A crutch—also called a filter or a tip—is one of the easiest improvements to make to the standard joint. It’s effectively a mouthpiece, and it serves a number of purposes: It keeps the end of your joint open (even when sharing with your wet-lipped friends), blocks bits of plant matter from getting in your mouth, and ensures you don’t burn your kisser as you puff your way down to the roach.
Some people, including a few of my best friends, insist on rolling joints without crutches. I think those people are silly. Others include a crutch but treat it as an afterthought. While I respect that everyone has their own methods, I thought I’d share my preferred way of building a crutch. It’s quick, easy, and has earned the seal of approval from co-workers here at Leafly.
What to Use
Unless you opt for a reusable glass tip, the best material for a crutch is stiff paper. You’re looking for something thicker than printer paper (which is too flimsy) but thinner than a cereal box (too bulky). Some of my favorite options include:
- An index card
- A manila file folder
- The back flap of a checkbook
- A magazine subscription card
- Some business cards (not the thick ones)
There is also a bunch of pre-cut crutches on the market these days. My favorites are RAW’s standard tips, which use long-fiber paper made on a special mill. They’re designed specifically to roll up smoothly and have enough rigidity to hold their shape in your mouth. (I initially thought these were dubious marketing claims, but after two years of using ‘em, I’m convinced.)
I’m partial to use these RAW tips, which is what I’ll be using to demonstrate. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
The Easy (but Flawed) Way
Most people I’ve smoked with tend to roll a crutch by literally rolling it into a cylinder. When viewed head-on, it looks like a spiral.
One of the most common methods to make a crutch or filter tip is to roll it into a cylinder. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
This is an easy technique, but it has some drawbacks. The main weakness is that the opening in the center of the crutch is big enough to let through small pieces of plant matter, which can end up getting in your mouth. Another problem is that it’s not particularly sturdy and can sometimes pinch closed. Does it work? Sure. But there’s a better way.
The Better Way
You can make a much better crutch simply by adding a few accordion-style folds before rolling it up. It takes a tiny bit of practice to master, but the end product will keep those pesky flecks of cannabis out of your mouth and ensure a smooth draw.
To start, make a few folds at the end of your crutch material. Make the folds about as wide as you want the final crutch to be. Be sure not to crease the paper when you’re folding it; otherwise the final crutch will be too tight.
Start by putting a few accordion-style folds in your crutch material. Keep in mind, the space between your folds will determine the crutch’s width. Don’t crease! (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
How many folds to use is up to you. Some people talk about making an M shape inside the crutch, while others opt for a simple V. I tend to toss in a few more. Experiment to find out what you like best.
Once you’ve made those first few folds, roll the remaining crutch material around the folded part. Make sure you have enough unfolded paper to wrap completely around the crutch—you want the final product to roll easily between your fingers.
After a few folds, start to wind the remaining paper around the folded part. Make sure to leave enough left over to wrap all the way around the crutch. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
Wrap up all the excess paper—you can rip some off if you have too much—and roll the finished crutch between your fingers. You might find that it wants to unroll or expand on its own. That’s OK. Once you roll the crutch into your joint, that springiness will help keep the crutch from falling out of the end of your joint.
Your finished crutch should look something like this. Just keep winding that excess paper. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
Put the crutch at the end of your rolling paper and roll it into your joint. I like to leave a little of the crutch exposed, then push it flush with the edge of the rolling paper once I’m finished rolling.
Here’s what it looks like when I’m done:
The accordion-style crutch helps keep bits of plant material out of your mouth while still allowing for a smooth draw. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
The More Expensive Way
Can’t be bothered to practice tiny origami? That’s fine. Either buy a reusable tip, skip the crutch altogether, or opt for a pre-rolled crutch. There are all sorts of pre-rolled options these days, including choices by RAW, Elements, and a handful of others.
The tips work just fine, but they’ll cost you a bit more. RAW’s standard tips, which I used above, cost around $0.75 for 50. The company’s pre-rolled tips go for about $1.75 for 20—or more than twice as much.
What are your tips and tricks for rolling the perfect joint? Share them in the comments below or give me a shout on Twitter.