turn the bowl upside down over the ashtray, sometimes you need a skinny steel assistant to get to the tricky angles and small debris. Whether you’re using a straightened-out end of the paperclip to clear out the hole in the bowl, or using a curved end to scoop out some accumulated resin, the multipurpose tool will keep your bowl session-ready at all times.

Replacement Screen

After long periods of repetitive use, glass breaks down, especially when heated all the time. Because of this, the holes inside of bowls or bong slides can grow larger over time. While brass or copper screens can be utilized, they tend to get lost, so the paperclip can act as a great replacement screen to keep your precious buds from diving straight into the water below before they can be smoked. Completely straighten out your clip and then coil it up into a spiraled circle that will fit the diameter of your bowl piece. Then, once the screen is placed in the center of the bowl, use your thumb to push the center of the screen down to create more of a cone shaped screen to allow for maximum packing and airflow.

Dab Tool

Just because you’ve been using your paperclip for flower-related purposes doesn’t mean your favorite little tool can’t make the switch to concentrates with you. Quite the contrary, you can use your trusty paperclip as a makeshift dab tool when you can’t find your overpriced samurai sword dab tool that cost way more than it should have. I like to put a different oil on each end of the paperclip and have a Darth Maul-type hybrid dab situation.

When your dab sesh is over, the paperclip can be used for typical keeping-paper-held-together activities, such as maintaining the closed nature of your wax envelope so the whole gram doesn’t melt in your pocket.


Lighter theft is one of the most far-reaching crime epidemics we face on Earth, though it is ignored by the mainstream news media. I’ve bought thousands of lighters in my life and don’t think I’ve used a single one of them more than three times. But until we solve the global lighter stealing dilemma, paperclips can help you light a joint in a pinch, as long as there’s a battery nearby.

Provided you and your friends can actually find the TV remote, pop one of those batteries out. Straighten out one end of your paper clip and touch it to the middle of the positive end of the battery. You’ll notice the tip of the paper clip get red-hot. You can use this piping paperclip to light a joint or to spark a match, which could be used to light a bowl or bong. Please be careful.

Growth Hacks

For our cannabis cultivators out there, we have some paperclip pro-tips for you, too. In the early stages of your grow, bending the stems of your plant to make room for more offshoots and to  increase light exposure is great for your ultimate yield. You can straighten the paperclips and then bend each end into a wide curve to be used as a harness, holding two branches together. Bending the branches throughout the vegetation stage will strengthen the inner-tissue of the branches as well and give you a stronger plant overall. When the crop is ready to be harvested, the paperclip harnesses can again be used to hang your branches while they cure.

The paperclip is surely one of the unsung heroes of cannabis culture, as many have had to use one in a time of need at some point. Keep a box handy at your house and a few of them on your person at all times to ensure you’re never caught lacking in a smoking scenario.

Let us know how you use your paperclips in the comment section below, fellow Marijuana MacGyvers.

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